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Shallow root shrubs

Updated April 17, 2017

Whether you've got shallow soil beds, a plot near a drainage system or want to grow plants in containers, deep roots can cause problems. Planting shrubs unsuited for shallow conditions can also lead to chlorosis - a condition where the leaves turn pale and limp - particularly in chalky soil. Choosing shrubs with shallow roots allows you to have a lush garden without stunting growth or blocking drains.

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Laurels tolerate shallow and chalky soil better than most shrubs. Japanese varieties, including Crotonifolia, Golden King and Rozannie are particularly good options for shallow beds. Alternatively, the Royal Horticultural Society suggests Prunus lusitanica, or Portugal laurel. This shrub has splashes of bright white flowers in early summer, with rich green leaves. In ideal conditions, it will grow to 12 metres but in shallow soil, expect a smaller maximum size. Its root system suits a shallow soil.


Many roses come in shrub varieties, growing as short, wide bushes. In general, most roses of this kind are shallow root shrubs. Examples include cultivars belonging to the Bourbon, Portland, Alba, Damask and China groups of roses. Shrub roses are a little less demanding than climbing or bush roses. For example, they only need light pruning just before spring - usually February in southern England, or March in northern counties or Scotland.

Evergreen azalea

Azalea shrubs only have shallow roots and need acidic soil, moist and slightly shaded conditions to thrive, according to the BBC. The evergreen or Japanese varieties in particular have tough, shallow roots. They grow up to 60 cm in height and 60 cm in width, with flowers opening as pink, white or purple blooms. For example, the Hinomayo variety from Japan blossoms in vivid pink. If your garden gets lots of sun, the shrub needs more regular watering to prevent it from dying back.

Fruit shrubs

Several fruit shrubs have shallow root systems suitable for containers or smaller gardens. For example, blueberry shrubs have shallow roots. However, they have delicate soil requirements. Ideally, an acidic soil pH of 4.5 to 5.2, with moist conditions and good drainage helps blueberry shrubs grow and bear fruit. Adding leaf mould to the soil when planting and spreading a thin layer of bark mulch around the blueberry shrub improves the growing conditions.

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