How do I Choose the Best Landscaping Shrub?

Terrie Brockmann

There are thousands of landscaping shrub varieties, and landscapers can narrow their choices by finding varieties that are suitable for their site. A few factors to contemplate include plant hardiness, the necessary soil type, sun exposure at the planting site, and the size of the area where the landscaping shrub will be planted. Choosing shrubs appropriate for the agricultural zone will be important for the plants survival — the agricultural departments of most countries have created plant hardiness charts for their various areas.

It's a good idea to check the pH levels of soil when planting shrubs.
It's a good idea to check the pH levels of soil when planting shrubs.

Soil quality is a very important consideration when choosing a landscaping shrub. For example, shrub species that flourish in sandy soil may die quickly in heavy clay soil. Local nurseries can offer advice for specific soil types. Testing the pH level of the soil may be helpful as well. Some shrub species are not tolerant of acidic soil while others, such as the holly, Ilex aquifolium, crave it. Testing kits are commonly available at nurseries and garden stores.

Another consideration is the plant's mature size. Some bushes can reach heights of 8 to 10 feet (about 2.5 to 3.0 meters) while others remain small, with a mature height of 2 feet (about 0.6 meters) and a spread of about 3 feet (about 0.9 meters). Most shrubs at stores have tags that give mature size information, and nursery or garden store personnel can answer these questions as well.

Evaluating the sun exposure where the shrub will be planted is important as well. Some shrubs are sun loving; others prefer the shade. Even within the same species, there can be a variance in sun tolerance. Local nurseries can usually suggest appropriate varieties.

For some people, fragrant flowering shrubs are desirable, but for people with allergies, fragrances can set off an allergic reaction. The pollen of the popular privet hedge plant, genus Ligustrum, can trigger asthma and eczema reactions, for example. Some shrubs are poisonous to people and pets as well. For example, holly, or Ilex aquifolium, is poisonous to people and privet is poisonous to horses.

Gardeners can buy shrubs online or through local nurseries. For the best landscaping shrub, look for locally raised plants or plants that are guaranteed to survive in the planting zone. Sometimes the best landscaping shrub is a shrub that is native to the area. Usually, nurseries do not sell shrub seeds, but they sell the plants potted in plastic containers, as "balled-and-burlapped," and as "bare root."

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