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What are Some Types of Ornamental Shrubs?

By C. Ausbrooks
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ornamental shrubs are commonly used in landscaping as foundation plantings, screens and backgrounds, as well as walk and driveway accents. Many species are easily adapted to tree form, through pruning and training, but most are used in their more natural bush form. There are ornamental shrubs suitable for any purpose, but some will require more care than others.

Foundation plantings, or shrubs that are located near the foundation of the home, are often the chief feature of the landscape. These shrubs are typically chosen to compliment the architecture of the home. Some common shrubs used for this purpose include Glossy Abelia and Barberry.

Glossy Abelia is medium sized ornamental shrub, growing to a height of around five feet (1.5 meters), with rich, shiny green foliage. Pink to white bell shaped flowers appear in the summer months. This shrub is evergreen in warmer climates, and partially deciduous in colder temperatures.

Barberries are ornamental shrubs that come in several varieties, some evergreen and others deciduous. They are small shrubs that rarely exceed four feet (1.25 meters) in height. The size is easily controlled with regular pruning. Generally, barberries are hardy shrubs that can tolerate a wide array of soil and climate conditions.

Ornamental shrubs used for screen and background planting are used for preventing unwanted views within a property. They can be used in the same way as privacy fences, but can also provide a background for smaller shrubs. Some common ornamental shrubs used for this purpose include Fountain Butterfly Bush and Japonica.

Fountain Butterfly Bush is an upright shrub with arching branches that spread out wide. It is fast growing and winter hardy. The shrub produces small purple flowers in the mid-spring, borne on long spikes. The foliage of fountain butterfly bush is willowy, and ranges in color from gray to gray-green.

Japonica is one of the most versatile ornamental shrubs. It is used widely throughout New Mexico in the United States, and can be found in both deciduous and evergreen varieties. The shrub is popular for its attractive foliage, which can be found in many different colors and types. Japonica’s flowers are not particularly attractive, although it can produce appealing red-orange berries when the conditions for pollination are favorable.

Accent shrubs are typically planted to compliment driveways, walkways, garden paths, or other high traffic areas of a property. They can also be used to create privacy in smaller areas of a larger landscape. Some common ornamental shrubs used for this purpose include Siberian Dogwood and Pampas Grass.

Siberian Dogwood is a hardy, upright shrub, more suitable for cold weather climates than other Dogwood species. It has a moderate rate of growth and can eventually reach 10 feet (3 meters) in height. Small white to yellow flowers appear in the late spring, followed by white to blue berries in the fall. During cold weather, the branches turn an attractive coral red color.

Pampas Grass is a very popular shrub in the United States. It is prized for its feathery, cream to pink colored panicles that appear in the early fall. Its long, narrow leaves are sharp and must be handled with care. The top will die back in winter but the hardy roots promote new growth in the spring.

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Discussion Comments
By blackDagger — On May 04, 2011

I adore all things yard, and while I enjoy working with all kinds of foliage and fauna, I particularly love ornamental trees and shrubs. They come in so many varieties, and they just add life to a garden. Many people prefer flowers or even vegetable gardening, and both of those are wonderful. But with ornamentals you can prune and shape it to make the overall effect reflect your personality. They are really nice to work with if you take a little time to really get into the process.

By dimpley — On May 02, 2011

I would love to add a little personality to my yard, but I’m not a great landscaper. I am a genius with technology, but plants keel over if I even look at them. What are the best types of ornamental flowering shrubs to start with, or should I go with some other sort of gardening to begin with? I was kind of thinking that I could start with these kinds of plants and work my way out to the smaller flowers and larger trees. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong, though, so if anyone has an idea it would be great.

By aaaCookie — On Mar 20, 2011

I don't really like ornamental shrubs as much as the kinds with some sort of use. I like the idea of decorative shrubs or trees, but something that grows an edible fruit or offers shade just seems so much more worth the effort.

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