University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Smaller Shrubs for Landscape Use

March 9, 2000

Smaller shrubs are popular additions to the landscape. Foundation plantings, borders, low hedges, and small accent plants are among the possible landscape uses for these types of shrubs. Here's a review of some of the more popular choices, but this is by no means an all-inclusive list.

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) is a popular small shrub with fairly dense growth, suitable for hedges. Barberry has a mounded type growth habit, red fruit, and tolerates shade. The cultivar 'Atropurpea' features red summer foliage, but needs full sun. The cultivar 'Crimson Pygmy' also has red summer foliage, needs full sun, and only gets about 2 feet tall.

Alpine currant (Ribes alpinum) also makes an excellent hedge plant and is a good choice for many landscape situations. Alpine currant will grow in shade and has a rounded type growth habit.

Potentilla (Potentilla fruiticosa) are popular, durable, long-blooming smaller shrubs. Potentillas need sun and dry soil. Many cultivars are available, including 'Gold Finger' (yellow), 'Katherine Dykes' (lemon yellow), and 'Mount Everest' (white).

Another very popular smaller shrub is spirea. A popular choice is Spirea x bumalda 'Anthony waterer,' or Anthony Waterer Spirea. This shrub features raspberry-red flowers and will adapt to many soils. It prefers full sun, however.

Viburnums are typically thought of as large shrubs, but there are some smaller varieties. Compact European Cranberrybush Viburnum (Viburnum opulus) will grow in shade areas. The cultivar 'Compactum' has a rounded form and white flowers that produce persistent red fruit. The cultivar 'Nanum' is good for a small, informal hedge, with a globe-like form. Unlike other viburnums, it very rarely flowers or produces fruit.

Finally, hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens) and rhododendrons are popular flowering shrubs that do well in shade. The cultivar 'Grandiflora,' or Snowhill hydrangea, has smaller flowers and is less dense than the popular 'Annabelle' hydrangea. 'P.J.M.Hybrid' rhododendron is hardy and more tolerant of higher soil pH values typical of our area than most rhododendrons. This shrub needs shade and moisture.


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