Shrubs form the backbone of perennial borders and flower beds. These permanent plantings define and divide areas of the garden into separate rooms.
To maximize use of shrubs in the garden and your landscape budget, avoid costly mistakes. Make sure you're putting the right plant in the right place and that the planting site can accommodate a plant of the shrub's height and spread. Consider these shrubs for your garden beds.
Hydrangeas offer a variety of big-impact flowers, including oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia), mopheads and lacecaps (H. macrophylla). They prefer a rich, slightly acidic soil. Most bloom on the previous year's wood and should be pruned after flowering. They grow best in light to medium shade but will withstand full sun in mild climates. To encourage larger flowers, reduce the number of stems. The bloom color of mopheads (except for white cultivars) is influenced by soil pH. Pink flowers can be encouraged by adding lime to the surrounding soil to bring the pH above 5.5. If the soil pH is less than 5.5, flowers will be blue. If your soil is more alkaline, add aluminum sulfate to reduce the pH.
Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is an evergreen shrub or small tree hardy to USDA Zone 5. The height of cultivars varies widely, from one to 15 feet tall. Plants grow best in full sun or partial shade. Consider growing 'Sky Pencil', which is an upright, columnar selection reaching eight feet tall, and 'Helleri' which has a mounding growth habit and reaches about three to four feet tall and wide.
The genus Potentilla includes both herbaceous perennials and shrubs. P. fruticosa, or shrubby cinquefoil, is a deciduous shrub that reaches a height of about three feet and is hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 7. It requires some shade in hot climates. Shrubby cinquefoil produces yellow flowers and grows best in full sun and well-draining soil.
Cotoneasters may be evergreen, deciduous or semi-evergreen, depending on the species. Most produce attractive fruit in autumn. Deciduous species prefer full sun; the evergreens grow well in sun or partial shade, but the dwarf evergreens fruit better in full sun.
Junipers are evergreen coniferous shrubs or small trees. They grow best in full sun or light, dappled shade and well-drained soil.
The genus Spirea offers a variety of deciduous or semi-evergreen shrubs that range in size from about two to 10 feet tall and about as wide. Spireas also come in a variety of flower colors, including pink, white, red and yellow, and bloom from spring to summer. Some selections are valued for their fall foliage colors. They grow best in full sun to light shade and well-draining soil. Consider growing Spirea x bumalda 'Anthony Waterer', which is a deciduous selection that has pink flowers, or bridal wreath spirea (S. prunifolia), which has cascades of white flowers in spring.
Large-leaf evergreen rhododendrons are shrubs that produce striking pink, purple, white, coral or red flowers in the spring. They perform best in acidic soils and shade with ample moisture. They're often used as foundation plantings and thrive in woodland settings.