Top 10 Shrubs for Your Home Garden

My Monet™ Weigela (Weigela florida 'Verweig')

Proven Winners 

One of the easiest ways to add structure and four-season interest to a garden is to include trees and shrubs with striking flowers, foliage, fruit, and branching. Luckily, that's getting to be easier than ever.

Plant breeders have shown a surge of interest in shrubs. The humble hydrangea and old-fashioned elderberry are undergoing extreme makeovers and coming out as show stoppers. Happily, they are not being turned into garden divas. New shrubs are cultivated not only to bloom larger & longer, but also to be widely adaptable and pest resistant.

To compile our list of the best shrubs, we enlisted the help of Tim Wood, Resident Horticulturist & Plantsman for Spring Meadows Nursery and Danielle Smith, who's in the Marketing & PR department.

It was difficult to narrow down which of the 500 or so varieties in their catalog they consider 'must haves' for their own gardens and why, but here are their top shrubs for the home garden.

According to Danielle, "You always have your favorites even though we introduce more and more shrubs every year. Many of the varieties have a fragrance element that I feel is mandatory in any garden (Clethra, Abelia, Koreanspice) throughout all the seasons. Others just really blow you away with their bloom performance."

"Chardonnay Pearls, Limelight and Wine & Roses are all plants that you will never forget about once you have seen them in flower. The memory of them in bloom will be permanently burned into your brain. It is truly a jaw-dropping experience. Black Lace and My Monet are revolutionary advances in the world of horticulture. These varieties have created a whole new look for their category (genera). Similar to fashion, it is like when non-tapered jeans become the fashion and tapered and stonewashed were out. Black Lace was the first fine cutleaf Sambucus to ever be introduced that is similar to a Japanese Maple look but sold for less money."

"My Monet is the first dwarf, variegated Weigela to ever be introduced and it has the flower power of that of Wine & Roses. All are excellent performers in both of our gardens and, as I said before, you just always have your favorites."

  • 01 of 10

    Chardonnay Pearls® Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis 'Duncan' pp#16,098)

    Deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls'
    Deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls'. Proven Winners -

    The first favorite is Deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls'. Chardonnay for its soft lime-yellow foliage. Pearls for the white, bead-like buds that open to star-shaped flowers in spring. A compact, colorful accent for both borders and containers. The yellow foliage brings complements nearby purple foliage and flowers.

    • USDA Zones: 5 - 7
    • Height: 20 -36", Spacing: 20 - 25"
    • Exposure: Full - Partial Sun
    • Bloom Season: Late Spring
    • Flower Color: White
    • Foliage: Lime Green / Yellow
    • Growing Tips: Prefers well-drained, moist soil. Prune after flowers fade, in the spring.
    • Notes: Deer Resistant. Fragrant flowers are popular with butterflies
  • 02 of 10

    'Limelight' Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight' pp#12,874)

    Hydrangea 'Limelight'
    Hydrangea 'Limelight'. Proven Winners -

    Hydrangea paniculata, in general, are an easy going, profuse flowering lot. 'Limelight' has bushy panicles of chartreuse flowers that slowly change from mauve pink to burgundy in the fall. The chartreuse can fade out to an off-white when grown in full sun in warmer zones. But for all you gardeners who have trouble getting your hydrangeas to bloom dependably, 'Limelight' doesn't disappoint.

    • USDA Zones: 3 - 8
    • Height: 6 - 8', Spacing: 6 - 7'
    • Exposure: Full - Partial Sun
    • Bloom Season: Mid-Summer
    • Flower Color: Chartreuse. Aging to Pink & Burgundy
    • Foliage: Green
    • Growing Tips: Blooms on new wood; prune in late fall / early spring.
    • Notes: Deer Resistant. Drought Tolerant.
  • 03 of 10

    Black Lace™ Elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Eva' pp#15,575)

    Black Lace Elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Eva')
    Black Lace™ Elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Eva'). Proven Winners -

    One of the first of the new elderberries to show off the dark, Japanese maple-like lace foliage, and is stunning. Umbels of pink flowers, 10 inches across, dot the plant in mid-summer and give off a slight lemony fragrance. It makes a wonderful accent plant and can even be trained into a small tree or standard.

    Black Lace Elderberry was the "Best New Plant" of 2006 at the Nursery Management & Production/American Nursery & Landscape Assoc. (NMPro ANLA) New Plant Pavilion and won a Silver Medal from the Royal Boskoop Horticulture Society. Available in wide release in 2007.

    • USDA Zones: 4 - 7 (Will dieback in colder zones but regrows quickly in season.)
    • Height: 6 - 8', Spacing: 6 - 8'
    • Exposure: Full Sun
    • Bloom Season: Early summer
    • Flower Color: Soft pink, fading to white.
    • Foliage: Deep purple. Finely variegated.
    • Growing Tips: Forms buds in late-summer. Prune immediately after flowering. Pruning only necessary to shape and control the plant or to improve fullness. Pruning or pinching young, leggy plants will create fuller branching. Can be pruned hard, to keep the plant compact.
    • Notes: Berries are edible and make a nice jelly or wine. Birds like them too.
  • 04 of 10

    Bottlebrush or Large Fothergilla (Fothergilla major)

    Bottlebrush - Fothergilla major
    Bottlebrush - Fothergilla major. Spring Meadow Nursery -

    Fothergilla is a Native American shrub that is often promoted as an alternative to more invasive imports, like Japanese barberry. Bottlebrush or Large Fothergilla offers fragrant spring flowers and brilliant fall color. Tim particularly likes F. major 'Blue Shadow', which has silvery-blue foliage that gives a brilliant display of orange, red and yellow in the fall.

    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Height: 4 - 6', Spacing: 3 - 4'
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Bloom Season: Spring
    • Flower Color: White (Shaped like a bottle brush.)
    • Foliage: Green and slightly toothed.
    • Growing Tips: Likes a slightly acid, moist, well-drained soil.
    • Notes: Fothergilla 'Mt. Airy' was selected by woody plant guru, Dr. Michael Dirr, from the Mt. Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati.
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Fragrant Abelia (Abelia mosanensis)

    Fragrant Abelia
    Fragrant Abelia. Spring Meadow Nursery -

    This Abelia is notable not just for its unusual hardiness, (it was discovered in the Baltic State of Latvia), but also for its intense fragrance; they say it's "better than a Lilac!" Deciduous, but suffers very little die back in colder regions.

    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Height: 5 - 6', Spacing: 10 - 12'
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Bloom Season: Late spring
    • Flower Color: Rose-Pink and fragrant
    • Foliage: Glossy green, Orange-red in fall
    • Growing Tips: Widely adapted and carefree. Some gardeners find the arching branches a bit gangly, but it can be shaped by pruning after flowering.
    • Notes: Deer Resistant
  • 06 of 10

    Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)

    Summersweet 'Hummingbird'(Clethra alnifolia 'Hummingbird')
    Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia). Spring Meadow Nursery -

    Another North American native plant that's often found growing in wetland areas. Favored for its fragrant, spiky flower stalks. Summersweet is a good choice for areas that drain poorly. Also called the Sweet Pepper Bush.

    • USDA Zones: 4 - 9
    • Height: 5 - 8', Spacing: 4 - 6'
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Bloom Season: Late spring
    • Flower Color: White. Long racemes that stand above the foliage. Fragrant.
    • Foliage: Green, Yellow in fall
    • Growing Tips: Prefers moist, slightly acidic soil. Doesn't do well in hot, dry locations. Slow to establish, but easy growing afterward. Blooms on new growth. Prune in late fall or early spring.
    • Notes: Attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Birds will eat the seedheads.
  • 07 of 10

    Smooth Witherod Viburnum (Viburnum nudum)

    Smooth Witherod Viburnum (Viburnum nudum)
    Smooth Witherod Viburnum (Viburnum nudum). Spring Meadow Nursery -

    Viburnums, in general, are favored for their colorful fruits. Smooth Witherod Viburnum is native to the Eastern U.S. and looks especially nice in a naturalistic setting. Its natural symmetrical shape doesn't require much pruning or maintenance. Also called Possumhaw.

    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Height: 6 - 10', Spacing: 6 - 10'
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Bloom Season: Early summer
    • Flower Color: White sprays of 3-5" flat-topped flowers. The persistent fruits dangle in clusters and pass through shades of green, pink, blue to purplish-black.
    • Foliage: Green, turning reddish-purple in fall.
    • Growing Tips: Prefers moist soil, but tolerates drought once established.
    • Notes: Flowers are popular with butterflies and bees.
  • 08 of 10

    Koreanspice Viburnum or Korean Spicebush (Viburnum carlesii)

    Blossoms of Koreanspice Viburnum 'Diana' (Viburnum carlesii 'Diana')
    Blossoms of Koreanspice Viburnum 'Diana' (Viburnum carlesii 'Diana'). Spring Meadow Nursery -

    One of the most popular Viburnums because of its intense, clove-like scent. The flowers remain in bloom for at least 2 weeks. Nice for planting near an entryway or open window.

    • USDA Zones: 4 - 7
    • Height: 4 - 8', Spacing: 4 - 8'
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Bloom Season: Spring
    • Flower Color: Pink buds open to extremely fragrant white flowers.
    • Foliage: Green - Bluish-green
    • Growing Tips: Prune after flowering. Prefers a moist, slightly acid soil.
    • Notes: Stays relatively compact.
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Wine & Roses® Weigela (Weigela florida 'Alexandra' pp#10,772)

    Wine & Roses® Weigela (Weigela florida 'Alexandra')
    Wine & Roses® Weigela (Weigela florida 'Alexandra'). Proven Winners -

    Striking for both its rich, dark foliage and the contrast of the foliage and flowers. 'Wine & Roses' won a Gold Medal from the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society and a Silver Medal from the Boskoop Royal Horticulture Society.

    • USDA Zones: 5 - 9
    • Height: 3 - 4', Spacing: 3 - 4'
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Bloom Season: Late spring / Early summer
    • Flower Color: Hot Rose-pink
    • Foliage: Burgundy-Purple, growing darker throughout the summer
    • Growing Tips: Suffers some winter die-back, but recovers quickly and blooms reliably.
    • Notes: Of the new purple-foliage Weigelas, 'Wine & Roses' is the tallest.
  • 10 of 10

    My Monet™ Weigela (Weigela florida 'Verweig' pp#16,824)

    My Monet™ Weigela (Weigela florida 'Verweig')
    My Monet™ Weigela (Weigela florida 'Verweig'). Proven Winners -

    A tri-colored Weigela. The leaves are a bright pink when they first emerge, maturing to green with creamy margins. This plant is small enough to be used as a perennial plant in the border. It's certainly attractive enough to carry its weight in any planting.

    • USDA Zones: 4 - 8
    • Height: 1 - 2, Spacing: 2 - 3'
    • Exposure: Full Sun / Partial Shade
    • Bloom Season: Late spring / Early summer
    • Flower Color: Rose-pink
    • Foliage: Starts out pink and matures to white-edged green.
    • Growing Tips: Easy growing and requires no pruning.
    • Notes: The trumpet-shaped flowers are attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies.