There are several different types of bushes that you can plant around your yard or incorporate into your landscape design. Many people call bushes and shrubs small trees, and you can make a tree look like a shrub if you take the time to train and prune them correctly. Most types of bushes are full, bushy plant, and you can prune some of them into very ornamental designs. Other types of shrubs do better if you leave them alone in their natural shapes instead of pruning and trimming them.
You can categorize the different types of shrubs into two broad categories, including the deciduous and evergreens. Deciduous shrubs will lose any foliage they have starting in the fall and going through the winter months, and evergreen shrubs will keep their foliage all year-round. If you’re considering buying one or two types of shrubs but you’re not sure what to get, this is for you. My list will cover evergreen and deciduous shrubs, but it’ll also include flowering shrubs, hedged shrubs, and the best types of shrubs you can buy to plant in shaded areas throughout your yard.
The first category on the list are the deciduous shrubs, and these are the types of shrubs that start to lose their foliage in the fall before losing it completely in the winter. Once the spring comes around and the temperature starts to warm up, these shrubs start to bloom.
1. Bush Honeysuckle
Bush Honeysuckle isn’t a true honeysuckle plant. However, it does have yellow flowers that bloom in the spring and leaves that have a shiny green appearance. This mimics what an actual honeysuckle looks like, hence the name. The leaves can easily take on a red hue during the fall months. This type of bush does very well in USDA hardiness zone 3 through 10. It does well if you plant it in an area that will partial shade to full sun. Bush Honeysuckle will spread out wider than it is tall when it’s fully matured, and it can grow around three or four feet high.
Chokeberry is a slow-growing type of bush that grows thick clusters of glossy red berries throughout the summer. They ripen in early fall, but they stay on the bush until the first frost and snow come. The berries have a very pretty look, but they have an extremely bitter taste that can lead to choking. This is where the plant got its name. If you choose to plant the Brillianissima cultivar, you’ll get larger red berries with foliage that turns a brilliant red color. It grows naturally in swamps and very wet woods, and they make an attractive ornamental type of bush.
3. Japanese Barberry
This compact type of bush hails from Japan. It has a very spiny look to it, and it’s an extremely slow-growing option. In fact, this shrub can take between 10 and 20 years to fully mature to the maximum height of around four feet. It has inch-long green leaves that will turn a brilliant orange or red shade in the fall. Since this shrub is compact, it looks nice lining your walkway or paths. When it blooms, you’ll get dainty yellow or orange flowers. These slowly give way to glossy red fruit in the late summer months, and the fruits will last until the first frost comes around.
4. Japanese Spirea
This type of bush adores the sun, and it has a spectacular range of foliage that comes in colors that will change throughout the year. Most of the leaves start out with shades of orange and develop into a green or yellow hue in the summer. In the fall, it turns red. You’ll get pretty pink flowers during the summer and spring months, and it has a very compact form. This type of bush will grow around three or four feet high at the maximum height, and it makes wonderful low borders, or you can use it for container gardening.
5. Smooth Hydrangea
Native to the eastern portion of the United States, Smooth Hydrangea is able to withstand cold temperatures without a problem. It can survive in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9, and this is a low-maintenance type of bush that is popular with novice gardeners for landscaping. You get show-stopping blooms that create large, spherical clusters starting in early summer and going through late fall. They start out lime green before turning a stunning cream color, and the deep green leaves will fade to yellow in the fall to create a sharp contrast all over this slightly larger shrub.
6. Red Twig Dogwood
This type of bush has a lot to offer you in each season, and this makes it a unique deciduous shrub. In the summer months, you’ll get showy foliage, bright berries, and scented flowers. The leaves will fall in the winter, and the plant will show you bright red stems that contrast sharply with the winter landscape. A lot of people like to have this shrub around for the upright flaming red twigs, and it can grow between six and eight feet tall at the mature height. It does very well in hardiness zones 2 to 9.
7. Virginia Witch Hazel
A very low-maintenance type of bush, Virginia Witch Hazel is native to the United States. It offers splashes of colors throughout the years, and it has broad leaves that start the spring in a pale green hue. They eventually deepen to a deeper green before turning golden in the fall. It has yellow flowers that bloom in the fall and stick around through a lot of the winter months, and you get twisted petals that look wonderful as a fall decor idea. It will survive in zones 3 to 8, and the textured leaves look sharp against any backdrop.
Lilacs are a very spring-centered type of bush that offer deep green leaves from the early spring to the late fall. They’re renowned for their flower clusters in violet, blue, white, and pink. They have a very strong floral scent, and the Korean Lilacs are resistant to mildew. They can grow well in zones 3 to 9, and they can grow between four and six feet tall. They don’t spread out a lot, and they will lose their leaves in the winter months before blooming again in the early spring. You can dry the flower clusters.
The next type of bushes I want to go over are evergreen bushes. You get year-round foliage when you plant them, and they can help prevent the abandoned or dead look you can get with some gardens when the colder months hit. They work well as privacy walls or living fences around your property, and there are several eye-catching options available.
9. Bay Laurel
Bay Laurel allows you to grow it as a bush or a shrub, and it all depends on how you prune it. This type of bush can grow between 12 to 40-feet high, and it needs warm climates to thrive. You can grow it outside if you live in hardiness zones 8 through 11, and you want to plant it in partial shade or full sun. It has oval-shaped, green, leathery leaves, and they are popular in cooking since they’re very aromatic. You get smaller yellow flowers in the spring that give way to black, shiny purple berries on female plants later in the summer.
Boxwood works wonderful to add structure to your yard or garden. Better known as the common box plant, it can easily grow between 3 and 30 feet in height. There is a very dense growth habit with this type of bush, and it has a glossy finish on the dark green, oval-shaped leaves. Many people use it in hending or as topiary because you can trim it into virtually any shape you like and it’ll thrive. You want to grow it in partial shade to full sun, and your soil should be well-draining but kept moist.
11. Emerald Gaiety Wintercreeper
This plant is a very easy grower, and it’s earned the reputation as being invasive across the eastern United States. It does very well in partial shade to full sun, and you can plant it in a broad range of soils as long as they drain very well. It’ll climb up a fence or wall with support, but you can also grow it as a lower hedge. You’ll get dark green foliage with cream colored margins with this type of bush, and it can turn a light pink in the winter. There are small white flowers in the summer, and it’s hardy in zones 5 to 9.
12. Flaky Juniper Blue Star
Better known as the Himalayan juniper, this type of bush will produce needle-like foliage in blue-grey coloring. You get a compact bush with extremely dense growth that offers a pleasant scent and grows the best in sunny locations. It’s native to the Himalayas and China, but it grows best in zones 4 through 8. You’ll usually get a mount shape, but you can use it as a dense groundcover. It does well in several different soil types and works very well in various rock gardens while being slow-growing. It can take years to mature.
13. Japanese Laurel
This versatile and slow-growing type of bush will only get around six feet high after it has 10 years to grow without anyone pruning it. You can grow it virtually anywhere in your yard or garden, and it works well in different soil types. It’ll grow in sun or shade, and it has green leaves with gold splashes. The gold gets more vibrant when you plant it in full sun. You can prune this bush into a neat shape, hedge, or let it grow naturally without any maintenance. The small red berries offset with the foliage very nicely.
14. Japanese Skimmias
This type of bush provides so much more than just foliage all year-round. You get pretty green leathery leaves that give the pink or white flowers a perfect backdrop to pop. They grow in large clusters, and they’re very fragrant. The female versions of this bush develop glossy red berries on their branches that stay on throughout the winter months, and the male plants usually grow more showy plants that require few tools to manage. It loves growing in the shade, and it can get four feet high in a mounded clump.
15. Inkberry Holly
Growing in zones 5 to 9, the Inkberry Holly is one type of bush that is a great alternative to boxwood. This is a dwarf evergreen bush native to the United States, and it grows in a very dense ball shape that has good branching that sweeps to the ground. It loves acidic soil with a high moisture content, and they make an excellent edging or border plant. They have good shade tolerance, and you should prune them once in the late winter months. They’re slow growers, and they have dark green elongated leaves.
If you have a lot of shade in your yard, you’ll need this type of bush to ensure it grows and thrives. There are several to choose from, but I’ve picked out three versatile options.
16. Coast Leucothoe
This type of bush will give you tiny bell-shaped flowers in a white hue that grow in hanging clusters. You’ll see them along the stem’s lengths. This plant comes from the United States, and it’s very popular for use as topiary aor hedges. It grows best in partial shade to full sun, and it needs zones 6 through 9 to do well once you plant it and maintain it.
White blooms with a very strong scent mark this type of bush. You should test it out before you plant it because some people adore it while some don’t like it. It likes partial shade for growing conditions, but you can grow it in full shade. There will be fewer flowers if you plant it in full shade, and the leaves are very deep green with an oblong shape.
18. California Sweetshrub
California Sweetshrub is a type of bush that uses very spindly flowers that have a rich burgundy coloring. The scent smells like red wine, and it is a very versatile choice as it can grow anywhere from full shade to full sun without a problem. It’s popular to help eroding river banks and to deter deer, and it grows well in zones 6 through 9. You’ll need to give it consistently moist soil while not allowing it to dry out.
For many people, fences or walls look too harsh in their yard, so they turn to more natural alternatives like hedges and different types of bushes and shrubs. Living hedges can grow tall enough and dense enough to give you more than enough privacy, and I’ve picked out a few great examples below.
Arborvitae makes excellent privacy screens. These types of bushes have a very dense growth habit, and it makes it difficult to see through them. Since some can grow over 60-feet tall, you will want to research their growth habit before you pick one out. If you don’t, you could get something far larger than you need. They grow best in zones 2 to 7, and they need partial sun to thrive.
20. Canadian Hemlock
This type of bush has needle-like leaves that work very well as thick hedging because the foliage is very dense. It grows best in partial shade to full shade, and you could put it under a shade sail to help protect it from the sunlight. The needles will scorch and burn in high temperatures. You’ll get deep green foliage that sticks around all year with minimal maintenance.
21. English Holly
This type of bush makes an excellent privacy fence because it can grow up to 15-feet high, 8-feet wide, and it is very dense. Additionally, it has prickly foliage that makes a great deterrent for anyone who wants to pass through it. The plants have very attractive glossy leaves, and you’ll see small white blooms in the spring. The pollinated female plants from bright red berries in the fall too.
Commonly called English laurel or Cherry laurel, this type of bush grows at a medium-fast rate. You can get it to grow up to 30 feet wide and 18 feet wide, and it is excellent at producing large hedges all around your home. This bush can tolerate very strong winds, and it can grow in any lighting from full sun to full shade. It has white flowers from April to June, and it has oblong, deep green leaves. It’ll do well in a huge range of soils, including acidic soil, and this makes it a great pick for novice gardeners.
23. Yew Bushes
This is a classic type of bush that has needle-like foliage in a deep green coloring, and it has bright red berries that contrast sharply with the leaves. It does grow very slowly, but it’ll form a thick and eye-catching privacy fence. It grows well in a huge range of lighting conditions ranging from full shade to full sun, and it needs hardiness zones 2 to 10 to take off and thrive. The needles are prickly, and this makes it a deterrent for anyone to pass through it to get into your yard or garden.
Any type of bush that is able to produce flowers offers you the best of both worlds. Not only does it give you a degree of privacy, but it also creates an ornamental look and feel. If this is what you want, I encourage you to consider the ones below.
24. Butterfly Bush
This is a larger type of shrub that gives you clusters of smaller deep purple flowers that grow on long spikes. They can get up to 10 inches long, and the flowers bloom in the midsummer and go until the first frost hits. It has lance-shaped foliage in a bright green color with slightly arched stems. This plant grows very easily in different soils, and it’s drought-tolerate to make it a very low-maintenance choice.
Camellia is a type of shrub that grows natural in China, Korea, and Japan. They can grow up to 30 feet high, and you get leathery, glossy foliage in dark green coloring. The leaves are oval-shaped and taper to a point at the tips. They measure around four inches in length, and there are individual flowers in white or pink in the spring.
You’ll get a huge amount of bright white flowers that come with yellow centers with this type of bush, and they start to bloom in the spring and continue to bloom until the first frost hits. The plant grows around three feet high and wide, and this can create a colorful hedge or a low border. It’ll tolerate low temperatures and drought without a problem.
Native to Japan and China, this is a flowering shrub that is very popular. It’s cold hardy, very low maintenance, and it gives you a large amount of huge flower clusters that bloom right away in the spring and can continue until the winter months. They start out as a cream color before fading to a pale pink as the weather starts to grow cooler. They bloom best in partial shade to full sun, and you can turn the flowers a blue tinge with a more acidic soil.
28. Koreanspice Viburnum
Better known as arrowwood, this is a medium-sized type of bush. It has a reputation for clusters of pink or white flowers that look like feathery snowballs. They stand high above the plant’s foliage at the end of the stems, and this makes them perfect for decorations by your front door. The flowers eventually allow red berries to grow, and the berries turn black when they’re ripe. The broad leaves start green before turning yellow and burgundy in the fall.
29. Rose of Sharon
This type of bush has a very loose growth pattern, and this makes it excellent for planting in the back of your borders as a privacy screen or an informal hedge. The plant produces large, exotic blooms that start flowering in the middle of summer and go into the fall. The flowers come in red, pink, white, and blue, and they have a unique wide vase shape. It grows best in zones 5 to 8 in full sun or partial shade.
The final type of bush on the list is the Rhododendron. Found mainly in Asia, this plant is very popular across the world. The large and bright flowers bloom in the late winter through the early summer months, and they come in shades of purple, pink, and white. They can grow between four-inches tall up to 100-feet tall, and the leaves can grow up to 40-inches long. They have woody stems with deep green leaves, and they grow in a variety of conditions in full sun to partial shade.
These 30 types of bushes can help fill out your yard and add pops of color and texture throughout your landscape. You can check out the options on the list and see which ones fit the best into your design. Once you find them, you’ll get a low-maintenance type of shrub that lasts for years.
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.