Planting bushes under trees: our guide to shade loving shrubs.

Believe it or not, there can actually be an order and strategy to planting bushes and shrubs in your yard. Sure, you can plant your favorites and whatever looks good and hope for the best – or, with a little research and time, you can plant shrubs that naturally thrive with other trees and plants that already grow in your yard. 

It can be hard to know what to do with the space between taller trees and bushes and ground hugging plants – what fills that space? You don’t want to do too much so that plants are forced to compete or grow over each other, but, neither do you want to waste space or have a missed opportunity to really fill out your gardening space. 

The first thing you should look out for are bushes that don’t mind being in shade, and can be trimmed to heights of 3-6 feet consistently. These mid sized bushes are substantial enough, but aren’t always the main star of the gardening show.

But, this is pretty general advice. What bushes can you specifically buy and plant that meet thse criteria? Well, there are all sorts of candidates out there, but here are a few varieties you can keep in mind for your next gardening adventure. 

 

Flowering Bushes for Shade

Bush No. 1: Rhododendron

Rhododendron is easily recognizable and well loved as a flowering bush for shade. They bloom in the spring and can come in all sorts of shades and colors. Their bright blooms are a sweet respite after a long winter and usher in the warmer months of spring. They can be between 3-13’ tall and thrive with shallow roots that are watered often – mulch is a great way to keep nutrients packed in close and keep the roots safe. 

Bush No. 2: Azaleas

A part of the rhododendron family, azaleas are a smaller variety with the same propensity to bold colors and easy care. They thrive in the shade, also need their roots protected, but bloom throughout the spring and are hardy, so even the most minimal care will result in maximum results. 

Bush No. 3: Hydrangea

This plant has big, hefty leaves that are surrounded by massive clumps of flower blossoms. They bloom over the summer into fall, and can grow between three and eight feet tall. They are another great plant for shade areas, but they need to be very well watered. Based on the pH of the soil, a plant can produce all varieties of pastel colors, ranging from baby pink to baby blue or a deep purple. Some varieties of this plant require more care than others, as some need to be deadheaded often to preserve the flowering of the bush. Some of the varieties change with how much shade they need exactly, so pay attention to whatever species you get and how it specifically needs to be cared for. 

Bush No. 4: Camellias

A Camellia is a beautiful bush that flowers anywhere between late fall and early spring, which means that it can bloom any time between October and April. How unusual and what a gift to the cold winter months! 

They require very little maintenance, but look absolutely beautiful. Depending on the variety, they can grow to heights anywhere between 18” and 25’, so there’s a lot of variety there! It is an evergreen shrub and is a great, low maintenance option for your yard. 

 

Foliage Bushes for Shade

If you prefer a foliage bush/shrub situation and not something with blooms and flowers, then you are in luck! We have a couple options for you, too! 

Bush No. 5: Japanese Maple

These bushes are distinctive for their small trunks and willowy leaves that create beautiful coverage. They can be anywhere from 6’-25’ tall depending on the species, and the leaves can change based on the species you have. Either way, these trees are distinctive, beautiful, and while they take a medium amount of maintenance, they can be great founts of color and add layers of depth to your yard. 

Bush No. 6: Red Twig Dogwood

Dogwoods grow to be around 8’ and can add depth and variety to your garden backdrop. 

They, as the name implies, have red twigs for limbs that grow upwards. Sometimes, it will have small white flowers and berries in the spring, but it will make a big statement in the winter with its red stems.

Bush No. 7: Boxwood

This is the bush you might think of when you think of boundary hedges or bushes that have been clipped into shapes or elaborate images. But it doesn’t have to require that much care! IT grows easily on its own, and like many of its shrub counterparts, it prefers a healthy amount of mulch on its roots. It can be anywhere between 2’ and 20’ tall depending on the variety, so boxwood should suit a variety of your needs depending on the current state of your garden. 

Bush No. 8: Yews

Yews are evergreen bushes that look great no matter the season. Some varieties require much pruning and can add a very sophisticated look to your yard, while others don’t require as much care. They prefer drier conditions and can grow between 5’ and 25’, once again, depending on the species. As a side note but an important note to mention, the leaves and berries are poisonous to animals and children, so if you have small children or animals that roam around your yard, this might not be the plant for you. 

No matter what you choose, these are great options for your gardens and backyards. Whichever plants you choose, be sure to consider the height they grow to, how much time you are able to dedicate to maintenance, and make sure your soil is suited for the plant’s pH needs, and keep some mulch on hand so that their roots stay safe and moisturized. Enjoy your new backyards and gardens – they look great!