types of shrubs

Types of Shrubs and Everything You Should Know Of Caring for Them

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Shrubs are smaller than trees but bigger than your typical plant. You can use shrubs as a living fence that can keep bigger animals out of your yard or lawn. You can use them to make your yard look lovelier. There are a lot of reasons why you should love shrubs. And this guide will share the types of shrubs and everything you need to know of caring for them.

How to Identify Shrubs

Identifying whether a plant is a shrub is easy. First, you should know what shrubs are.

Shrubs are woody plants with no dominant stems, although it has several small or similarly sized ones. These plants usually grow up to 10 feet (three meters) tall. A shrub that has a lot of branches and dense leaves might be called a bush.

Shrubs are smaller than trees, which grow up to a considerable height. It’s also smaller than arborescence, which is also known as tree-like shrubs that can grow taller than 10 to 20 feet (three to six meters).

These are general distinctions, however. Honeysuckles, lilacs, and a few other shrubs can grow taller than three meters and might even take the form of a tree.

At-a-Glance: What Are the Characteristics of a Shrub

To make it easier, shrubs usually have:

  • No trunk: Shrubs branch very low to the ground. As such, they do not have a well-defined and distinct trunk.
  • A lot of stems: Shrubs often have several big stems and several smaller ones.
  • Broad foliage: Shrubs usually have wide leaves.
  • Very hardy: It can grow in all types of conditions and soil.
  • Likes the sun: Shrubs love to be in a sunny environment.
  • Smaller than trees.

Identifying Certain Shrubs


There are three main ways to identify shrubs and the easiest is by checking out the fruits or leaves. But as most shrubs do not flower or bear fruit all year round, you can also identify them by their leaves or twigs.

Identify Shrubs by Their Blooms and Fruits

If you want to identify just what kind of shrub you have, the best way is to look at the blooms and fruits. When looking at the flowers, the color, scent, shades, and shape will be a good indicator of what kind of shrub it is.

The size of the flowers can also help you identify one shrub from another. Check to see how large the flowers get, and you can quickly tell it apart from related shrubs that produce only small flowers.

You might also consider the time when it blooms. There are shrubs that blossom early in spring. Others do so at a later time.

Like flowers, fruits also have distinct characteristics. For instance, the color of the berries will be a massive help in telling what kind of shrub it is. You should also check if the flesh is soft or hard or whether the fruit is covered by fuzz.

You should check if the shrub has seeds or nuts, as well as the size and shape of the fruits.

Identify Shrubs by Their Twigs

During winter, some shrubs shed their leaves and don’t have flowers or fruits. Check out their twigs for leaf scars. You will be able to determine where the leaves were once placed. In some shrubs, you will see some terminal buds or those found at the end of each twig. Others have auxiliary buds that pepper the stems.

You can also inspect twigs for their texture or color. Some shrubs may have smooth barks, while others have rough ones. Shrubs can have gray or red buds. Plus, you can check for hair or thorns.

Use Leaves to Identify Which Shrub You Have

Leaves are either compound or simple. Some shrubs have leaves that are not divided in any way, like those of aspen. Meanwhile, ivy and juniper have compound leaves, which are divided into needles or leaflets.

Some shrubs also have opposite leaves, while others have alternating ones. Most shrubs have broad leaves, but there are those that are needle-like or narrow. Different shrubs also have different sized leaves:

  • Conifers
  • Lobed
  • Smooth
  • Toothed

You can watch this Backyard Farmer video to know how to identify a shrub or a tree.

Where Do Shrubs Grow

Different shrubs thrive in a variety of hardiness zones.

Shrubs That Like the Cold

If you like to grow shrubs and bushes in cold areas, there are shrubs that you can plant. Just remember that cold-hardy plants will need more mulch around the base where their roots are. The mulch will help insulate the roots and protect them from frost and cold temperatures. Some shrubs may also benefit from good pruning in late fall.

What are the shrubs that you can plant in zone 4? If you want shrubs that flower during spring, then choose the following types of shrubs:

  • Daphne: Has a ‘Carol Mackie’ cultivar that can live in zones 4 to 8. It grows up to three feet (91 centimeters) and has white to pink flowers that are very fragrant.
  • Flowering almond: Grows up to four to six feet (one to two meters) tall, with pink flowers
  • Forsythia: Cold hardy shrubs, especially the ‘Northern Gold’ cultivar. This shrub grows up to six to eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) tall.
  • Lilac: Can be hardy up to zone 3 to 7. You can enjoy fragrant flowers when they are in bloom.
  • Mock orange: Lives in zones 4 to 8 with white fragrant blooms.
  • Purple leaf sand cherry: Add a splash of purple in your garden with this shrub. It grows anywhere in zones 3 to 8 and has light or pale pink flowers.
  • Quince: Blooms can be orange, pink, or red.

If you’d like your shrubs to bloom under the intense heat of summer, these are your best types of shrubs:

  • Dappled willow: This shrub thrives in zone 4 to 8. It grows very fast, giving your garden a splash of pink and white.
  • Dogwood: Can live in zone 2 to 7. You get white or pink flowers in clusters during spring right through early summer. These shrubs are notable in the winter when they show yellow or red stems.
  • Elderberry: Choose the Black Lace variant, which lives in zones 4 to 7. Elderberries have clusters of pink flowers that turn into reddish-black fruits that you can eat. You also get lacy purple to dark leaves.
  • Hydrangea: Depending on the variety, the size and color of the flowers can vary, but hydrangeas are noteworthy because of their large clusters of blooms.
  • Smoke tree: Thrives in zone 4 to 8 and has either purple or golden leaves. This shrub can grow up to eight to 15 feet (two to five meters) tall. The wispy flower plumes look like smoke.
  • Spirea: Blooms during spring and continues to flower until midsummer. This low-maintenance shrub thrives in zone 3 to 8.
  • Sumac: Has orange, yellow, red, or green foliage.
  • Summersweet: You will love the flower spikes that can fill the midsummer air with its fragrance. These flowers bring butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.

Other shrubs provide your gardens with great colors for fall. These include the color barberry and the burning bush. Meanwhile, if you prefer to see green all year long, you can go for arborvitae, boxwood, false cypress, and juniper.

Types of Shrubs That You Can Plant in Warm Climates

While there are shrubs that like the colder climates if you live in zones 9 to 12, you might need these types of shrubs.

  • Angel’s trumpet: Can thrive in zones 9 to 11 and can reach heights of around six to 20 feet (1.8 to 6.1 meters). As such, it sometimes looks like a small tree. It has trumpet-shaped flowers that hang down from the foliage.
  • Cape honeysuckle: Reaches three to 10 feet (0.9 to 3.05 meters) when grown as a shrub. If you cultivate it as a vine, it can reach up to 30 feet (9.1 meters). This shrub thrives in zones 9 to 11 and has bright orange flowers that are edible.
  • Natal plum: Grows in zones 9 to 11 and can be anywhere from two to 20 feet (6.1 meters) tall. It has star-shaped blooms and edible red fruits.
  • Pomegranate: Grows in zones 7 to 10. This shrub can reach anywhere from three to 20 feet (0.9 to 6.1 meters). Its fruits provide you a lot of antioxidants. You can juice it for your health with its delicious and tangy flavor.
  • Princess flower: Grows up to 10 to 20 feet (3.05 to 6.1 meters) tall and thrives in zones 9 to 11. You’d love its big purple flowers and fuzzy leaves.

Uses of Shrubs


Like all plants, shrubs are great for fighting soil erosion, as well as keeping water in the ground near them. It’s a good source of lumber, poles, and fuelwood.

Further, shrubs also provide you with fruits, berries, and other foodstuffs. Some shrubs have edible leaves, roots, and tuber shoots. If you’re into landscaping, shrubs are also a great addition to your lawns and garden. These plants can quickly be grown as garden beds or backdrops.

Shrubs used in landscaping can help if you have issues with noise and dust. They are also evergreen, so you’d have something fresh and new to look at all year round.


Some shrubs have foliage, fruits, and flowers that can bring an exciting mix of colors to your garden.

Specimen Plants

Shrubs also make excellent specimen plants, which are grown by themselves. They add a decorative effect that beautifies your garden. Some shrubs are a joy to look at, that it’s a shame to group them together with hedge plants or bedding plants.

Privacy cover

Some people don’t like fences but would like to still have some privacy in their yards. Bushes like arborvitae act like a living privacy fence. Some of these shrubs have very thick foliage that can form dense hedges.

Shrubs like privet grow fast, allowing you to get a privacy cover in no time. These plants can grow an additional two to three feet (0.6 to 0.9 meters) in just a year. Boxwood is easy on the eyes and can be pruned. These decorative shrubs are what you see in formal gardens.

How to Grow Shrubs from Seed

Seeds are an excellent way to grow shrubs, but you will need to be patient as it may take you entirely some time to grow one.

When to Plant Shrubs

You should plant most shrub seeds in the spring, which means that you should store the seeds over winter. Other shrubs are best sown as soon as they are harvested in the winter.

Check the shrubs that you are planting and see if the seeds need to break their winter dormancy. If this is the case, you should sow the seeds in autumn.

The best time to sow seeds also depends on where you live. For instance, if you’re planting lace cap hydrangea, you will need to:

  • Plant in spring if you live in zone 6
  • Plant in early fall if you lives in zones 7 to 9

Meanwhile, the Florida French lace weigela needs to be planted in spring if you live in zones 4 to 5, while you should wait until early fall if you live in zones 7 to 9. If you live in zone 6, you can decide whether to plant it in the spring or fall.

How to Plant Shrubs

The Royal Horticultural Society recommends that when planting shrubs, you will need to get a pot, modular tray, or seed tray with seed sowing compost. You can try the Black Gold Garden Compost Blend or the Jiffy Natural & Organic Starter Mix.

If you can’t find seed-sowing compost, you can use multi-purpose compost and perlite or coarse grit. Mix equal parts of compost and perlite to create your own growing medium. Press down on the compost to firm it up and then water it thoroughly. Let the water drain out of the tray and put a label to help you identify the shrubs that you’re planting.

Sow thinly. You only need to space them about a finger’s width apart. If you’re using a seed tray, you can put one or two seeds in every module. Cover the tray or pot with a polythene bag and secure the plastic bag in place with a rubber band. Doing this will prevent your pots from drying out.

After Germination

Once the seedlings are big enough to transplant, you should handle them by holding the seed leaves and not the first true leaves. It’s better to transfer the seedlings with the plug of compost and roots still intact.

Once transplanted into a bigger pot, you will need to water the seedlings regularly. You should also fertilize it until the seedlings grow into small shrubs.

Wait until the following summer or spring to harden off the plant and introduce them gradually to the outdoors. Hardening off will help your shrubs slowly adjust to the harsher outdoor conditions. It also allows your young plants to transition from softer growths to harder and firmer plants.

This GrowVeg video will show you how to do this.

Shrubs Growing Conditions

Shrubs tolerate a wide variety of soil, but you should make sure that it drains well. The key to growing shrubs is to choose those that are ideal for the hardiness zone that you live in.

As you have seen above, there are shrubs that do well in cold climates, as there are those that thrive in warmer temperatures. Be sure to plant the shrubs that are suitable for your zone and follow the specific care requirements for them. Different shrubs have different water and sunlight requirements.

Shrubs Water Requirements

According to the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, you cannot let shrubs go dormant when it’s their time to grow. Ensure that the soil they’re on stays moist but not that saturated. The moisture will help your shrubs fight off insects, avoid winter injury, and stave off diseases. Shrubs also need moisture to bloom and produce fruits.

You should water your shrubs adequately from spring through August. When September rolls in and right through the middle of October, start withholding water from your plants. Slowly decrease the level or amount of water you give it so that it doesn’t freeze when snowstorms come.

By the middle of November, just before the ground starts to freeze, water your plants thoroughly. Make sure that the root area is saturated. Doing this will help your plant survive winter.

How much should you water your shrubs? Around 2.5 to 3 gallons (9.5 to 11.4 liters) of water once a week will keep a six to eight feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) tree alive. Adjust your watering depending on the shrub’s size. Water every six to 10 days during drier periods. Water new shrubs every five to seven days.

Watering Your Shrubs: Some Tips

  • Do not overwater your shrubs during their growing season. You should add 12 inches (0.3 meters) of water to the soil to make sure that the entire root area is wet.
  • Newly planted or transplanted shrubs will need more water.
  • When watering shrubs, it’s best to use soaker hoses or drip systems. These products will help you minimize wasting water while keeping the soil moist.
  • Consider creating a berm around your shrub. You can fill this with water without getting too much of the surface wet. It also delivers more water to the root system.
  • Reduce evaporation by mulching over the soil around your shrubs.
  • If you want better quality flowers and fruits, you should water your shrubs uniformly.

Shrubs Sun Requirements

There are shrubs that require full sun exposure to thrive. These shrubs should get at least six hours of direct sunlight. Meanwhile, if you plant a shrub that needs part shade, put it in a location where it gets anywhere from four to six hours of direct sunlight.

Lastly, shrubs that require full shade should get only a few hours of the morning sun. If you like a flowering shrub, then it’s most likely to thrive in a sunny area. If they don’t get enough sunlight, they will not flower.

Best Shrubs Fertilizer

Shrubs require a different set of nutrients, so you should buy fertilizers that are meant for these plants rather than use regular fertilizers. According to the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Life Sciences, you can use a complete fertilizer that has more nitrogen and a higher percentage of potassium and phosphorus.

Get a fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 12-4-8, 12-6-6, or 16-4-8. You can choose between fast-release products that can supply the soil with water-soluble nitrogen almost immediately. Or you can choose to apply slow-release fertilizer so that the nutrients are provided over time.

If you have a newly planted shrub, the better choice is a slow-release fertilizer because it lowers the chances of fertilizer burn.

How Much Should You Apply?

Every year, you will need to apply about two to four pounds (0.9 to 1.8 kilograms) of nitrogen to every 1,000 square feet of root spread. How do you calculate the root spread? Simply multiply the area of the crown by 1.5.

For younger shrubs, you can give them more nitrogen to help promote growth and health.

So what are the products to use?

Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed Flowering Trees and Shrubs Continuous Release Plant Food

Miracle-GRO Shake 'N Feed

This product gives your acid-loving plants such as shrubs all the nutrients they need to grow. It uses natural ingredients to feed your soil. Your shrubs get ongoing nutrition for three months, helping your yard look its best all season.


  • It comes from a well-known brand.
  • It contains high levels of nitrogen and potassium
  • You don’t have to reapply for three months
  • It can help strengthen your shrubs


  • Over application may result in fertilizer burn.

Shin Nong PRO Organic Tree & Shrub Fertilizer

shin nong pro

The PRO Organic Tree & Shrub Fertilizer gives your shrubs stronger and bigger roots, ensuring their health. This product is made with natural and organic ingredients and helps stimulate microorganism activity in the soil.

Not only does it help your shrubs develop stronger roots, but it also makes them more disease- and insect-resistant.


  • Organic and natural ingredients
  • Vegan product
  • Promotes healthier soils
  • No fertilizer burns
  • No offensive odors


  • NPK values might be lower than what your shrubs actually need

Voluntary Purchasing Group Fertilome 10864 Tree and Shrub Food

fertilome fertilizer

This 19-8-10 fertilizer is specially formulated for shrubs and trees and comes in the form of easy-to-apply granules. All you need to do is to spread them and then water them.

You only need to apply these every six months, and you can have stronger and healthier shrubs.


  • High NPK ratio
  • The slow-release formula lasts six months before needing another application.


  • Fertilizer burn can come as a result of over-application

Best Shrubs Companion Plantings

There are a lot of kinds of shrubs, and sometimes, they like the company. For example, smaller evergreen shrubs will do well when planted with ferns or tulips. You can choose your own companion combinations by selecting something similar. Shrubs can make a good background for other plants to blend in.

Or you can just go the opposite direction and choose something that’s totally different. This is because shrubs can easily make stark and beautiful contrasts.

The best companion plants for shrubs vary as these bushes have differing characteristics. For instance, if you’re working with hydrangeas and their vividly colored clumps of flowers, you can choose to pair them with hosta with its differently colored foliage.

Or you can just use ferns that will bring out the loveliness of hydrangea’s blooms. You might even pair hydrangeas with other shrubs, such as dogwood trees, and let your hydrangeas thrive in their shade.


You can use shrubs as companion plants for trees. With most trees having a single and towering trunk, all that space underneath will be wasted. To guarantee that your trees and shrubs thrive together, you will want to make sure that whatever you choose as companion plants have the same care requirements and can live in the same type of soil.

Shrubs Diseases and Common Problems

There are several problems that are common to shrubs. And you can diagnose these according to how it is presented.

Chewed leaves can mean that insects are snacking on your shrubs. For instance, there are several species of beetles, such as the Japanese beetle and green beetle, that can damage your shrubs’ leaves up to the point of defoliation. Other insects to watch out for include:

  • Caterpillars
  • Gypsy moth
  • Sawflies
  • Weevils
  • Twig girdler

Visible Insects

Aside from the ones that chew on the leaves, you will also encounter visible insects that can infest your shrubs. One of the most prevalent is aphids, which sucks the juices out of young leaves, causing them to curl or yellow. Scale can also be a problem, as these can leave bumps on stems and leaves. You’d know that you have a scale problem when the leaves become sticky and shiny because of the excrement left behind by scale insects.

Other visible insects you can encounter when you’re growing shrubs include galls, leaf miners, leafhoppers, lace bugs, and spider mites.


Shrubs share many diseases with trees. You can find leaf spots on the foliage, which may cause discoloration. Leaf spots are caused by several conditions such as bacterial spots, needlecasts, and fungal spots.

You also have powdery mildew, which causes the leaves to look like it’s covered in light-colored powder. This disease is typically harmless, but it can weaken young shrubs and roses.

Black mildew and sooty mold are the results of weakened leaves because of the infestation of aphids, scale, and other insects that suck on the leaves.

Rose rosettes can cause deformed shoots on your roses. You should also look out for bacterial galls, rust, and iron chlorosis.

Shrubs Treatments and Maintenance

Shrubs Pruning

Maintaining your shrubs starts at the beginning when you’re choosing which shrubs to plant. But once you have your shrubs going, you will need to take some care of it so that it stays healthy.

Start off with primary care. Know how much sun, water, and feeding your shrubs need and give it to them. Schedule the watering once a week or more, depending on how hot it is.

Avoid fertilizing new shrubs. Instead, put compost around them to act as mulch. For mature shrubs, fertilize according to what your plants need.


When it comes to shrubs, pruning is an excellent way to make them look good and keep them healthy. You should cut back the foliage if it’s becoming too rowdy, and regular pruning can help you deal with your shrubs quickly.

There are several tools to help you prune your shrubs and bushes. Be sure to take time to be familiar with each tool and use the right one for the job.

Check on the New Plants

If your shrubs are newly planted, they might be weak. You can stalk new shrubs to keep them straight. The stalk can support your newly planted shrubs so that they don’t fall or tip over.

Deal with the Pests

Shrubs are a magnet for pests and diseases. Be sure to be very vigilant and address problems and conditions the moment you first notice them.

You can buy fungicides and bactericides to help fight diseases and pests.


You will want to keep evaporation down to a minimum when you have shrubs. You will need to keep the moisture wet, so watering is indeed necessary.

Another way to keep your shrubs happy is to mulch. The mulch will help keep the moisture in the soil.

How to Remove Shrubs

When you need to remove shrubs, it can be really tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing. This situation is true when it comes to bigger shrubs. So what do you do?

First, cut away the branches. This will help make removing a shrub easier and more manageable, especially if you’re dealing with shrubs that have a lot of leaves and the branches are already tangling with one another.

After cutting away the branches, it’s time to dig up the soil around the shrub to expose the roots. Methodically cut away the roots, slicing through every root branch. You can now remove the stump by prying it loose from the network of roots.

This video will show you how this is done:

Where to Buy Shrubs Seeds Online

There are many places online that sell seeds for the shrubs that you like. If you already have something in mind, you can do a search on Amazon or Etsy to find them. But if you don’t, here are some great places to shop:

  • Plant World Seeds have a selection of more than 200 shrub and tree seeds. Searching for the right seeds is easy as you can sort the listings by name and price, and each selection has a wonderfully written description and accompanying photo.
  • Rare Exotic Seeds has more than 220 tree and shrubs seeds to choose from.
  • The Tree Center Plant Supply Co. is also an excellent site to visit. Don’t let the name fool you. This site offers an amazing collection of shrubs on top of their fantastic offering of trees.
  • Burpee. This popular site doesn’t really have a separate category for shrubs, but if you already know what you want, then you can search for it. You can also do a search for shrubs and see what they have available.
  • While the Arbor Day Foundation specializes in trees, there are quite a few shrubs and bushes that you can buy from them.

Where to Buy Shrubs Saplings Online

If you don’t like the wait, you might want to get in touch with Direct Native Plants. This site allows you to get seedlings, saplings, and potted shrubs, trees, and plants to help you get started.

Bloomscape also offers some shrubs for your outdoor space, and Terrain has an exquisite collection of shrubs and trees.

Frequently Asked Questions

We will answer your questions about shrubs.

Question: Which shrubs are edible?

Answer: Some shrubs are edible. Most edible shrubs have delicious fruits.

  • American cranberry bush has fruits that are made into jam.
  • Blueberry
  • Brambles are great to use as barriers, and their berries are delicious
  • Bush plums are also called cherry plums, have tart fruits that are made into jelly or jam
  • Currants and gooseberries
  • Hazelbert have nuts that you can eat
  • Natal plum tastes like cranberries
  • Pineapple guava fruits taste like strawberry and pineapple
  • Rugosa rose have edible flowers

Question: How do you build a berm?

Answer: An irrigation berm is an excellent way to save water by preventing it from running off. It’s as simple as surrounding the base of your shrubs with dirt. You will really save a lot of water by having a berm that can trap them in and keep the soil moist for longer.

If you are creating a large berm for a number of shrubs, you should make sure that the berm is twice as high as the amount of water you put in—repair areas of the berm that has been damaged by water pressure.

You can mist the dirt and pack it tightly to make the berm more stable. You can also spread grass seed along the berm walls to minimize soil erosion.


Shrubs offer you a lot of benefits, from food to privacy. What’s more, shrubs make it easier for you to beautify your space and get some privacy without having to work too hard. Shrubs are very hardy plants. You only need to choose the right ones to plant and know how to take care of them.

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