Top 10 Reasons to Plant Shrubs

A mix of deciduous and evergreen shrubs gives this garden four-season interest.

1. To create privacy. Plant a "living fence" to shield unsightly views, provide a visual and sound barrier from the road or your neighbors, or create a private retreat. Choose evergreen shrubs for a year-round barrier, flowering shrubs for color and fragrance, or a combination of the two.

2. To provide four-season interest. Select a variety of shrubs that flower at different times, produce attractive fruit, have colorful fall foliage, and are evergreen or have attractive bark. You'll have something to enjoy year-round.

3. To provide a focal point. Add a new dimension to your garden canvas by planting shrubs of different shapes and heights. Whether they're flanking an entrance or anchoring a perennial bed, shrubs complement structures and provide a visual focus to gardens.

4. To create a windbreak. Save on heating costs by planting evergreen shrubs to break the prevailing winter winds, which usually come from the north or northwest.

5. To add texture and form. There's an enormous variety of shrubs to choose from: tall and narrow or short and squat; evergreen or deciduous; needled or broad-leaved; big flowers, small flowers, or no flowers; fragrant or unscented; pruned to a formal hedge or allowed to sprawl. Whether you prefer a formal look or a more free-form cottage garden, there are shrubs to suit your style.

6. To increase curb appeal. Attractive landscaping can increase the value of a home by thousands of dollars, and shrubs are an economical choice for improving your landscape.

7. To attract birds. Shrubs provide nesting sites and shelter for songbirds and other garden denizens; fruiting shrubs provide winter food for birds.

8. To produce fruit. Grow your own blueberries, highbush cranberries, and elderberries for eating fresh and making jams and jellies.

9. To reduce cooling costs. Tall shrubs that shade south-facing windows, walls, and air conditioners can reduce electricity used for cooling by up to one third.

10. To fight global warming. Like all plants, shrubs remove carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen.

Choosing Shrubs

Observe the planting site at different times of day. How much sun does it receive ? more than six hours, a few hours, none? What's the soil like ? dry, moist? How tall do you want the mature shrub to be? What purpose will the shrub serve? Are you planting it for a barrier, color, or to conserve energy?

There are hundreds of types of shrubs, so answering these questions will narrow your options considerably. Check the plant label to determine the mature height and width of the shrub, rather than the size you see at the store. Otherwise, you may end up pruning it back yearly to manage its size ? not good for most shrubs, or most gardeners. If the mature spread of the shrub is 6 feet, you'll want to plant it so the trunk is at least 3 feet from nearby objects, or 6 feet from the trunk of another shrub of the same size.

Tips on Planting Shrubs

  • Avoid planting shrubs within a few feet of your foundation. If they're under the eaves, they'll receive less rainfall and vigorous roots of large shrubs may damage the foundation. Plus, good air circulation around your home reduces problems associated with too much moisture.
  • Be sure tall shrubs won't interfere with overhead utility lines or obstruct traffic visibility.
  • When transporting shrubs hold them by the container or rootball, rather than the trunk or branches.
  • A permanent ring of mulch around shrubs will prevent them from damage by the lawn mower or string trimmer.

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