These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.
Some Small Shrubs for Landscape Use
February 12, 1998
Last week, I discussed some larger shrubs to consider for landscape use. Today, I'll discuss a few smaller shrubs to consider. Foundation plantings, borders, low hedges, and small accent plants are among the possible landscape uses for these types of shrubs. As was the case last week, this is by no means an all-inclusive list, but some of the more popular choices.
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).
Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)is another 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 two 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.
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 were discussed last week as excellent 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 which produce persistent red fruit. The cultivar 'Nanum' is good for a small, informal hedge, with a globe-like form. Unlike other viburnums, it rarely flowers or produces fruit.
Hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens)are popular flowering shrubs that do well in shade. The cultivar 'Annabelle' has white, clustered flowers and dense, mounded growth reaching about 3 feet in height. The cultivar 'Grandiflora', or Snowhill hydrangea, has smaller flowers and is less dense than 'Annabelle'.
Finally, discussions of smaller shrubs need to include rhododendrons. 'P.J.M. Hybrid' Rhododendron is hardy and more tolerant of higher soil pH values typical of our area than most rhodendrons. This shrub needs shade and moisture. Many lavender flowers covering the shrub makes an outstanding sight in the landscape.