Best Basic Landscape Bushes for all Gardens

We love to talk about problem solving bushes for landscape use that might be new to you, but we have yet to talk about the basics when it comes to plant material. There are some types of shrubs that you may have admired more than twice in other gardens but don’t know what they are. These shrubs are the backbones of most good landscaping jobs and are chosen again and again as basic landscape bushes because they are tough, easy to care for, and beautiful through each season. They are the “go-to” best basic landscape bushes for all gardens because they are so reliable.  While areas vary somewhat in basic plant material choices, there are still the same standbys that you should reach for when you garden too, no matter where you live. Here are those basic landscape bushes that are sure to work for you.

  • Burning Bush Shrub: Also called Euonymus, this shrub comes in its basic bigger form (perfect for large hedges and privacy screens), as well as dwarf forms and even can be found with variegated foliage. This shrub is called “burning bush” because in the fall it puts on one of the best vivid and long lasting displays of most all plants, turning a bright and incredible fiery red. You can grow burning bushes in most all conditions, except for in standing water and in deep shade, as it needs good drainage and some sun- but it can be happy in partially shaded areas. Perfect for foundation plantings!
  • Dogwood shrubs are a standard almost everywhere. There are many kinds with many good uses - from hot sunny foundation plantings to the perfect tree for a shady woodland garden; a dogwood of some kind will probably fill that spot happily. There are many kinds of dogwoods that are also native to the United States, and are highly valued by wildlife. We’ve written about the fantastic red twig dogwoods before, but the yellow twig dogwoods are just as appealing for many of the same reasons as red twig dogwood. Plant both in your garden for season long (especially winter) interest.
  • The humble barberry shrub isn’t really all that humble. It’s a standard that probably outclasses most all other shrubs aside from junipers and arborvitae as basic landscape shrub fare in sheer popularity among professional landscapers everywhere (plant all three together for a lovely display too!). There are many, many cultivars that are primarily grown for their foliage and growth habits. They are often small which makes them great dwarf shrubs for smaller spaces, an ideal foundation shrub, and in the front of shrub borders and multi-layered hedges. ‘Sunjoy Gold Pillar’ is a newer cultivar with upright, spires of chartreuse and yellow foliage that will really WOW in the landscape.

While burning bushes, dogwoods, and barberry shrubs are all very popular basic landscape bushes, don’t be afraid to mix in other more unusual shrubs for an outstanding display. These shrubs are excellent basics. Build upon these tough and sure to please landscape bushes for a garden that the whole neighborhood envies! 

Red Barberry Hedge


Do you think you could maybe discuss some North American natives for these purposes? Barberry is quickly being banned as invasive in many states. Burning Bush (aka winged euonymus) is also now considered invasive. Euonymus Americanus is a gorgeous native with shiny green foliage that can be grown as a huge shrub then cut to the ground to come back again and will actually attach to walls if allowed. Inkberry holly is another native with fine green foliage rather boxwood like. Butterfly bush is swiftly becoming a problem and is no longer recommendable. Purple loosestrife is one of the worst offenders as far as garden flower escapees and is swiftly making it's way up through New York state and many other states displacing native grasses in moist areas. While I am not one to demand the purge of all non-native plants from our gardens--many of them stay right where you put them, are lovely to behold and pose no threat, you have the opportunity to educate and promote our wonderful natives here and I would like to see that.