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What are Dwarf Shrubs?

By Cindi Pearce
Updated May 16, 2024
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Dwarf shrubs are specific breeds of plants that have been bred to stay small, even when fully grown. Most stand no more than three feet (914mm) high at maturation. These compact plants are ideal for people with limited yard space. In addition, dwarf shrubs can be grown in planter boxes or tubs, which is perfect for those who live in high-rises, or whose backyard is confined to a balcony.

Not only are dwarf shrubs compact but most of them are low maintenance and require very little pruning. Because a dwarf shrub will always remain small, there is little, if any, chance that it will outgrow its space or crowd the surrounding plants and trees. Furthermore, appearance and contours of these compact plants will not change with age and maturity as sometimes happens with fast-growing, larger plants that can become unwieldy over time and bear very little resemblance to what they looked like initially.

Dwarf shrubs, particularly those of the evergreen variety, provide the homeowner with a cost-effective perk: The plants actually result in energy-efficient landscaping. Plant these shrubs near your house, close to the foundation, where the outside air is most likely to enter your home, and you've supplied your residence with a natural weather barrier and wind-break. Homeowners who have done this attest that it reduced their utility bill. Evergreen shrubs and trees, which generally grow no more than 12-feet in height, also provide the additional benefit of yielding year-long greenery to your landscape even during the bleakest months of winter.

Another way in which dwarf shrubs can be used to increase energy efficiency is to situate them to the north of your larger plants and shrubs, which directs the wind upward. Rather than crashing into the front of your house, the wind is re-directed and goes up and over your roof.

Dwarf shrubs can be equally advantageous in the summer because they can create a buffer against the heat when they are situated on the west and south sides of your house. In addition, shrubs can provide shade and help retain moisture from the surrounding environment, which can also help regulate the temperature inside your home.

Dwarf shrubs tend to be dense plants, with abundant foliage. Since these plants grow no taller than three-feet in height, they are perfect for areas around the house where you don't want to block the view from a window.

Specific types of dwarf shrubs include Dwarf Japanese Yew, Dwarf Mugho Pine and Spreading Cotoneaster. If you prefer the creeping and trailing varieties, plant Gray Carpet Juniper or Rock Cotoneaster.

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