Shrubs provide excellent ground coverage and provide plenty of shelter for wildlife to nestle in. Their strong woody stems can become a strong staple piece in your gardens for decades and offering vibrant evergreen coverage year after year.

What are Shrubs?

Shrubs covers an enormous number of plants, ranging from hardy evergreens to flowerless, dense, summer foliage. Shrubs can have very specific condition to grow and can require your attention quite often. They will need a fair amount of pruning throughout their immense lifespan to stop them overpowering your gardens and stunting their own growth.

No matter what kind your after, here are some of the most popular varieties of each kind:

Hydrangeas – These hardy, compact shrubs bloom with huge cone-shaped flowers in all sorts of colours. Some varieties can even thrive in larger pots and shady spots, but will require more attention and care if potted. Most are not evergreen, and so will shed their foliage each year and regrow in the spring. Despite their hardy nature, you should still beware of a few hydrangea specific problems such as “Hydrangea scale”.

Enkianthus – These acid loving deciduous shrubs are relatively care-free and will flourish into masses of various coloured, bell shaped flowers in Spring. They thrive in dappled shade or full sun but will require you to shelter them to keep the leaves greener for longer. Known primarily for their autumn foliage, they fade into a fiery red just before dropping towards the end of Autumn.

Skimmia – If you’re after an evergreen, look no further. Skimmias are rounded shrubs that slowly grow huge oval-shaped leaves and produce clusters of white flowers in the spring. They produce a strong fragrance too, so plant them close to your pathways or favourite resting spots! They can also produce small berries, but you will require both a male and female planted close to each other to do so.

Pieris – An acid loving evergreen variety, these will bloom much earlier than others with flowers loved by bees with very little pruning needed. With plenty of options of colour and size, you can find fiery reds to soft whites with compact shrubs to enormous displays. They love a well-drained, typically shady spot and can even thrive in acidic containers or pots. Despite their hardy nature, still be cautious of frost and chilly winds – especially in young shrubs.

Is my garden suitable for Shrubs?

Shrubs vastly vary in their requirements, so always check your specific varieties needs prior to planting. A few key things to consider when planting are:

Soil – Always check if your plant prefers acidic or a more alkaline soil. Is your soil rich in nutrients, will you need to purchase feed to keep the plant thriving? If you are unsure, check out our Beginners Guide to checking your soils Ph.

Position – Check where your shrub likes to be planted. Most will love being in full sun but if you don’t have space left for that others can still thrive in dappled shade. Particularly evergreen varieties will need a sheltered spot for protection from chilly winter winds. You may find an exposed evergreen with “wind scorch”, causing spots of faded colour.

Space – Always check how large your shrub will grow, its quite easy to end up with an overcrowded garden. Some varieties will need considerably levels of pruning to stop this from happening.

When & what should I plant?

Typically most shrubs should be planted towards the end of autumn or end of winter. Most shrubs prefer a slightly acidic soil, but remember to check beforehand. For these your should try using bark chippings as a top layer after the shrubs have established themselves. These help keep your soils acidity at optimal levels and make it much harder for weeds to grow alongside.

Some popular varieties for acidic gardens are Pieris, Camellia, Magnolia and Azaleas. Weather its evergreen, fragrance or vibrant colours, all bases are covered for acidic soil. For alkaline gardens, Lavender, Lilac and Hydrangeas are strong contenders and their strong varieties can cover all requirements from shaded or sunny to potted or planted.

How to care for growing Shrubs

Much like other plants, you will need to water newly planted shrubs regularly for a few years until they establish themselves. Just keep on top if a hot and dry spell comes along – especially for potted shrubs.

If planting near the back of a wall, beware of “rain shadow”. The wall its planted next to can cause rainwater to miss the soil around your shrub, leaving the ground dry, crumbly and lacking in vital nutrients.

Your shrubs typically won’t require feeding, however if yours are in containers or pots they will. Some specialist feed for your variety is best, but keep in mind the soils acidity too. Try to avoid an ericaceous feed on a more alkaline soil.

Hardy varieties can be left out all year round relatively hassle free, but for more sensitive varieties you have some options. When winter comes it can be best to have a horticultural fleece on standby. You can find a wide range of fleeces, covers and various feeds In-store or Online. For container shrubs, simply move them indoors for the colder months.

Pruning shrubs can be a job in its own right sometimes. Several varieties will need to be cut back and kept in shape to prevent them from taking control of your entire border. You may find nearby to your shrub something called a “Sucker”. These are part of your shrubs root system, if you don’t want your shrub to spread its best to remove these ASAP.