Best Dwarf Shrubs for Every Landscape

In association with our latest article on Basic Landscape Bushes, we thought we’d highlight some of the best dwarf shrubs that suit most all landscapes. We understand that many people who are installing new gardens or fixing up an old one may not know a lot about what’s available and what they should choose for plant material. Here we've highlighted the basic tried-and-true varieties are be useful. This is especially true for shrub choices.

Dwarf shrubs are necessary for basic landscape use. They offer a transition between the more permanent shrubs that are larger and the perennial choices that tend to change more over time as plants die, trends change, and landscape changes become necessary. Basic shrubs tend to stay the standard over time and their dwarf counterparts play that crucial intermediate role. Dwarf shrubs can also work in the landscape as small boundary line markers, anchor specimen beds, and can offer some screening use in smaller spaces as well as many other tasks.

Because of good breeding, many shrubs that are larger now come in dwarf when choosing dwarf shrubs you have some great options. But there are small basic shrubs that have been popular for decades, some for hundreds of years - for great reasons. Here are those basics and why they continue to be planted in gardens all over the world.

  • Boxwood shrubs are one shrub that has been in use for literally hundreds of years around the world. They are grown for their tight evergreen broadleaf foliage that takes to shaping and shearing perfectly well. They are often seen as an edging in English rose gardens, sheared into perfect mounds or squared-off edging. Chances are if you’ve been to a garden with green lush edging, it’s probably been the boxwood that was used. You can use these dwarf shrubs in your garden for the same reasons. They make great foundation plantings and edging in sun or even partial shade, and are long lived and disease resistant. ‘Sprinter’ is a faster growing cultivar of boxwood shrub that is dwarf, making it suitable again for edges and even containers!
  • Spiraea shrubs are everywhere and are one of the most widely cultivated and bred shrubs in the nursery trade for landscape use today. If you live in the Midwest, there’s a pretty good chance you have, or know someone who has the bridal wreath spiraea in their yard - especially around older homes. These spireas were planted when a new family built or moved into a home up to about 30 years ago as a tradition. Some people continue this tradition today. You may have also heard of this tradition with old fashioned lilacs too. Today many spiraeas are bred to be large like bridal wreath, but increasingly becoming popular are the brightly colored dwarf shrub types like ‘Spiraea Gold’. Chartreuse foliage is topped with luminous bright magenta clumps of tiny blooms over a really long season - many will bloom from spring into fall when they are really happy.

There are lots and lots of other dwarf shrubs, often dwarf flowering shrubs like the blue (or pink) Rave Hydrangea that are really popular and very standard landscape affair. Some more unusual yet highly valuable dwarf versions of popular landscape shrubs include this wonderful dwarf crape myrtle, perfect for adding the wonderful aspects of all crape myrtle in smaller spaces. And, of course, the wildly popular ‘Chip” series of butterfly bushes, like ‘Lilac Chip’ butterfly bush buddleia. Wonderful standards in tiny size for smaller spaces!