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

Some Larger Shrubs for Landscape Use

February 5, 1998

Large shrubs can provide a variety of benefits in the landscape. They may provide a background or screen, may be an interesting focal point, provide cover for birds, and may produce attractive flowers and fruit. Certainly there are many to choose from; today I'll review a few of the more popular choices.

Mention large shrubs with flowers and many people think of lilacs. Fragrant purple, pink, or white flowers make this shrub a longtime favorite. Many cultivars are available though area nurseries. Keep in mind that it's best to prune lilacs on a regular basis to avoid older, woody trunks that attract insect borers and also decline in flowering.

Dogwoods are another group of popular larger shrubs. Redosier dogwood (Cornus sericea)is a spreading shrub that tolerates wet and poorly-drained soils. Its twigs are red, and need to be pruned on a regular basis to maintain attractive color. Another good choice is gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa),which is a very adaptable shrub good for screen or natural type plantings. Corneliancherry dogwood (Cornus mas)can become very large (15 feet) and may grow out of bounds. Yellow flowers in early spring are popular, but may be damaged in severe winters.

Discussions of large shrubs needs to include the viburnums. Several viburnum species get to be large shrubs, ideal for background or screen plantings, in sun or semi-shade locations. Most will flower and produce fruit, which is usually attractive to wildlife. Among the popular larger viburnum species are wayfaringtree, nannyberry, arrowwood, and American cranberrybush viburnum.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier species)is an adaptable shrub well-suited for wooded areas. This shrub tolerates shade and alkaline soils. White flowers will yield edible purple fruits, and the foliage gets yellow or orange fall color.

Finally, common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)is a good natural background planting for larger landscape settings. This shrub tolerates poor soil and also has a spreading growth habit. Yellow flowers appear in October.


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