Top 10 Landscaping Shrubs

The top ten landscape and flowering shrubs for year round beauty.

Landscape shrubs can add year-round beauty to your yard. They're a great way to anchor a small planting bed, create privacy, or hide unsightly areas, such as compost piles and outdoor air-conditioning units. Here are the top ten:

1. Liriope- A small evergreen shrub hardy in almost all zones, liriope has dark green grass-like foliage and blooms in small flowers that can be lavender, white, or purple. It has an arching form and some varieties reach two feet in height. Liriope prefers moist soil and dappled shade, though it will tolerate full sun morning sun and afternoon shade.

2. Red-Tip Photinia- Hardy in zones 2-9, red-tip photinia is a traditional southern favorite for hedges. The shrub's new growth is bright red, fading to a dark, glossy green as the foliage matures. It has a full form, with foliage to the ground so it never develops a leggy, overgrown appearance. In spring, red-tip photinia produces small white flowers, and red berries attractive to birds dot the bushes in autumn. This shrub prefers well-drained soil and can withstand summer heat with minimal watering, once established.

3. Holly- With evergreen varieties for most every zone, holly bushes are an excellent choice for year round interest. Holly works well as a foundation planting, hedge or privacy screen. With its prickled leaves, holly can discourage neighbors crossing your lawn while providing winter berries for birds. Holly is dioecious, which means you must plant a male and female variety within about forty feet of each other for the bush to produce berries. Holly is not fussy about soil conditions, and will grow in sun or shade. Pruning to shape is recommended in any season but autumn, when the bush is storing energy for the winter. Holly can create a beautiful winter backdrop, in the yard or used indoors as holiday decoration.

4. Lilac- With broad, sweeping branches perfuming the neighborhood, it's no surprise lilac has been a long-time landscape favorite. Lilac can be planted to screen a lot line, or as a single specimen for dramatic effect. Traditional heirlooms with their pale lavender blooms are a standby, but many new hybrid varieties have been introduced, ranging in bloom color from white to red. Lilac prefers full sun, blooms in early spring, and is hardy in zones 3-7. Many lilacs grow to twelve feet, and all attract butterflies.

5. Spirea- Best grown in zones 3-8, spirea is another traditional landscape shrub. The most popular variety, Spirea Yanhoultei, reaches 6-8 feet with small white sprays of flowers in spring. The foliage is green-blue in summer, turning golden in autumn. It has arching branches, a full habit and attracts butterflies. Spirea of any variety makes a lovely foundation planting, and is commonly seen gracing entryways. It prefers full sun, moderate water and average soil.

6. Dwarf Burning Bush- Flame red foliage in autumn gives this compact grower it's name. Well suited for zones 4-9, it can reach 4 feet in height. Burning Bush leafs out a deep emerald green in spring and makes a fine hedge longer into winter than most deciduous shrubs. It has cork-like bark and red berries for winter interest. It prefers full sun in northern climates. With a compact habit, it rarely needs pruning. Water well until the shrub is well established.

7. Butterfly Bush- As the name suggests, this deciduous shrub attracts butterflies with a sweet perfume. It has arching branches topped with flower spikes resembling lilacs in form. Butterfly Bush is hardy in zones 5-9. This shrub is very easy to grow and is available in many shades of red and purple, great for spicing up the late summer landscape. It can reach 8-10 feet, has a carefree habit, making this shrub a useful privacy screen. Plant in sun or shade and water regularly for best blooms.

8. Forsythia- Another traditional choice, Forsythia is one of the first shrubs to bloom in spring. Bright yellow flowers cover cascading branches up to six feet tall and almost as wide. Forsythia is a fast growing shrub, making it an excellent choice for new plantings or hiding utility areas. Preferring full sun, Forsythia is striking as a single specimen against a wall of green, or as a lot line hedge. In late winter, the budding branches may be forced indoors for early color. Flowers bloom on last year's growth, so prune only after blooming to ensure next years flower show. Forsythia benefits from peat or compost enriched soil and regular water throughout the growing season.

9. Rosa Rugosa- Often overlooked as shrub hedges, this Rose variety is well suited to the task in zones 2-7. Like all roses, Rosa Rugosa benefits from extra care, but the effort shows in cascading branches covered in profuse rose-red blooms. Rosa Rugosa reaches heights of 5 feet and thrives in well-drained but poor soils. The foliage turns red in autumn; the branches are spiny rather than thorny. This Rose has a heavy fragrance and a sprawling habit, perfect for screening or informal hedges. Large, showy hips form after the blooms have faded. Be sure to prune in fall, water regularly and fertilize in spring for best results.

10. Boxwood- Perhaps the most popular of all the landscape shrubs, Boxwood is most often grown as a hedge. The evergreen shrubs are hardiest in zones 5-9 and make attractive formal hedgerows. Boxwood is slow-growing, with a compact form suited best to foundation plantings. Boxwood grows well in sun but prefers shade and un-amended soil. Boxwood may be pruned to form the shape desired, from rounded mounds to sharp, angular forms. A common variety favored for its dwarf habit is Buxus Sempervirens.

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