Growing yellow small shrubs or any trees with yellow flowers is a fantastic way to brighten up your landscape. Shrubs that have yellow flowers, foliage, or berries give you a bright splash of color that complements the greenery around it very well. Even on overcast, drab, dreary days, evergreen yellow small shrubs continue to give you welcome pops of cheerful color. Also, yellow shrubs are perfect for masking brown fences or other garden structures.
Landscaping yellow small shrubs can work to create a stunning visual effect in your yard or garden. Many varieties of these shrubs are fantastic to plant in a sunny spot, as a ground cover, in partial shade, or to help add visual height. In addition, many yellow small shrubs thrive in various soil types.
If you’re trying to find great landscaping shrubs to add vibrant and bold yellow hues, height, texture, and fragrance to your yard or garden, this is for you. We’re going to show you several excellent options that you can enjoy throughout various times during the year, or even all year-round below.
Choosing Yellow Small Shrubs
To pick out yellow small shrubs, it’s essential that you consider a few aspects of growing them like sunlight, growing zones, soil type, and the growth habits of the specimen you decide on. For example, some of the shrubs we’ll have on the list or variegated varieties require that you put them in a spot that gets at least six hours of sunlight every day to keep the bright yellow coloring.
Your growing zone will help determine which yellow small shrubs you can have in your yard or garden. For instance, some evergreen shrubs with yellow foliage will thrive even when the temperatures drop to freezing. However, shrubs that love heat and humidity will only do well in semi-tropical climates like you find in Florida.
Identifying Yellow Small Shrubs
You can usually identify yellow small shrubs by the leaf shape, color of the foliage and stems, and growth habit. So, your yellow leaves can be oval, heart-shaped, or pointed and grow alternatively or oppositely on brown, gray, or yellow stems. Other identifying features of these shrubs could be things like flower bud color, thorns, or shape.
How to Plant Shrubs
Dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball on your yellow small shrubs but make it twice as wide. Remove your shrubs from the container and put it into the hole, ensuring that the top of the root ball is even with or higher than the soil’s surface. Rotate your plant if necessary so that it’s facing the direction you desire, and loosen the roots using your hands. Return your excavated soil to the hole with your shovel and press down lightly to get rid of any air pockets. After you fill the hole, water it well and put down a layer of mulch.
When to Plant Your Yellow Small Shrubs
Even though spring and fall are both great times to start your evergreen shrubs to get lots of color, fall is best for deciduous yellow small shrubs. Fall planting will allow your shrub to establish itself before summer stress hits. As a deciduous shrub goes into the dormant period, it will stop producing leaves and focus more on storing nutrients. Although fall temperatures tend to be cooler, the soil is still warm enough for healthy root development.
What Causes Golden Foliage
Golden foliage is very common in horticultural circles, and it’s usually the result of a very common mutation. In fact, you may even find golden seedlings among any plants you grow from seed. This mutation happens when the green pigment called chlorophyll that is highly concentrated in the leaves to give them a very dark green color is very diffuse. In turn, you get a green color that is much closer to a lemon yellow hue.
Usually, this lack of chlorophyll will be bad for the plant’s overall growth. In the wild, mutants like this would die off because it can’t grow nearly as fast as the plants around it that have green foliage. However, in the garden, this is a minor flaw that won’t damage the plant’s performance as long as you get rid of any competition. And gardeners are embracing yellow small shrubs all over the world.
When it comes to landscaping, golden-hued foliage has an advantage over other pretty flowering shrubs. The latter will only be attractive when they’re in bloom and most plants will only bloom for a few weeks a year. Yellow small shrubs, on the other hand, will keep their color from early spring to late fall, and sometimes into the winter if you have evergreens. If you put them in a location that is slightly shady or dull where the surrounding plants are a deep green, you’ll see how nicely they contrast.
The golden yellow leaves come with an innate defect; they tend to burn in the sun. Sometimes, the color will dull and wash out to leave you with a white overlay. In other instances, the leaf will die back. Unless specifically stated otherwise, it’s usually a good idea to plant your yellow small shrubs in parietal shade at the very least or put up shade cloth to protect them from the afternoon sun. This is especially important in regions that experience hot summers. In cooler climates, you can often put them in a spot that gets full sun without any damage.
Another thing to consider is that golden foliage can be so dominant that it can outshine your other colors, especially flowering plants. This is very common with yellow or white flowers. Unless these flowers are large, your golden-hued foliage on your shrubs will overshadow them. On the other hand, you may find the golden foliage so pretty that you don’t need flowers.
24 Yellow Small Shrubs
Now that you know some of the biggest reasons why shrubs have yellow foliage in the first place, how to plant and identify them, and how to pick them, we’ll give you several great options to consider planting in your garden below.
1. All Gold Shore Juniper (Juniperus conferta ‘All Gold’)
All Gold Shore Juniper is a dwarf shrub that has needle-like, golden-yellow leaves. This yellow small shrub is a spreading, low-growing cultivar that has very soft foliage with an airy, light growth habit. Since it’s an evergreen shrub, this plant will give you visual interest all year round, including bright yellow leaves in the spring and summer and copper-bronze leaves in the fall and winter months.
This shrub will grow best if you live in zones six to eight, and it’s a very low-maintenance option that adores the sun. Once planted, it’ll get up to a foot tall and eight feet wide, and this makes it a fantastic evergreen ground cover in the sun. Also, the yellow-hued foliage makes the shrub a great choice to put in front of your home, in containers, or in rock gardens.
2. Border Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)
This yellow small shrub is an ornamental, yellow garden shrub that produces star-shaped, bright yellow flowers that have linear, thin petals. The yellow flowers will cover the length of your upward growing stems to add a dramatic yellow accent piece to spring or summer gardens. This is a shrubby plant that works well as a privacy plant, informal flowering hedge, or as a foundation plant or in coastal gardens. It thrives in zones six to nine when you plant it in full sun, and it’ll top out at six to nine feet tall at full maturity.
3. Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense ‘Sunshine’)
This brightly colored dwarf shrub offers ovate, greenish-yellow, chartreuse leaves that grow on brownish-red stems. This is an evergreen dwarf shrub that blooms with tiny white flowers in late summer that fade to bluish-black berries in the early fall months. The yellow small shrub will give you a ton of visual interest throughout the year. If you pick up the Sunshine cultivar, it’ll get between three and six feet tall and four feet wide at full maturity. It also thrives in zones six to nine, and it has the brightest coloring under full sun. It’s a very low-maintenance dwarf shrub that works well as a shrub border, small privacy hedge, or as a way to liven up your container garden.
4. Dwarf Golden Evergreen Arborvitae (Thuja orientalis ‘Aurea Nana’)
Most yellow small shrubs in this category like Aurea Nana come with upright growing stems with densely growing sprays of greenish-yellow foliage. The dwarf evergreen has a slight oval shape with a bushier growth habit. The needle-like foliage is very soft, and it produces feather-like sprays of bright yellow foliage that you see in spring before it takes on an orangish-yellow color in the fall months. Arborvitae are usually very sun-loving, and they do well in zones five to nine. It can get between three and four feet tall and three feet wide, and you can plant it as an eye-catching specimen plant, foundation plant, low-growing evergreen hedge, or to line your driveway or garden path.
Dwarf Golden Evergreen Arborvitae by Internet Archive Book Images / CC0 1.0
5. Everillo (Carex oshimensis)
Everillo is an exciting and bright new grass that grows well in shade and offers striking gold foliage. This evergreen sedge comes from the popular Evergold carex. It’ll get between one and two feet wide, and it works well as a single accent plant or en masse. When you put it in a shade garden, it can add a lot of texture and movement to the space, or it works well in a container for color.
6. False Cypress Golden Charm (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Charm’)
The Golden Charm False Cypress is a compact coniferous shrub that offers thread-like, soft needles in a bright yellowish-gold hue. This yellow small shrub is an attractive, mounding, evergreen option that produces semi-sweeping branches that give the shrub a mop-like look. This pretty non-flowering shrub is a very low-maintenance choice for your landscape, and it works wonderfully as a specimen landscaping plant, evergreen privacy hedge, shrub border, or as a container plant. It loves being in full sun with moist but well-drained soil, and it grows best planted in zones four to eight.
7. Glossy Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’)
This yellow small shrub has purplish-red stems with semi-evergreen leaves that are yellow and green-hued in the spring, golden during the summer, and orange or red during the winter and fall months. From May to September, you’ll see pretty, fragrant, bell-shaped flowers, and you want to plant it in the fall or spring. Try using it as a foundation, specimen, or slope plant with a retaining wall, or it works in a hedge or border. It does best when you have it in a well-draining, average-quality, moist soil that is very rich in organic matter. Full sun exposure is best, but it’ll be okay in partial shade. Ideally, you’ll water your abelia deeply once every week, and cut back to once a month in the winter. Give it all-purpose, 10-10-10 fertilizer after you plant it and then once a month during the spring and summer months.
8. Gold Bullion Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia ‘Bachone’)
Growing best in zones three to seven, this yellow small shrub will get 15 to 20 feet tall and wide under the correct conditions. You can grow several native dogwood species alongside your home to get a pretty layered look, and it’s a great way to brighten up a shady location in your yard as they thrive in partial to full shade in well-drained but moist soil. They get a pretty golden hue during the summer and a yellowish-chartreuse color in the fall, but you have to avoid leaf scorching. You’ll have to lightly prune them to keep the layered, neat look, and keep an eye out for canker issues as they tend to be a big problem with this species.
9. Gold Mop Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’)
The bright yellow Golden Mop Cypress is a dwarf type of shrub that forms a rounded or conical mound of evergreen, golden foliage. This hardy, slow-growing coniferous shrub offers stunning thread-like, golden-yellow leaves through the winter and spring months. However, this yellow small shrub will keep the pretty greenish-yellow colors during the summer months too. After 10 years, this specimen can top out at two feet tall, and the final mature height is five feet tall and wide. It’s ideal for growing in zones four to eight, and it thrives when planted in light shade or full sun. It’s a drought-tolerant shrub that grows well as a specimen plant, foundation plant, or as a container shrub.
10. Golden Sunshine Willow (Salix sachalinensis ‘Golden Sunshine’)
The Golden Sunshine Willow is slightly larger at 16 feet tall and wide at full maturity, and it grows best planted in zones 4 to 10. This is a very interesting plant with narrow leaves, and the bright gold coloring is striking on this larger shrub. You can cut it back during the winter months to generate new growth and keep the height more manageable at six to eight feet. It’s very popular but challenging to find, but it thrives in full sun in well-drained but moist soil.
11. Hinoki Cypress Verdoni (‘Verdoni’ Chamaecyparis obtusa)
Verdoni is a yellow small shrub with very bright coloration that you plant in part or full sun. It’s a very slow-growing conifer that has a striking pyramidal shape with horizontal, flattened branches. It produces very dense, twisting foliage that is stunning in a winter garden when everything is dying back. It’ll get between three and five feet high in 10 years, and it works well in a container or right in front of a border.
12. Japanese Mahonia (Mahonia japonica)
This shrub actually has dark green foliage with very spiky leaflets that can turn to a purple or red hue when the weather gets cold. However, it also produces clusters of long, lemon-yellow flowers late in the fall months before giving way to blackish-blue berries. You can propagate it using the seeds or semi-hardwood-cuttings from your plant. It works well as a slope or foundation plant, and it thrives when you place it in full to partial shade. The soil should be very humus-rich, fertile, and most but drain well, and you should add organic matter and mulch. Water this yellow small shrub deeply for the first year, and then it’ll have more average water needs. In March, you want to apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer.
Japanese Mahonia by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) / CC BY 2.0
13. Lemon Candy Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Podaras 3’)
This golden Ninebark specimen is best planted in zones two to seven, and it’ll top out at five feet tall and wide at full maturity. It likes moist but well-drained soil under full sun, and it’ll produce brilliant golden foliage in spring. There are several ninebark specimens on the market in this color, but this one offers intense golden coloring, a solid hardiness, consistent medium height, and a uniform shape. The white flowers do tend to get lost in the foliage a bit, but the arching stems and the bright yellow color make the foliage the star.
14. Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera)
From June to August each year, this yellow small shrub will produce orangish-yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers. It’s a low-growing shrub that has light green foliage that turns orange, yellow, and red in the fall months. You propagate it by dividing the rhizomes during the spring or through cuttings at any point. Honeysuckle works well as a groundcover, border, or in a hedgerow, and it does best when you plant it in a space that gets full sun. However, it will grow in partial shade, but the colors will be duller. It’s flexible when it comes to the soil, but it prefers a well-draining, fertile soil.
15. Red Fame St. John’s Wort (Hypericum x inodorum ‘Red Fame’)
This semi-evergreen, low-maintenance yellow small shrub has oval leaves and red stems that have a nice smell when you crush them. From midsummer to early fall, it produces yellow, star-shaped flowers on golden stamens. In the fall, you get bright red berries where the flowers were. You can propagate this shrub using semi-hardwood cuttings, and it does well in part or full sun in well-drained, moist soil. Try using it as a hedge or border plant, or it works as a slope or specimen plant. Spread mulch around in the fall in colder climates, and add manure or compost if you have poor soil. Keep the soil moist for younger plants and then only water during droughts.
16. Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides)
This pretty coastal flower is a big, deciduous shrub that is known for producing yellow or orange berries. This attractive shrubby plant has willow-like, slender leaves on thorny stems with greenish-yellow flowers. During the fall, it produces long-lasting orangish-yellow fruits. Multi-stemmed sea buckthorn plants get 8 to 12 feet tall and wide, and this is a very cold-hardy shrub that will survive the freezing temperatures in zones three to eight without a problem. It’s a suckering shrub that has an irregular growth habit but it can grow to form a decent coastal windbreak or informal hedge.
17. Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
This is a very hardy yellow small shrub that blooms from early in June until well into the autumn months, and it usually produces single yellow flowers. They can also come in shades of white and double blooms. You want to plant your shrubby cinquefoil in the fall or spring as a foundation plant, groundcover, or in a mass or border. These medium-sized or yellow small shrubs work well in full sun or partial shade in fertile, moist soil that drains very well. You want to spread in organic mulch and give the shrub a complete fertilizer or compost in the late spring and water during long dry periods. Cut the branches back to the ground level after they flower, and it’s a very deer-resistant shrub too.
18. Sungold False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Sungold’)
Growing best in zones three to seven, this yellow small shrub will get 12 feet wide and 8 feet tall at full maturity. It loves to be in full to partial sun in well-drained but moist soil. It’s a brilliant yellow conifer that you can easily prune to keep to your preferred size, and it has a great color and texture combination that shines throughout the whole year. While a lot of conifers offer an intense gold color in the spring with new growth or a winter color transition, this one keeps the bold yellow foliage all year-round.
19. Sutherland Gold Elderberry (Sambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’)
This yellow small shrub grows best in zones three to seven, and it’ll top out at 6 to 10 feet tall and wide at full maturity. It loves to be in partial to full sun in a well-drained but moist soil. The vivid golden foliage has a lot of texture, and you can cut your established plants down to a foot or so in winter to encourage bright new growth in the spring. Cutting back these shrubs negates the red berries and white flowers, but consider the size you want it to get to.
20. Tiger Eyes Golden Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Bailtiger’)
A lot of gardeners know about this yellow small shrub, especially those that live in zones three to eight. It can get between 15 and 30 feet wide and 10 to 15 feet tall, and you should put it in moderately fertile soil that drains well but you keep moist, and it likes full sun. You’ll get a very textural golden foliage throughout the season with this choice, and it turns an orange shade in the fall. If needed, you can remove the suckers to keep the showy plant in check growth-wise.
21. Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’)
Wintercreeper is a very common bush type that is an evergreen shrub with a low growth habit and green and golden variegated leaves. The oval green leaves are edged with gold, and they work to brighten up your shaded areas in your landscape. You’ll get a very short, ground-hugging shrub that tops out at a foot tall and up to four feet wide. Wintercreeper grows best in zones five to nine, and because it thrives when you plant it in shaded conditions, it’s a great ground cover. Also, the low growing habit it displays makes it a great option for front-of-house planting, a short hedge, or edging along your driveway. It’s a vigorous climber too, and it’ll quickly cover your garden fence or wall in golden yellow and green foliage.
Wintercreeper by cathy andersen / CC BY-ND 2.0
22. Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon)
This yellow small shrub’s leaves let off a minty fragrance when you crush them, and they can be variegated. In mid to late spring, it gives you bright yellow flowers with brown flecks. Gardeners like to use this as a groundcover, especially on hillsides. It will spread so aggressively that it’s considered to be invasive in some areas in the northern United States, and it’s easy to propagate using runners or stem cuttings. You want to give it partial to full shade with a loam that drains well with compost to keep it happy. Mature plants can tolerate drought very well, and you won’t have to apply any fertilizer.
23. Yellow Azalea (Rhododendron luteum)
Yellow azalea produces clusters of sweet-scented, funnel-shaped flowers in a golden yellow hue that will attract both hummingbirds and butterflies. The green leaves will turn orange, red, and yellow during the autumn months, and the whole plant is poisonous. It works well as a foundation or hedge plant, or you can put it in a border. Plant it during the fall or spring months in moist, acidic, well-drained soil that is very humus-rich. It prefers to be in partial shade unless you’re in moist, cool climates, then it likes full sun. Keep your soil evenly moist and distribute mulch around it. Finally, apply azalea-specific fertilizer in early spring and then again in 12 to 16 weeks.
24. Yellow Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea ‘Flaviramea’)
The final yellow small shrub on the list is a dogwood, and it is a bright-yellow deciduous flowering shrub with yellowish-green stems. It has an upward growth habit with golden-yellow branches that form colorful thickets during the winter months. In summer and spring, these yellow shrubs form very colorful thickets, and the dark green leaves turn a pretty reddish-orange hue in the fall. It also produces white flowers, and it thrives in acidic soil in zones three to eight. It gets between five and six feet tall at full maturity.
Yellow Twig Dogwood by Paul Cooper / CC BY-NC 2.0
No matter what your garden arrangement is, you’ll be able to find a yellow small shrub that fits your space. They will bring a bright sunny touch to your garden, no matter if they’re a deep gold or pale yellow color. You can mix and match shrubs that require the same growing conditions as well to get a stunningly bright landscape all year-round.