Shrubs for Small Spaces
Yes, you do have room for an extra shrub or two—all of our picks are under 5 feet tall!
You have a very small backyard, perhaps just a patio, yet you still want to grow shrubs. Or maybe you have a good-size yard, but it’s filled to the max. Your significant other has even made threats that start with: “If you buy one more plant, I’ll.…” Or perhaps you just like miniatures because they’re so darn cute!
It doesn’t matter what your story is: Nearly everyone can find a use for a small shrub. So many kinds are available that it may seem impossible to choose just one or two, but you’ll certainly have fun trying. Use our top 10 picks as your guide to the best of the best.
Sapphire surf bluebeard
(Caryopteris x clandonensis, Zones 5 to 9)
Many perennials will outgrow this small shrub, which is just 2 feet tall. Grow it as an accent plant, or group several together for a bigger impact. It blooms endlessly in full sun.
Also try: You can’t beat these blooms. The purplish-blue flowers are absolutely gorgeous.
Garden Glow dogwood
(Cornus hesseyii, Zones 4 to 8)
Dogwood comes in many shapes and sizes, so consider adding a compact variety to your backyard. This Garden Glow cultivar is true to its name, with neon-bright foliage. It grows only 3 or 4 feet high and prefers partial sun.
Why we love it: In addition to those glowing leaves, its red winter stems give it four-season appeal.
(Cotoneaster apiculatus, Zones 4 to 8)
With pink flowers in early summer, fruit in late summer and bronze foliage in fall, this plant shines for months. It grows just 2 to 3 feet tall and has dense foliage.
Why we love it: In addition to all that color, the birds will love the abundant berries.
Scarlet Beauty sweetspire
(Itea virginica, Zones 5 to 9)
If you’re looking to save a lot of space, look for the Little Henry sweetspire cultivar, growing just 18 to 24 inches high. For a little more height and lovely fragrant blooms, go for Scarlet Beauty (pictured here). It grows 3 to 4 feet.
Why we love it: The shape of the flowers—long 3-inch panicles—is distinctive and delightful.
Hummingbird Summersweet clethra
(Clethra alnifolia, Zones 4 to 9)
Clethra is a popular shrub known for its fragrance, shade tolerance and bright summer blooms. Most clethras grow 8 to 12 feet, but now you can have this beauty in your own small space with this compact version, which reaches only 2 to 5 feet.
Why we love it: It will tolerate full shade—ideal for gardeners with lots of dark areas in their backyard.
Bella Anna hydrangea
, Zones 4 to 9)
Some hydrangeas grow tall while others are compact, but all boast beautiful blooms. The pink Bella Anna is fairly new to the market, and it has gardeners excited. Grow it in full sun to partial shade; it reaches up to 3 feet. Pay close attention to plant labels for other small-space hydrangeas.
Why we love it: A hydrangea with pink blooms: Need we say more?
(Spiraea x bumalda
, Zones 4 to 8)
You can find a slew of compact spirea, but this Goldflame cultivar is one of our favorites. It starts off with bronze new growth, which matures to a yellowish green in summer. Then come the summer flowers, and after that the leaves turn orange in fall. Grow in full sun.
Why we love it: With its changeable, brightly colored leaves, it’s not your typical shrub.
Lo and Behold butterfly bush
, Zones 5 to 9)
This new noninvasive butterfly bush comes in cultivars Purple Haze and Blue Chip. Both are compact, growing only 2 or 3 feet tall and wide, making them a perfect choice for gardeners who love the blooms of butterfly bush but don’t have much space. They prefer full sun.
Why we love it: Whichever cultivar you go with, the flowers are heavenly, blooming from summer to frost.
Dwarf bush honeysuckle
, Zones 3 to 7)
You won’t have to worry about disease or insect problems with this honeysuckle shrub. It’s very hardy, even in cold climates, and can take dry, sandy soils as well. It grows up to 4 feet tall, with green foliage that changes to red in fall. Look for the variegated cultivar Cool Splash.
Why we love it: It’s similar to honeysuckle without invasive problems, and it’s a prolific summer bloomer.
, Zones 5 to 8)
Growing just 2 to 3 feet tall, these bushy, low-growing shrubs are striking when grouped together along a border in full sun or partial shade. Look for showy blooms in spring, green leaves in summer, and yellow, red and orange leaves in fall. Blue Mist is a cultivar with blue-green foliage.
Why we love it: You’ll get three-season appeal with this beauty.