Commonly used as a foundation plant in many different styles of landscape and garden, shrubs are a great way to provide long lasting interest and color. While large shrubs can provide masses of color and interest, they also require a lot of space. If you only have a small garden or patio, you need to think carefully about what you plant.
Dwarf shrubs for full sun are a great way to maximize your planting space by providing long lasting interest and color. Dwarf shrubs for full sun are also able to better tolerate the heat of summer than partial light or shade loving shrubs.
The following 15 dwarf shrubs for full sun are ideal for planting in small spaces. Many also happily flourish in container gardens enabling you to add long lasting interest to balconies, patios and decked areas.
1 Dwarf Japanese Pieris
The first entry on our list of dwarf shrubs for full sun, the Dwarf Japanese Pieris is an ideal choice for accenting a landscape or planting scheme.
These multi-stemmed plants typically form in a bushy shape. When in flower, their delicate bell-shaped white blooms sit on arching branches over the plant’s dark, evergreen foliage. As the flowers fade the foliage turns red, providing further interest.
Delicate flowers sit on arching stems.
Also known as Japanese Andromeda, these plants typically achieve a maximum height and spread of 2 to 3 ft. Best planted in an acidic soil and pruned once flowering has finished for the year, the Dwarf Japanese Pieris is evergreen and hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8.
Bluebeard, also known as Blue Mist, is one of the most attractive dwarf shrubs for full sun thanks to its vibrant blue flowers.
Bluebeard (Caryopteris) is a perennial flowering plant that typically blooms from early or mid summer until the first frosts of fall. A low maintenance plant, Bluebeard is hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 9. Once established the plants tolerate drought and exposure to unexpected weather conditions.
Best planted in full sun, the more light Bluebeard plants receive the more blue or pink flowers they produce. These sit on long, graceful stems and draw scores of butterflies and bumblebees to the garden.
Bluebeard flowers are popular with pollinators.
Planted in well draining soil, Bluebeard typically reaches a height of 1 to 3 ft and spreads 2 to 4 ft wide. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8 the plants are considered deer resistant.
Adding further interest some varieties produce soft, silver-green foliage while others produce masses of golden leaves. These dwarf shrubs for full sun can also be planted in pots and containers.
3 Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce
A cultivar of the larger Blue Spruce, the Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce (Picea Pungens ‘Glauca Globosa’) is a compact plant.
In ideal conditions the plants achieve a height of 3 to 5 ft and can spread between 4 and 6 ft. wide Hardy in USDA Zones 2 to 7 this is one of the most versatile dwarf shrubs for full sun and is suitable for planting a range of garden styles.
Blue Spruce needs emerge in a vibrant color.
Developing naturally into a pleasing spherical shape, both the horizontal and vertical branches of this small evergreen hold stiff needles. The needles are vibrant, light blue in color and, towards the end of the season, are complemented by the emergence of cylindrical brown cones.
Tolerant of a range of conditions this compact plant is best planted in acidic soil and full sun.
4 Anglo-Japanese Yew
The Anglo-Japanese Yew (Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’) is a hybrid cross of the English and Japanese yews. This cross has produced an evergreen shrub which has a range of beneficial traits.
Tolerating all soil types, Densiformis is a female plant. This means that when pollinated the flowers give way to bright red, fleshy fruit. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 6, the Anglo-Japanese Yew is one of the most compact dwarf shrubs for full sun.
In ideal conditions mature plants can reach a height of 3 to 4 ft and spread 4 to 6 ft wide.
Like other types of Yew, the foliage of the plant is made up of soft, small needles. These remain dark green throughout the year.
Yews are popular for their soft, green foliage.
Tolerant of pollution, the Anglo-Japanese Yew is a good choice for urban gardens.
Be careful, many parts of the yew tree are poisonous when ingested.
5 Buxus Green Velvet
One of the most commonly grown entries on our list of dwarf shrubs for full sun, Buxus Green Velvet is part of the boxwood plant family. A low maintenance choice, Green Velvet is a reliable full sun or partial shade plant.
Buxus plants produce soft green foliage.
When selecting your planting position, try to plant somewhere with a little afternoon shade. Too much direct afternoon sun can scorch the leaves of the Buxus plant. It can also cause the plants to lose their dense growth habit.
Like other box plants, Green Velvet tolerates a range of soil conditions but is best in a well draining, slightly acidic soil. Reaching a height and spread of 3 to 4 ft Green Velvet is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
Great for formal hedging, the plants also respond well to pruning. This means that you can also trim into different shapes, adding further interest to your garden.
Like other boxwoods the plant produces dark, glossy broad leaves. If left unpruned the plant forms in a compact, round shape. For more information on pruning and caring for box plants, our How to Grow and Care for Boxwood Shrubs guide is a great place to start.
Larger Boxwood plants can be pruned into interesting shapes.
Other reliable boxwood dwarf shrubs for full sun include the upright Green Mountain which achieves a natural cone-shape and Baby Gem. This is a dense branching plant which rarely exceeds 3 ft in height or width. It has a slow growth rate and a natural mounded shape. Like Green Velvet, Baby Gem is easy to prune.
6 Rhododendron Robles
Part of the ENCORE group, Robles is a low growing Rhododendron plant. It is popular for its purple colored flowers.
Sometimes labeled Autumn Lilac, like other types of Azalea, Robles can repeat flower throughout the spring and summer months. The flowers compliment dark green broad leaves. An attractive, multi-stemmed growth habit provides further interest.
Pink flowers compliment green foliage.
Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 9, Robles is best planted in a well draining, acidic soil. Achieving a height and spread of 2 to 3 ft this is one of the most compact dwarf shrubs for full sun. You can also plant Robles in a filtered or dappled light position.
7 Winter Heath
Winter Heath, or Erica Carnea, is one of the most attractive dwarf shrubs for full sun.
A low growing plant, in early spring vibrant pink and purple flowers emerge to compliment the plant’s evergreen foliage. As well as providing lots of visual interest, the flowers are also an early source of nectar for pollinators, drawing butterflies and bees to the garden.
Typically flowering in early spring, some varieties of Winter Heath can flower during the mid winter months. Also known as December Red the plant produces urn-shaped pink flowers that darken to a rich purple color as the season progresses.
Early flowering Winter Heath tolerate cold weather and slow.
A small flowering shrub, Winter Heath, grows to a height of 6 to 12 inches. This low maintenance plant is ideal for providing dense groundcover. Largely ignored by deer, Winter Heath grows well in rock gardens, cottage gardens, on slopes or in coastal areas.
Best planted in well draining or sandy soil, the plants are hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 7.
8 Blue Princess Holly
One of the most easily identifiable dwarf shrubs for full sun, Blue Princess (Ilex x Meserveae) is identified by its glossy, broad evergreen leaves. The sharp foliage is typically blue-green in color.
Best planted in slightly acidic soil, Blue Princess is one of the taller dwarf shrubs for full sun on our list. In ideal conditions the plants can reach up to 15 ft tall.
However, Blue Princess is not a quick growing shrub, it can take many years for the plants to achieve their mature height. Regular pruning also helps to keep Blue Princess more compact. If allowed to, the plants can achieve spread 8 to 10 ft wide.
This is the classic holly plant.
Blue Princess is a reliable, densely growing shrub which provides late season or winter interest. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 7 if you want red berries to form you need to plant both a male and female plant. Following pollination the female species produce red berries.
Blue Princess plants in exposed positions may, during the coldest months of the year, require some wind protection. This can be easily provided by covering with a Haxnicks Fleece Jacket.
9 Compact Oregon Holly Grape
Also known as Compacta (Mahonia Aquifolium) this Oregon Holly Grape cultivar is a reliable broadleaf evergreen.
One of the best dwarf shrubs for full sun and partial shade the Compacta variety has been specifically bred to have a mature small size. Compacta achieves a height of 3 to 6 ft. The plants can spread 2 to 5 ft wide
Bright clusters of yellow flowers sit on Mahonia plants.
Native in the Pacific Northwest, Compact Oregon Holly Grape is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8.
In spring clusters of yellow small flowers, which draw scores of hummingbirds to the garden, form. These give way to edible berries during the summer months. To maximize your floral and fruit display plant Compacta alongside other pollinator friendly plants.
10 Singleseed Juniper Blue Star
Blue Star (Juniperus Squamata) is a small evergreen shrub with a slow growth rate. An interesting plant it can be trained to grow either upright or allowed to spread out low across the ground providing evergreen groundcover.
However you chose to grow Blue Star it typically achieves a height of 1 to 3 ft. The plants can spread up to 4 ft wide.
Producing short blue-gray needles with a prickly texture, the foliage of Blue Star remains blue all year round. As the leaves mature they can develop a white accent. Complementing the blue foliage the plants produce cones or fruit which are also blue in color.
The soft foliage and blue berries of the Juniper plant.
Blue Star dwarf shrubs for full sun are hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 8. A low maintenance choice, the plants maintain their shape with minimal pruning.
Blue Star is native to central Asia and the Middle East. Part of the Juniper family, if you want to learn more about planting Junipers in your garden our How to Plant Guide is filled with useful tips and information.
11 Rhododendron Maximum Compacta
Compacta, also known as Compact Rosebay Rhododendron, is a small version of the more common, larger Rhododendron plants. Compacta achieves a mature height and spread of 3 to 4 ft. However it is rare for the plants to exceed 3 ft.
Rhododendron Maximum Compacta is a pleasing small evergreen shrub that produces attractive pink floral clusters during the spring. These sit above the long broad, dark green, oval leaves.
Compact Rhododendron plants provide small pockets of color.
Happiest in dappled light, planting under taller trees helps to mimic the filtered light that the plants adore. In cooler climates Compacta also thrives in full sun positions.
Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9, plant Compacta in a well draining, acidic soil and water regularly. A regular dose of acidic fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro Azalea, Camellia and Rhododendron Water Soluble Fertilizer, can help the plant to settle in and flourish.
12 Inkberry Holly
Another member of the holly family, Inkberry (Ilex Glabra) is a reliable broadleaf evergreen.
Native to the Eastern parts of the United States, in recent years Inkberry has become an increasingly popular way to introduce reliable greenery to the garden. A compact plant, Inkberry can achieve a mature height and spread of 5 to 8 ft. Regular pruning helps to prevent Inkberry from outgrowing its position.
Inkberry tolerates a range of soils. With a little extra care you can cultivate the plants in sandy or clay soils. Hardy in USDA Zones 4 to 9 Inkberry’s smooth, glossy leaves are complemented by the emergence of inky-black fruit.
During the winter months these berries provide a source of food for garden birds and mammals. If you want berries to form, you need to plant both male and female holly plants.
13 Pinus Thunbergii ‘Banshosho’
Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8, Banshosho can achieve a height and spread of 3 to 5 ft when mature. This can take many years because Banshosho is one of the slowest growing dwarf shrubs for full sun on our list. The plants rarely achieve more than a few inches of new growth each year.
New growth, interestingly, emerges in the form of upright candle-like buds. These slowly open to reveal dark green needles. Best planted in acidic or slightly alkaline soil, Banshosho also tolerates salty soils.
Native to Asia, Japanese Black Pine plants are considered invasive in some areas of Virginia.
14 Euonymus Fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’
Emerald Gaiety also known as Wintercreeper Euonymus is a resilient evergreen that can be cultivated as either a small shrub for evergreen groundcover or as climbing vine.
A versatile plant you can either plant these dwarf shrubs in full sun or partial shade. Wherever they grow, the plants produce masses of dense foliage.
Emerald Gaiety is an attractive Euonymus cultivar which is popular for its two-toned foliage. The glossy leaves emerge in contrasting shades of dark green and cream. As the season ends they take on a red-pink hue. Like many of the dwarf shrubs for full sun on our list Emerald Gaiety also produces insignificant, light green flowers.
Two-toned foliage adds further interest.
Best planted in a neutral or alkaline soil, Emerald Gaiety is hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 8. While pruning keeps them more compact, the plants can achieve a mature height of 3 to 5 ft and spread 3 to 6 ft. Tolerating pollution well, Emerald Gaiety is a good choice for urban gardens.
Be careful when planting Euonymus, in some areas the plants are considered invasive.
15 Thuja Occidentalis ‘Little Giant’
Little Giant (Dwarf Arborvitae) is a dwarf cultivar of the larger Arborvitae plant family. These large shrubs or trees are a popular landscape choice, providing low maintenance, evergreen interest and privacy. Further adding to the attraction, the plant’s dense foliage is fragrant when bruised.
If you don’t have room for a large Thuja plant Little Giants is for you. One of the most reliable dwarf shrubs for full sun, like it’s full scale relatives, Little Giant provides rich, dense foliage that is consistent in both color and texture. While Little Giant can set both flowers and fruit, it is the foliage that is the main attraction.
The soft green foliage of Thuja.
Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8 Little Giant is best planted in a sunny spot. In hotter climates a little shade can help to keep the foliage green. Little Giant tolerates a range of soil types. When mature the plant can achieve a height and spread of 3 to 4 ft.
In addition to the plants listed above, many popular shrubs such as hydrangeas and cotoneaster plants are also available in dwarf cultivars.
Dwarf shrubs for full sun are a great way to add long lasting color and interest to a small space. Many are also low maintenance and more suitable for planting in hard or extreme conditions than their larger counterparts. Finally, many dwarf shrubs for full sun are hybridized. This means that they are less likely to suffer from common issues than taller plants.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.