11 Best Landscaping Shrubs to Grow in Your Yard

azalea shrubs

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Shrubs, also called bushes, are important in landscaping. Both flowering and non-flowering shrubs are the "bones" of the landscape because they provide structure. Shrubs are also more versatile than trees and can be planted in more areas. They are also easier to transplant if necessary in the future. Since there are many options, focus on easy-to-grow shrubs that can reliably thrive in your climate.

All of the 11 shrubs listed here are cold-hardy to at least USDA zone 5.


Some shrubs on this list may be toxic to humans and/or animals.

  • 01 of 11

    Pink Flowering Almond

    Prunus glandulosa. Alba Plena. North Korea
    znm / Getty Images

    The pink flowering almond is a beautiful option, but the argument against this shrub is that it is a one-hit wonder, giving you color only in spring. Once its spring flowers drop off, the bush has little to offer. But its fundamental benefits may outweigh this drawback: It grows quickly, it holds up well during dry periods, and puts on a spectacular floral display in spring. Pink flowering almond is toxic to people and pets.

    • Name: Pink flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Flower color: Light pink or white
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
    • Mature Size: 3-4 ft. wide, 5 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: Sometimes
  • 02 of 11

    Stewartstonian Azalea

    Azalea Stewartstonian

    Captain-tucker / Wikimedia Commons / CC By 3.0

    If you'd prefer a shrub that flowers more regularly, consider the slow-growing red azalea bush known as the 'Stewartstonian'. Because this bush is an evergreen, it has something to offer (namely, foliage) even outside of its prime-time periods. It is at its best both in spring when it flowers and in fall, when its leaves turn reddish. Azaleas can be toxic to animals.

    • Name: Stewartstonian Azalea (Rhododendron 'Stewartstonian' Gable hybrids)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Flower Color: Orange-red
    • Light: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, evenly moist, well-drained soil
    • Mature Size: 4-5 ft. tall, similar spread
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 03 of 11

    North Pole Arborvitae

    Emerald Green arborvitae shrubs growing in a loose hedge.

    DEA/RANDOM / De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images

    The​ North Pole arborvitae is both drought-tolerant and fast-growing, which adds to its appeal. This is a tough, evergreen shrub that holds up well to road salt and dry conditions. It is not even especially bothered by poor soil. Plant several in a row if you desire a privacy screen.

    • Name: North Pole Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis 'Art Boe')
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Leaf Color: Green
    • Light: Full sun to part sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, regularly watered soil
    • Mature Size: 15 ft. tall
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 04 of 11

    Common Lilacs


    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Some shrubs have one special quality that sets them apart. They may not give you multi-season interest, but this special quality makes them must-haves. One such plant is the common lilac bush. What makes it so special? The smell given off by its blooms is the closest thing to a superpower that you will find in the plant world. If fragrant flowers are not enough to convince you to grow a bush that offers nothing outside of spring, here is another selling point for the plant: The flowers that it puts out in spring are pleasing to the eye, as well. This starts as a fast-growing shrub but slows down as it matures.

    • Name: Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Flower Color: Purple, white, pink, magenta
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, loamy soil
    • Mature Size: 12-16 ft. tall, 8-12 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Oakleaf Hydrangea

    Oakleaf hydrangea

    Masahiro Nakano / a.collectionRF / amana images / Getty Images

    Oakleaf hydrangea may be the ultimate four-season shrub. It is at its peak in fall, when it gives even the best of the fall-foliage trees a run for their money. The slow-growing shrub also bears large flower heads in summer. Even during the winter and spring, it is not without interest, due to its attractive peeling bark. All hydrangeas are toxic to humans and animals.

    • Name: Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
    • Flower Color: Purple, white, pink
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil
    • Mature Size: 4-8 ft. tall, 4-8 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 06 of 11

    Rose Bushes

    rose bush

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Among the best deciduous shrubs are the various types of rose bushes. The fast-growing rose has been a favorite for centuries. Like lilac shrubs, rose flowers often combine good looks with a great smell. The only thing that has kept even more gardeners from growing this popular shrub is the belief that roses are hard to grow. If this has stopped you from growing rose bushes, rest assured that some types of roses that are easy to grow are now widely available at nurseries.

    • Name: Rose (Rosa spp.)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 11, depending on type
    • Flower Color: White, red, pink, yellow, orange
    • Light: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, slightly acidic soil
    • Mature Size: 6 in.-20 ft. tall and wide
    • Deer Resistant: No
  • 07 of 11

    Gold Mops

    Background of a Chamaecyparis pisifera aurea falsecypress
    robcocquyt / Getty Images

    An interesting fact about evergreens like gold mops is that their leaves are not always green in color. Chances are that the golden foliage of this particular slow-growing evergreen shrub has caught your eye from afar. The golden color also combines well with shrubs of just about any other color, including Blue Star juniper (Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star') and red barberry shrubs (Berberis thunbergii) such as 'Crimson Pygmy'.

    • Name: Gold mops (Chamaecyparis pisifera)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Leaf Color: Gold
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Clay or silty or loamy, well-drained
    • Mature Size: 6-30 ft. tall, 3-7 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 08 of 11

    Doublefile Viburnum

    Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum Plicatum) flower and leaves top view
    Viktor Wallon-Hars / Getty Images

    Classifying shrubs as deciduous or evergreen is not the only way to group them. Another characterization is based on what conditions the plants need: sun or shade. A standout shrub for a sunny spot is the doublefile viburnum. Its name says it all: The flowers line up in two rows along the branches. The resulting look is not only unusual, but it's also quite showy for this moderate-growing shrub.

    • Name: Doublefile viburnum (Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Mariesii') 
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Flower Color: White
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, loamy, slightly acidic soil
    • Mature Size: 8-16 ft. tall, 12-15 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Mountain Laurel

    Mountain laurel shrub with pink flowers (Kalmia latifolia 'clementine churchill').
    Paul Tomlins/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

    Mountain laurel is shade tolerant, but what makes this shrub special are the delicate and pretty clusters of blooms that come out in late spring, early summer that almost look like little origami paper shapes. This somewhat slow-growing shrub is another of the broadleaf evergreens with continuing green foliage, like rhododendrons, and some kinds of azaleas. All parts of the mountain laurel shrub are highly toxic to humans and pets.

    • Name: Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
    • Flower Color: Rose, pink, white
    • Light: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Cool, rich, well-drained, acidic soil
    • Mature Size: 5–15 ft. tall, 5–15 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 10 of 11

    Red-Twig Dogwood

    red twig dogwood

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Red-twig dogwood is valued for the color of its bark. As a bonus, the 'Elegantissima' cultivar sports bicolored leaves (green with white edges). This somewhat fast-growing shrub has the most to contribute to the landscape in late winter, when its bark color is at its brightest, and when most other plants in the landscape are lacking in color.

    • Name: Red-twig dogwood (Cornus servicea, Cornus alba, or Cornus sanguinea)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Flower Color: White
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, moist soil
    • Mature Size: 6–9 feet tall, 8–12 feet wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes
  • 11 of 11

    Rose of Sharon

    rose of sharon

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Rose of Sharon ((Hibiscus syriacus) is a good choice if you need a shrub that blooms in late summer after all the other flowering shrubs are done and while you're waiting for the shrubs that boast fall foliage.

    Rose of Sharon is often mistakenly call it a tree since it grows tall. This late-summer bloomer helps you distribute color in your landscape throughout the year. Here's more information on the somewhat fast-growing rose of Sharon.

    • Name: Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Flower Color: Pink, purple, lavender, red, blue, white; often with dark throats
    • Light: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich soil
    • Mature Size: 8–12 ft. tall, 6–10 ft. wide
    • Deer Resistant: Yes

Learn More

Now that you can see how shrubs can create visual interest in your yard, you may want to know information about more specific types of bushes for your needs.


There are all sorts of ways to categorize the different varieties of shrubs. The most basic groupings are:

  • Deciduous shrubs are known for their flowers.
  • Evergreen shrubs are further divided into needled evergreens and broadleaf evergreens. (Note that some evergreen shrubs bear pretty flowers, too.)
Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Prunus glandulosaNorth Carolina State Extension.

  2. Azalea. ASPCA.

  3. Hydrangea arborescens. NC State University Cooperative Extension.

  4. Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants: Hydrangea. ASPCA.

  5. Safe and Poisonous Garden Plants. University of California.

  6. Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants: LaurelASPCA.