Adding low maintenance shrubs to a flower garden is a great way to create a dynamic and visually appealing landscape. Shrubs offer a variety of benefits, from providing privacy to attracting pollinators, and can add a pop of color to any garden. With so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which shrubs to add to your garden. In this article, we will share some of the best shrubs to add to your flower garden and why it’s a good idea.
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Why Add Shrubs to a Flower Garden
There are several good reasons to add shrubs to a flower garden:
- If you are trying to reduce the maintenance of a large flower garden, there’s no better way to accomplish that than to add shrubs. Shrubs can be low maintenance and require less attention than annual or perennial flowers. Once established, they can be long-lived and provide years of beauty with minimal care.
- Some shrubs can provide year-round interest in a flower garden, or a foundation bed. They can add depth and texture to a garden, even when flowers are not in bloom.
- Shrubs can provide privacy and screening in a garden. They can be used to create a natural fence or to block unsightly views, or as a beautiful backdrop for your flower garden.
- Shrubs can attract wildlife to a garden by providing shelter and food sources. They can also be used to create nesting habitats for birds and other animals.
- Shrubs can be low maintenance and require less attention than annual flowers. Once established, they can be long-lived and provide years of beauty with minimal care.
- Shrubs come in many different sizes, shapes, and colors, making them a versatile addition to any flower garden. They can be used as a focal point in your flower bed, or they are a good choice for foundation plants to add curb appeal.
Factors to Consider when Selecting Shrubs for Your Flower Garden
When selecting shrubs for your flower garden, it’s important to consider the climate of your region. Some shrubs thrive in hot and dry climates, while others prefer cooler temperatures and more moisture. Research the hardiness zones for your area to determine which shrubs are most likely to thrive in your garden.
The type of soil in your garden can also impact the success of your shrubs. Some shrubs prefer well-drained soil and some do fine in dry conditions, while others thrive in more moist soil. It’s important to test your soil before selecting shrubs for your garden. If you’re going to the trouble and expense of adding shrubs to your flower garden, the health of your garden soil is the key to them surviving and thriving.
In case you have sandy soil, you may want to consider shrubs that prefer well-drained soil. If you have clay soil, you may want to look for shrubs that can tolerate heavier soil.
The amount of sunlight your garden receives can also impact the success of your shrubs. Some shrubs prefer full sun, while others prefer partial shade. It’s important to consider the sunlight exposure in your garden when selecting shrubs.
Always read and follow the information on the plant tags that come on your new plants. They contain all the information you will need to grow your new shrub successfully!. It’s a good idea to take time to read them while you are at the garden center to insure that you don’t purchase something that won’t work in your garden.
Check out some of our favorite Proven Winner shrubs and perennials.
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Best Flowering Shrubs to Add to Your Garden
When considering flowering shrubs to include in your garden, look for those that look great the rest of the growing season even after their bloom time has ended.
Spring Flower Shrubs
Forsythias are a great addition to any garden. They are known for their bright yellow spring flowers that are often some of the first blooms of the season. Forsythias prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can grow quickly and up to 10 feet tall. They require some pruning to keep them in shape. Forsythias are relatively low-maintenance and can add a lot of color to your garden. Hardy in zones 3-8.
Lilacs are a classic choice for any flower garden. Their fragrant flowers come in a variety of colors, including pink, purple, and white. They are easy to care for and can grow up to 10 feet tall. Lilacs prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They bloom in the spring and add a beautiful scent to your garden and are perfect cut flowers. Over the years, hybridizers have created all kinds of new varieties of lilacs and you don’t have to settle for the old-fashioned variety. Depending on the variety, you can find lilacs for zones 2-9.
Azaleas and Rhododendron get grouped together because they are so similar. They both bloom in the spring and are great partial shade shrubs. If you’re up for some boring scientific differences between azaleas and rhododendron, you can read about them here. I generally have to look at the leaves, but that isn’t a fool-proof method for telling the difference. Either way they are pretty spring-blooming shrubs that would make a great addition to your garden.
Roses are a timeless addition to any garden. There are so many varieties of roses! I have a confession here… I don’t grow roses! They are just too high maintenance and a pest magnet and I have no time for high maintenance. Every few years, I will try them again, but they just don’t do well with my neglect, so I’ve pretty much sworn off roses. Just because I don’t grow them doesn’t mean you can’t. If you’re up for it, just go for it and you may have great success. Roses prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They bloom throughout the season and can add a wonderful fragrance to your landscape.
Summer Flowering Shrubs
Hydrangeas are a beautiful shrub that can add a lot of color to your garden. Their flower heads are a variety of colors, including pink, blue, shades of violet, white and light green; and they are available in many sizes, including dwarf varieties. Many types of hydrangeas will start blooming one color and then change as the season progresses. Many can be beautiful additions to a fall landscape as well.
Because of the different species of hydrangeas, do your homework before purchasing one. In my zone 4 garden, I find the panicle hydrangea varieties to be the lowest maintenance and best bloomers. Panicle varieties don’t seem to be as thirsty as the big leaf or oakleaf hydrangea varieties.
I especially love the hydrangea varieties that you can purchase already shaped into small trees.
Check out some of our favorite Proven Winner shrubs and perennials.
Weigela is a deciduous shrub that produces beautiful trumpet-shaped flowers in shades of pink, red, or white in the spring and summer. Not only are the flowers lovely, but the foliage is also striking too. The sun requirements and hardiness zones will depend on the variety you select, so be sure to check the plant tag.
Viburnum (sometimes referred to as snowball bush) – is a deciduous shrub that comes in over a hundred different varieties, and produces white or pink clusters of flowers in early summer. Many species have beautiful fall foliage colors too. Viburnum does best in full sun and depending on the variety can be hardy in zones 2-9.
Potentilla is a small to medium size shrub and with cheery, little yellow flowers that bloom from late spring to fall. Potentilla will tolerate most any type of soil, but as with most plants does best in fertile, well-draining soil. It can grow in full sun to part sun. A bedraggled plant can be cut back for rejuvenation. Hardiness zones 2-7.
St. John’s Wort is a native shrub in North America. It naturally grows in a rounded shape and sports bright yellow flowers for weeks in the summer. St. John’s Wort does well in sunny, dry spots. Hardy in zones 4-8.
Diervilla (a/k/a bush honeysuckle) is one of those rare plants that will do okay in sun or part shade. Depending on the variety you select, it can be hardy in zones 3-8.
Spirea is not particular about the soil it is growing in and is one of the easiest shrubs to grow. There are lots and lots of varieties to choose from and depending on the variety you select, they can grow anywhere from 2 – 10 feet tall. Look for varieties that have foliage that changes with the season. Prune your spirea after the first wave of blooms in the spring and watch for a new set of blooms a few weeks later. It flowers best in full sun and is hardy in zones 4-8, although you should be able to find zone 3 and zone 9 varieties too.
Non-Flowering Shrubs That Look Good in a Flower Garden
Some of these shrubs technically do flower, but the flowers are insignificant and the foliage is what it’s all about with these shrubs.
Red Twig Dogwood
Red Twig Dogwood is an easy-to-grow shrub that will grow in pretty much any soil of light conditions. The red twigs are a standout in a winter garden and the twigs are used a lot in winter planters or floral arrangements. The size of a dogwood depends on the variety you select. It will spread, so give it plenty of room. Red twig dogwood is hardy in zones 3-8. Check out the variegated dogwood varieties too.
Elderberry (sambucus) is a fast-growing shrub that can be considered aggressive in some areas, so plant it with caution. It’s another shrub that will grow in a woodland setting or in full sun. Some varieties will flower and get berries, but with others the flowers are insignificant. Lemony lace elderberry has gorgeous chartreuse lacy foliage that brightens up a shade garden. USDA hardiness zones 4-7.
Ninebark is primarily grown for its stunning 3-season foliage, but it does flower in the spring. It’s a perfect bush to add to your flower garden simply because of the contrasting foliage. It can get quite large, so give it room to spread. It also gets tall, so it’s best for the back of the border. Best part, it’s a North American native. It prefers full sun and it is hardy in zones 3-7.
Barberry (Berberis) is known for its colorful leaves. Depending on the region and variety, you can find both deciduous and evergreen varieties of barberry. If your barberry is looking scrappy, go ahead and cut it back to the ground to revitalize it. Be careful of the spiky thorns. Most barberry varieties prefer full sun, but many will grow in part sun just fine. It is hardy in zones 3-9.
Warning: Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is considered invasive in many regions and should not be planted in any home landscape. Look for North American native varieties to add to your flower gardens.
Best Conifers or Evergreen Shrubs for a Flower Garden
Conifers are a group of trees and shrubs that produce cones and have needle-like or scale-like leaves. They are known for their evergreen foliage, which they keep year-round. Conifers are a popular choice for gardeners because they add structure, texture, and colors that you typically can’t get in perennial plants. They are also low maintenance and can be used in a variety of ways, from hedges to focal points.
Be aware that conifers come in a wide range of sizes, from large trees to small shrubs and you will want to pay close attention to the mature size of the variety you are selecting. Some popular conifers for gardens include: Bird’s Nest Spruce, Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Junipers, Yew, Arborvitae, False Cypress, etc.
How to Plant and Care for Your Shrubs
Preparing the Soil
Before planting your shrubs, make sure the soil is well-draining and has the right pH level for the type of shrub you are planting. Test your soil’s pH level and add any necessary amendments to adjust it. Remove any weeds or debris from the planting area, and loosen the soil with a garden fork or tiller to a depth of at least 12 inches.
Planting the Shrubs
When planting your shrubs, dig a hole that is twice the size of the shrub’s root ball. Place the shrub in the hole and backfill with soil, making sure the top of the root ball is level with the soil surface. Water the shrub thoroughly after planting, and add a layer of mulch around the base to help retain moisture.
Watering and Fertilizing
Shrubs need regular watering, especially during the first year after planting. Water deeply once a week, or more often during hot, dry weather. Fertilize your shrubs in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer or compost. Follow the instructions on the fertilizer package for the correct amount and application method.
Pruning and Maintenance
Pruning is an important part of shrub maintenance, and it helps keep your shrubs healthy and looking their best. Prune your shrubs in the late winter or early spring before new growth appears. Remove any dead, damaged, or diseased branches, and shape the shrub as desired. As a general rule-of-thumb, prune flowering shrubs right after they have bloomed. Regular maintenance tasks such as weeding, mulching, and pest control are also important for keeping your shrubs healthy and thriving.
Choosing the right shrubs to add to your flower garden can be a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. We have bearly scratched the surface of all the shrubs that are available. Take your time and do your homework up front and you can narrow down your options before you head out to the garden center. Just remember to keep in mind your garden’s climate, soil type and sun requirements when you are making your selections. Shrubs can add texture, unique color and interest to your garden, while requiring minimal care.
Go ahead and experiment with different combinations of shrubs with your favorite flowers and create a beautiful garden that reflects your gardening style. With a little planning and research, you can create a stunning garden that you can be proud of.
Have you incorporated shrubs into your flower beds? Which shrubs are your favorites? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and ideas with us.
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