Low Maintenance Small Shrubs (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Low Maintenance Small Shrubs

Low-maintenance small shrubs are perfect for growing in a garden landscape to add definition, color, and visual appeal. Fuss-free dwarf and miniature evergreen shrubs ensure your front yard landscape has plenty of color throughout the year. Small flowering shrubs with few care requirements bring color, floral aromas, and lush textures from spring through fall.

Regardless of your landscape requirements, there are low-maintenance shrubs that don’t grow too tall and look stunning in your front or backyard.

Small Shrubs for Low Maintenance Landscaping

Small shrubs with only a few maintenance requirements can be deciduous or evergreen bushy plants. 

Some examples of trouble-free evergreen shrubs with low growth habits are inkberry shrub, wintercreeper, and dwarf boxwood. Also, dwarf cultivars of coniferous shrubs like spruce, yew, and cypress don’t require much upkeep in the garden.

Suppose you need small flowering shrubs that are easy to grow. In that case, bushy plants like viburnum, Indian hawthorn, hydrangeas, and forsythia will add a pop of color to your front or backyard. Also, dwarf azaleas and rhododendrons have spectacular flowers and can have evergreen or deciduous growth.

What Are Small Low-Maintenance Shrubs?

Low-maintenance small shrubs are easy-care plants with bushy growth that don’t grow more than 6 ft. (1.8 m) tall; however, most are significantly smaller. The undemanding shrubs typically are drought and heat-resistant and thrive in most soil types. They also require little—if any—pruning to maintain their height and shape.

How to Choose Low Maintenance Small Shrubs for Your Garden

Choosing small shrubs that are easy to care for requires considering their height, light and water requirements, and soil type. Ideally, small, low-maintenance shrubs should have minimal watering needs and stay relatively short without pruning. Additionally, you should plant shrubs that are suitable for the amount of direct sunlight they get daily.

Here is a handy guide on sun exposure requirements for choosing low-maintenance small shrubs for a garden:

  • Full sun: The small shrubs need at least six hours of sunlight daily
  • Partial sun: Between three and six hours of direct sun each day
  • Part shade: Shrubs require three to six hours of sunlight with protection from midday sunshine
  • Full shade: Ensure the shrubs don’t get more than three hours of direct sunlight per day.

Low Maintenance Small Evergreen Shrubs (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Easy-care small shrubs with evergreen foliage are staple plants for low-maintenance landscaping. The low-growing shrubs are typically undemanding, requiring little watering and putting up with several hours of daily sunshine. Here are some beautiful examples of evergreen shrubs that are small and classed as low-maintenance. 

Low Maintenance Small Yew Shrubs

Anglo-Japanese Yew (Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’

The spreading low growth habit of Taxus x media Densiformis makes it suitable as an evergreen ground cover plant

The Anglo-Japanese yew (Taxus x media ‘Densiformis’) is a low-growing evergreen shrub that is simple to look after. This no-fuss rounded yew shrub is characterized by its glossy green needles, red berry-like fruits, and spreading habit. The yew shrub grows 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and thrives in USDA zones 4 to 7.

Coniferous shrubs are usually cold-hardy and thrive in full sun to partial shade. The Anglo-Japanese yew is slow-growing and doesn’t require any pruning. You can plant this mounding evergreen bush as a foundation planting, low hedge, or specimen plant.

Another small and hardy yew shrub include the English yew (Taxus baccata) ‘Repandens Aurea’ which is a yellow, evergreen coniferous bushy plant with a dwarf growing habit and yellowish-green foliage. Growing 2 to 4 ft. (0.6 – 1.2 m) tall and 15 ft. (4.5 m) wide, the English yew ‘Repandens Aurea’ is ideal for full sun ground cover, foundation plantings, or a specimen landscaping plant.

Dwarf English Yew Shrub (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens Aurea’)

Dwarf English yew shrub (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens Aurea’)

If you are looking for a low maintenance evergreen shrub that thrives in the shade then Canada yew (Taxus canadensis) is a suitable choice. Canada yew is a sprawling slow grower adaptable shrub that doesn’t require much care and grows 3 to 5 ft. (1 – 1.5 m) tall and up to 8 ft. (2.4 m) wide.

American Yew (Taxus canadensis)

Canada yew (Taxus canadensis)

Lawson Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Minima Aurea’)

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Minima Aurea'

The low maintenance Lawson cypress is a small evergreen shrub and is great for front of house landscaping

Lawson cypress is a popular low maintenance small evergreen shrub, identified by its conical shape and golden-yellow foliage. The slow-growing dwarf cypress shrub grows between 1” and 6” (2.5 – 15 cm) per year. The flat, feathery sprays make up dense foliage, and the shrub keeps its vibrant color planted in full sun.

Lawson cypress ‘Minima Aurea’ is a perfect low maintenance small shrub for the front of house, and for planting in containers. It requires little pruning and is tolerant of drought. The small care-free shrub grows between 1 and 3 ft. (0.3 – 1 m) tall in USDA zones 5 to 7.

Low Maintenance Dwarf Norway Spruce Shrub (Picea abies)

Dwarf Norway Spruce

Dwarf Norway spruce (Picea abies ‘Pumila’) is a great evergreen low maintenance shrub for smaller gardens

Dwarf evergreen Norway spruce shrubs are easy to grow and easy to care for. For example, The ‘Pumila’ Norway spruce is a slow-growing shrubby conifer with a spreading, mounding habit and bright green needle leaves. The cold-hardy shrub grows 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and wide. 

dwarf Norway spruce

Bird’s Nest Spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’) is a dwarf slow growing Norway spruce cultivar that only grows to between 2 and 4 ft. (0.6 – 1.2 m) tall

Norway spruce shrubs perform best in full sun and colder climates. You can plant the evergreen landscaping shrubs in a low-maintenance garden as a foundation planting, specimen bush, or ground cover for full sun.

Oregon Grape Holly (Mahonia aquifolium)

oregon grape

Oregon grape is a flowering evergreen shrub with yellow flowers in early spring, followed by blue berries

The small Oregon grape holly shrub is a perfect plant for a low-maintenance garden and a great idea for an evergreen landscape. The stunning evergreen Oregon grape holly shrub is identified by its spiny, leathery green leaves, clusters of bright golden-yellow flowers, and dark blue-purple berries. The lush leaves emerge red, turn green in summer, then turn deep burgundy in the fall. 

Low maintenance small Oregon grape holly shrubs add striking color and evergreen foliage to a front yard landscape. The spreading, broadleaf shrub grows 3 to 6 ft. (0.9 – 1.8 m) tall and up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide. This shade-loving bushy multi-stemmed plant thrives in USDA zones 5 to 8. 

Inkberry ‘Shamrock’ (Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’)

Ilex glabra Shamrock

Inkberry ‘Shamrock’ is a small easy to care for evergreen shrub that tolerates poorly-drained soil

The inkberry cultivar ‘Shamrock’ is a fuss-free evergreen shrub with a compact rounded growth habit. It’s a low-growing multi-stemmed plant with upward growing stems, slender dark green leaves, small white flowers, and dark blue-black berries. Dwarf inkberry shrubs grow 3 to 4 ft. (0.9 – 1.2 m) tall, ideal for small gardens.

Inkberry is an easy-to-grow shrub that tolerates poorly-drained soil and boggy environments. Its dense, shrubby growth makes it ideal for evergreen hedges, foundation plantings, and mixed shrub borders. You can also grow it near ponds or in bog gardens without worrying about root damage. 

Inkberry shrubs thrive in USDA zones 4 to 9 and need full sun or partial shade to perform best.

Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus

Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus) 

The colorful foliage of small evergreen Japanese spindle shrubs add an ornamental element to any garden. This picture shows the cultivars: Aureo-Marginatus, Silver King and Microphyllus

Japanese spindle is a bushy, evergreen shrub perfect for a low-maintenance garden. The upright bush is prized for its spectacular leaves that can be dark green, yellow and green, or creamy-white and green. Japanese spindle adds color in all seasons, thanks to its year-long brightly-colored foliage. 

Japanese spindle is a versatile shrub that thrives in most environments. The plant is easily grown in mixed beds, along a foundation line, in coastal plantings, or banks. The bushy shrub is also perfect in planters for a container garden. 

Growing 2 to 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and 2 ft. (0.6 m) wide, the Japanese spindle performs best in full sun in USDA zones 6 to 9. 

Juniper ‘Blue Star’ (Juniperus squamata)

Blue Star Juniper (Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’)

Blue Star juniper has a spreading habit and is a low growing hardy evergreen shrub

Also called flaky juniper, the ‘Blue Star’ juniper cultivar is a compact evergreen, low-spreading shrub. Ideal for a low-maintenance landscape design, the eye-catching juniper shrub has silvery-blue foliage that turns purple in winter. The mounding, densely-growing foliage grows 2 to 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide.

Tolerating a wide range of growing conditions, the drought-tolerant juniper plant is perfect for dwarf, evergreen ground cover, planting along a property’s foundation, or as a specimen shrub. In addition, the evergreen juniper shrub is easily grown in USDA zones 4 to 8 if it’s not too hot or humid.

Dwarf Boxwood Shrubs (Buxus)

Winter Gem Boxwood

Dwarf evergreen boxwood shrubs are hardy and easy to grow in most areas and thrive in full sun or shade and can look great as potted plants

Boxwood is an excellent choice if you want to plant easy-to-grow evergreen shrubs for sun or shade. The fuss-free landscaping shrubs have small glossy green oval leaves growing densely on woody stems. The versatile low-maintenance shrubs typically have a rounded or globous shape and grow 1 to 8 ft. (0.3 – 2.4 m) tall.

One of the most low-maintenance evergreen shrubs, boxwood is an excellent plant for growing as a formal hedge, container plant, privacy screening, and foundation planting. Because boxwood grows so slow, it rarely requires pruning, and it’s tolerant of deer, drought, and rabbits.

Grow in USDA zones 5 to 8. 

For more information about low growing boxwood cultivars please refer to the article about boxwood trees and shrubs.

Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei)

Euonymus fortunei shrubs

Wintercreeper evergreen shrubs include various cultivars with colorful leaves. This picture shows the compact cultivars: ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, ‘Emerald Gaiety’ and ‘Moonshadow’

Wintercreeper is a low-growing, undemanding evergreen shrub prized for its colorful foliage and fast growth. This versatile vining shrub can grow as a hedge, climb up a wall, or spread over the ground. Its identifying characteristics are its finely-toothed variegated leaves that can be white and green or yellow and green. 

Also called climbing euonymus or fortune’s spindle, this hardy shrub can easily grow as a fast-growing ground cover plant, low-growing hedge, or drought-tolerant foundation plant. You can also train the shrub to climb over trellises or grow against a shady wall.

Grow wintercreeper in USDA zones 5 to 9 and full sun or partial shade.

Low Maintenance Small Flowering Shrubs (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Small flowering shrubs can add plenty of color to a low-maintenance garden. Typically, the flowering shrubs have compact growth and bloom profusely throughout the season without much intervention from the gardener. Here are some of the best low-maintenance small flowering shrubs. 

Evergreen Low-Growing Azalea Shrubs

azalea shrubs

Choose dwarf evergreen azalea shrubs for easy care garden landscaping

Several species of azalea shrubs have evergreen foliage and are ideal for low-maintenance front yard landscaping. Dwarf and semi-dwarf flowering azalea shrubs grow between 3 and 8 ft. (1 – 2.4 m) tall and bloom with pink, white, red, and purple flowers in spring and summer. Evergreen azaleas are hardy in zones 4 to 8.

Azaleas are beautiful shrubs that require no effort to bloom. The shrubs are ideal for planting in mixed borders, a flowering evergreen hedge, and low maintenance foundation plantings. In addition, the colorful, showy flowers add plenty of visual appeal to a front-of-house landscape. 

Related reading: How to care for flowering azalea shrubs.

Forsythia

Korean forsythia

Forsythia tolerates drought and poor soil conditions. In the picture: Korean forsythia

Forsythia is a spectacular low-growing flowering shrub with minimal maintenance requirements. Thriving in full sun, the upright, spreading bush becomes a mass of yellow flowers when it blooms in early to mid-spring. The dwarf forsythia varieties—‘Happy Centennial’ and Korean forsythia—grow between 2 and 5 ft. (0.6 – 1.5 m) tall in USDA zones 5 to 9. 

Effortless to bloom in a garden landscape, forsythia tolerates drought and poor soil conditions. You can effortlessly grow the small flowering shrub as a foundation planting, colorful hedge accent, or specimen. It’s also ideal as a container plant in city gardens. 

Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica)

Rhaphiolepis indica

Indian hawthorn is an evergreen drought-tolerant flowering shrub with pink or white flowers. This image shows Rhaphiolepis indica cv. ‘Ballerina’

Indian hawthorn is a stunning flowering shrub, ideal if you’re looking for low-maintenance landscaping ideas. The evergreen shrub blooms profusely in spring, with white or pink fragrant flowers growing in showy clusters. Indian hawthorn is also recognized by its thick, leathery lance-shaped leaves that persist on the shrub throughout winter. 

As a drought-tolerant plant that requires little pruning, Indian hawthorn is ideal for planting in shrub borders, along a foundation line, or on banks and slopes for erosion control. The shrub also performs well in containers. 

Indian hawthorn grows 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m) tall in USDA zones 8 to 11, making it an ideal flowering shrub for Florida’s landscapes

Low Maintenance Dwarf Hydrangea Shrubs

Hydrangea

Dwarf hydrangea shrubs are drought-tolerant and add focal point to any low maintenance landscaped garden

Dwarf hydrangeas are small easy-care shrubs for a trouble-free landscape. Typically, dwarf hydrangeas grow 2 to 5 feet (0.6 – 1.5 m) tall and wide. Hydrangeas are drought-tolerant shrubs, prized for their large showy white, pink, blue, or purple flowers. Many hydrangea shrubs are reblooming varieties and fill the landscape with color from summer through fall.

Dwarf hydrangeas are undemanding plants suitable for USDA zones 5 through 9. Easy to grow on well-drained soil, they are ideal as an accent plant, to hide a foundation, or to grow massed plantings. Additionally, the smallest varieties grow well in containers for a balcony, deck, patio, or entranceway.

Related reading: How to care for dwarf flowering hydrangea shrubs.

Viburnum

Dwarf Walter’s viburnum obovatum

Dwarf Walter’s viburnum obovatum is a low growing evergreen shrub with white flowers in spring followed by small reddish-black fruit in summer

Viburnum shrubs are full-sun flowering perennial plants suitable for a low-maintenance garden. The smaller varieties of viburnum grow 1 to 5 ft. (0.3 – 1.5 m) tall and wide and are perfect for small, compact residential gardens. The stunning viburnum blooms are large round or flattened panicles of pale pink or white star-shaped flowers. Flowering viburnum shrubs thrive in USDA zones 4 to 8.

Decorative viburnum shrubs thrive in full sun or partial shade in most soil types. Grow these flowering bushes in shrub borders and foundation plantings, or grow them in a row as a colorful and fragrant screen or hedge. The shrubs are also suitable for growing in large containers. 

Popular examples of dwarf viburnum bushes include the Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum,’ dwarf European cranberrybush viburnum, and dwarf Viburnum obovatum.

Like the larger varieties, miniature, compact viburnum bushes have plenty of all-season interest—spring flowers, dense leafy summer foliage, stunning fall colors, and clusters of berry-like fruits. Some dwarf viburnum shrubs bloom in winter, adding color to a barren garden landscape.

Shrub Roses

Shrub Roses (Rosa)

Shrub roses include many cultivars with various flower colors and shapes

Roses are the classic flowering small shrub for easy-care landscapes. Shrub roses are vigorous plants with woody and thorny stems and spectacular fragrant blooms. Rose flowers are identified by their characteristic rosette pattern, consisting of tightly packed ruffled petals. Shrub rose flowers can be red, white, pink, yellow, orange, and purple. 

Grow shrub roses in a low-maintenance garden for repeat blooming throughout the growing season. The thorny flowering shrubs grow 2 to 5 ft. (0.6 – 1.5 m) tall. You can plant the blooming shrubs as foundation plantings, in a flower bed, or containers. Grow in full sun in USDA zones 5 to 10.

Fuchsia Shrubs

Fuchsia climber

Fuchsia shrubs are fairly easy to care for if kept in moist soil and medium-high humidity

Fuchsia is a sun-loving, heat-loving small flowering shrub with few maintenance requirements. Fuchsia shrub flowers are easily identified by their dangling, bell-like blooms with long stamens from the center. The decorative shrub blooms profusely throughout the summer and performs best in USDA zones 7 to 10.

Fuchsia flowering shrubs have graceful arching stems adorned with dangling red, white, or purple flowers. The miniature easy-care shrubs grow 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m) tall and wide, making them ideal for small compact gardens in tropical or semi-tropical climates. 

Korean Barberry (Berberis koreana)

Berberis koreana

Berberis koreana is a low maintenance cold hardy semi-evergreen landscaping bush that provide year round interest

Korean barberry is a small flowering shrub that is exceedingly easy to care for in a sunny landscape. As a hardy, drought-resistant plant, Korean barberry is known for its clusters of yellow flowers, elliptical green leaves that turn purple in the fall, and spectacular bright red, egg-shaped berries. 

Korean barberry is an excellent low-maintenance landscaping shrub for the front of house because it has four-season interest. The bushy shrub grows 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m) tall and wide. You can grow it as an informal barrier, foundation planting, screen, hedge, or specimen plant. 

Pest-free, extremely cold-hardy, and easy to care for—Korean barberry is ideal for any landscape in USDA zones 3 to 7.

Low Maintenance Potentilla Shrubs (Potentilla fruticosa)

Potentilla fruticosa shrub

Potentilla fruticosa is a small hardy flowering shrub that can survive cold temperatures

Also called shrubby cinquefoil, the low-growing deciduous Potentilla shrub blooms from spring and throughout summer until fall without much care. The low maintenance bushy plant is identified by its dainty five-petalled flowers of rounded petals. Potentilla flowers can be yellow, orange, pink, or white. Shrubby cinquefoil grows 1 to 3 ft. (0.3 – 1 m) tall and wide. 

Ideal for low-maintenance gardens in USDA zones 5 to 8, potentilla flowering shrubs make for great full-sun ground cover, border fronts, or foundation planting. Additionally, their resistance to drought means they are ideal for arid rock gardens. 

Cavatine Dwarf Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’)

Cavatine Dwarf Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’)

The small flowering Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’ shrub looks beautiful in any front or backyard

The dwarf Japanese Pieris cultivar ‘Cavatine’ is one of the most desirable miniature flowering shrubs for trouble-free landscapes. The spectacular shrub is characterized by its glossy dark green leaves and fragrant urn-shaped white flowers. The dangling fragrant flowers look like lily-of-the-valley flowers. 

Also called dwarf lily-of-the-valley shrub, the sun-loving small shrub is ideal for growing in front of taller shrubs, along a foundation line, or as a low maintenance plant in containers. The dwarf Japanese Pieris cultivar ‘Cavatine’ is a highly-rated landscaping plant that grows around 3 ft. (1 m) tall. Suitable for zones 5 to 8.

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