While there are no hard and fast rules, shrubs are defined as woody plants smaller than a tree with several stems at or near ground level. Shrubs are usually less than 12 feet (4 m.) tall, generally with stems measuring less than 3 inches (8 cm.) in diameter.
This loose definition includes a huge variety of gorgeous shrubs for every climate and every gardening style under the sun.
Shrubs include shade-loving plants like azalea or sun lovers like butterfly bush or aucuba. You can plant evergreens like boxwood or juniper, or deciduous types that lose their leaves in fall like viburnum, lilac or flowering quince. Some are even semi-evergreen, which means they stay green unless temperatures get extremely chilly.
Obviously, shrubs are amazingly versatile, but they provide a number of benefits you may not have considered. Consider the following:
Energy savings: Plant deciduous shrubs on the east or west side of your home. You’ll enjoy cool shade in the morning and late afternoon during the hot summer months, but you’ll benefit from the warming rays of the sun when leaves drop in fall. Shrubs planted on the north side of your house serve as a protective windbreak during the winter.
Food and shelter for birds: Shrubs provide much-needed shelter for birds and many have juicy berries that sustain songbirds during the winter months when food is in short supply. Other shrubs bear pretty blooms that attract hummingbirds (and butterflies, too).
Seasonal beauty: Some shrubs turn color in fall, while other sport masses of pretty flowers in spring and summer or colorful berries in autumn. Even deciduous shrubs add interest to the garden during the winter months, sometimes in the form of unique shapes or colorful, textural bark.
Environmental benefits: Shrubs improve air quality by filtering dust and pollutants. They also reduce erosion, thus reducing stormwater runoff and reducing toxic materials in the waterways.
Reliability: Shrubs are reliable and easy to grow if planted in the right climate and soil conditions. Most live to beautify the garden for many years.
Plant shrubs native to your area whenever possible. Native shrubs have become acclimated to your particular environment, when means they thrive with very little human intervention. They are especially beautiful (and low maintenance) when planted with other native plants, including grasses or wildflowers.
Most native shrubs are adept at attracting a wide variety of bees and other beneficial insects, as well as butterflies, birds and wildlife.
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