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The choice of low-growing shrubs depends on a combination of personal preferences and existing growing conditions. Different low-growing shrubs can provide color, fragrance or both. They might be suited for shady areas or require full sun, or they might be able to survive in dry soils or require constant moisture. It is easier to choose shrubs that are suited to your existing conditions than it is to try to modify the conditions to suit the plant.
Determine which shrubs are suited for your existing conditions before selecting those that meet your personal preferences. Check to see whether the proposed site receives full sun, partial sun or full shade. Narrow your choices to those shrubs that will grow with the site’s sun exposure. The blue star juniper is a low-growing shrub that requires full sun, and the cottoneaster Tom Thumb tolerates full shade.
Most low-growing shrubs need well-draining soil. If your soil tends to hold moisture and does not drain well, you will need to choose a shrub, such as the creeping willow, that will grow under these conditions. Dry soils in arid climates need shrubs that will tolerate drought and do not need a steady water supply. The Indian hawthorn is a hardy shrub that will survive dry and windy conditions.
Choosing compact and disease-resistant shrub varieties will help minimize maintenance. These are only secondary considerations, because most shrubs tolerate pruning, and diseases can be controlled with proper care. Choose shrubs that have a tendency to spread if you want the shrub to grow and fill in an area. Otherwise, you should choose shrubs that do not spread if you want them to remain in a limited area.
Whether you choose flowering shrubs or evergreen shrubs is a personal choice. Many evergreen shrubs provide beauty and texture on their own. There is a wide variety of flowering low-growing shrubs if you like seasonal color. The sun rose shrub blooms profusely with flowers that last for only one day. Low-growing azalea varieties erupt in a yearly burst of color.
Not all flowering shrubs produce aromatic flowers. Some flowers, although they are beautiful, have very little scent. If you want fragrant blossoms, choose a low-growing shrub such as the blackfoot daisy or the Elsholtzia stauntonii. The Elsholtzia stauntonii produces very fragrant blooms, and the blackfoot daisy has flowers that smell like honey. Several compact gardenia varieties produce the same sweet-smelling blooms for which the larger varieties are known.