Small or Dwarf Shrubs (With Pictures) – Identification Guide

Small or Dwarf Shrubs

Dwarf shrubs or small flowering bushes have great value for garden landscapes. Small shrubs are ideal for compact gardens where space is limited, or they can help to enhance larger flowering shrubs.

Small flowering shrubs are excellent plants for spring and summer colors. You can plant small evergreen shrubs to keep your yard green throughout the year. In addition, many small landscaping shrubs boost curb appeal as foundation plants, shrub borders, or ground cover.

Some of the best small shrubs are wintercreeper, boxwood, Japanese Pieris, dwarf rhododendrons, and Chinese privet. These small shrubs have combinations of colorful foliage, beautiful flowers, and attractive shapes to enhance your garden landscape.

This article is a guide to some of the best small and low-growing shrubs to plant in your garden.

What Are Dwarf Shrubs?

Dwarf shrubs are varieties of bushy plants that stay small even when fully grown. Typically, dwarf shrubs grow between one and three feet (up to one meter) tall. Dwarf, bushy plants don’t require pruning to maintain their height, therefore are typically low-maintenance plants.

The Benefits of Small Shrubs

The benefit of small shrubs is that they require little maintenance and pruning. Dwarf shrubs with compact growth are ideal for creating colorful borders around your yard. You can also plant them in mixed flower beds to add texture and color or grow the shrubs in the front of the house as foundation plants.

How to Pick the Best Small Shrub for Your Garden

When choosing low-growing shrubs, consider how much sunlight they need and your growing zone. For example, some dwarf shrubs require full sun to thrive, so it’s best not to plant them as understory plants. Other small shrubs are ideal for shade and grow well along shaded fences or walls.

Types of Small or Dwarf Shrubs (With Pictures and Names) – Identification

Here are the best types of small or dwarf shrubs for your garden landscape. These easy-care bushes are divided into categories — dwarf evergreen landscaping shrubs, small flowering shrubs, low-growing deciduous shrubs, and other small landscaping shrubs.

Small or Dwarf Evergreen Shrubs For Landscaping (With Pictures)

Evergreen shrubs for landscaping can provide year-round beauty to your landscape design. When selecting a shrub for your landscaping project, it is essential to consider what purpose the shrub will serve, along with its size, color, and texture.

Dwarf Wintercreeper Shrubs (Euonymus fortunei

Euonymus fortunei shrubs

The colorful foliage of small evergreen Euonymus shrubs adds an ornamental element to any garden. This picture shows the compact cultivars: ‘Emerald ‘n’ Gold’, ‘Emerald Gaiety’ and ‘Moonshadow’

Dwarf wintercreeper is a small bushy plant with colorful green and yellow or green and creamy-white variegated leaves. Also called Fortune’s spindle, the evergreen shrub grows between 1 and 4 ft. (0.3 – 1.2 m) tall and wide. The colorful shrub thrives in full sun or partial shade in USDA zones 5 through 8.

Low-growing wintercreeper shrubs are ideal as low maintenance foundation planting or growing as a low hedge, edging plant, or ground cover plants for full sun.

Dwarf Boxwood (Buxus)

Boxwood 'Silver Beauty'

The ornamental boxwood ‘Silver Beauty’ grows up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall and 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide

Low-growing boxwood shrubs provide greenery in your yard throughout the year. Boxwood is one of the most popular hedge plants due to its small dark green oval leaves, dense foliage, and mounding growth patterns. The hardy evergreen low maintenance small shrubs grow around 3 to 4 ft. tall (1 – 1.3 m) tall and wide.

Dwarf English Boxwood

Dwarf English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) grows between 2 and 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and up to 4 ft (1.2 m) wide

Versatile dwarf boxwoods are ideal for beds, borders, or planting formal hedges. Additionally, they also work well in planters to decorate a container garden. Boxwood shrubs thrive in USDA zones 5 through 8 and grow in full sun to complete shade.

Littleleaf Boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Compacta’)

Littleleaf boxwood (Buxus microphylla ‘Compacta’) is a slow-growing evergreen shrub that grows 1 ft. (0.3 m) tall

Dwarf Spruce Shrubs

dwarf White Spruce Shrub

The dwarf white spruce (Picea glauca ‘Echiniformis’) is a slow growing evergreen shrub that won’t grow higher than 1.5 ft. (0.5 m) in 10 years

Small, compact, evergreen spruce shrubs are popular landscaping plants because they are easy to grow. The coniferous shrubs have emerald-green or bluish-green foliage, depending on the cultivar. Many spruce shrubs have a conical habit and upward growing branches. Usually dwarf spruces grow between 2 and 4 ft. (0.6 – 1.2 m) tall.

Dwarf spruce shrubs have a mounding growth habit and make for hardy evergreen foundation plants, edging plants, or ground cover for full sun. Their silvery-blue needle leaves also create interesting textures in an evergreen garden. Grow in USDA zones 3 through 8.

dwarf Norway spruce

Bird’s Nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’) is a slow growing shrub with round shape and flat top that only grows to between 2 and 4 ft. (0.6 – 1.2 m) tall after many years

False Cypress ‘Golden Charm’ (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Charm’) – A Small Yellow Evergreen Shrub

Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Golden Charm'

The low growing golden charm false cypress is an evergreen shrub and is great for front of house landscaping

The low-growing, spreading false cypress cultivar ‘Golden Charm’ is a yellow evergreen shrub. The low maintenance ornamental shrub is recognized by its sprays of fine threadlike leaves that emerge bright gold and stay golden yellow throughout the summer. The yellow landscaping shrub grows up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) tall and 6 ft. (1.8 m) wide.

‘Golden Charm’ false cypress has landscaping value for its pyramidal habit. In addition, its golden-yellow foliage and attractive shape make it ideal as an accent plant or informal bushy evergreen privacy screen. Plant the slow-growing false cypress in USDA zones 4 through 8 and in full to partial sun.

Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’ – A Compact Rounded Evergreen Shrub

Golf Ball Pittosporum

Golf Ball Pittosporum is a small round evergreen shrub that is low maintenance

‘Golf Ball’ pittosporum tenuifolium is a dwarf, evergreen shrub with a rounded shape, oval pale green leaves, and dense growth. The slow-growing shrubby plant grows up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall and wide. In spring, the evergreen shrub flowers with fragrant five-petalled purple flowers.

The ‘Golf Ball’ cultivar is a heat-loving plant that thrives in USDA zones 8 to 11. The beautiful round shape and low growth make the plant ideal for growing as a formal hedge, container plant, or edging driveways or walkways.

Further reading: Types of Pittosporums (Including Variegated Pittosporums).

Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense ‘Sunshine’)

Chinese Privet (Ligustrum sinense 'Sunshine')

The compact Chinese privet shrub adds a burst of sunny yellow colored foliage to brighten up your garden

Chinese privet ‘Sunshine’ is a low-growing shrub with spectacular golden-yellow foliage all year long. This compact evergreen shrub is characterized by small, pale-yellow leaves growing on thin stems. Scented white flowers appear in summer, followed by glossy bluish-black berries.

The Chinese privet ‘Sunshine’ thrives in USDA zones 6 to 8 in full or partial sun. The attractive yellow shrub grows 3 to 4 ft. (0.9 – 1.2 m) tall and up to 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide. Its small, compact growth makes it ideal for small gardens, shrub borders, a short hedge, or planting in a container.

Small or Dwarf Flowering Shrubs (Low Maintenance) – With Pictures

Many small flowering shrubs provide a wide range of ornamental appeal in your landscape. The dwarf flowering shrubs are especially popular because they are low-maintenance and ideal for small, compact gardens or containers.

Japanese Pieris Shrub (Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’) – Small Evergreen Flowering Shrub

Cavatine Dwarf Japanese Pieris (Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’)

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

The dwarf, evergreen flowering shrub cultivar ‘Cavatine’ Pieris is a slow-growing landscaping plant. This low-growing shrub has dark green foliage consisting of slender, lanceolate leaves. The bush transforms in spring with masses of small creamy-white urn-shaped flowers. Cavatine Pieris grows up to 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall and 3 ft. (1 m) wide.

The Japanese Pieris ‘Cavatine’ thrives in USDA zones 5 to 8. You can plant this dwarf shrub in borders, at the front of house, or as an informal evergreen flowering hedge.

Small Flowering Potentilla Shrubs (Potentilla fruticosa)

Potentilla fruticosa shrub

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

Also called shrubby cinquefoil, potentilla shrubs are deciduous flowering bushes with large bright yellow flowers. The yellow blossoms cloak the dark green foliage when the shrub blooms in late spring. This hardy flowering shrub survives freezing temperatures and hot summers. Potentilla shrubs grow 2 to 4 ft. (0.6 – 1.2 m) tall and up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide.

Thriving in USDA zones 3 to 7 and in full sun, shrubby cinquefoil is a versatile flowering shrub that makes a beautiful hedge, border plant, or foundation plant.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja)

Blue Chip Butterfly Bush

Blue Chip Butterfly Bush (Buddleja x ‘Blue Chip’)  grows 1 to 2 ft. (0.3 – 0.6 m) tall and wide

Species of butterfly bush are beautiful, fast-growing decorative shrubs with stunning flowering spikes of white, magenta, lilac, or purple flowers. The long-lasting arching flower panicles last through summer until frost. The leaves are gray-green and lance-shaped. The flowering ornamental shrub thrives in full sun in USDA zones 5 to 9.

For compact garden landscapes, mixed borders, or front-of-house planting, choose the dwarf varieties of Buddleja. Usually these spectacular shrubs grow between 1 and 3 ft. (0.3 – 1 m) tall and 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m) wide.

Buddleja Lo & Behold ‘Ice Chip’

Buddleja Lo & Behold ‘Ice Chip’ grows no more than 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall and 2.6 ft. (0.8 m) wide

Dwarf Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) Flowering Shrubs

Rhododendron ‘Princess Anne’

Rhododendron ‘Princess Anne’ is a type of dwarf azalea that grows to 2 or 3 ft. (60 – 90 cm) tall

Species of low-growing azalea shrubs produce abundant floral displays of showy pastel-colored flowers. Dwarf azalea cultivars can have trumpet-shaped, star-shaped, or showy double flowers in white, purple, orange, yellow, red and pink shades. The flowering evergreen or deciduous shrubs thrive in USDA zones 4 to 8 and full or partial sun.

Rhododendron ‘Ramapo’

The dwarf Rhododendron ‘Ramapo’ grows up to 2 ft. (60 cm) tall and have a spread of up to 3 ft. (90 cm)

Dwarf azalea shrubs are ideal for planting along foundations, mixed borders, or shade gardens. Growing in a row, the mounding shrubs create a beautiful flowering hedge or privacy screen.

Azalea Japonica ‘Girard’s Rose’

Azalea Japonica ‘Girard’s Rose’ grows to between 1 to 2 ft. (30 – 60 cm) high with a spread of up to 4 ft. (130 cm)

Small or Dwarf Deciduous Shrubs (With Pictures)

Dwarf and small deciduous shrubs look very attractive in a landscaped backyard. They have an excellent height and can add natural beauty while attracting pollinators to your garden in spring and summer.

Dwarf Barberry Shrubs

Small barberry shrubs are evergreen or deciduous with stunning reddish-purple leaves with ornamental appeal in a garden landscape. As this red shrub is considered somewhat invasive in certain areas, it is ideal for growing in containers at a doorway or a porch, security barrier, or as a foundation plant in a restricted area.

Golden Ring Barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea ‘Golden Ring’)

Golden Ring Barberry (Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Golden Ring')

Golden ring barberry is a small shrub with decorative purple leaves

The golden ring barberry is a reddish-purple shrub with ornamental appeal in a garden landscape. The dramatic appearance of purple creates a statement in the landscape. The stems have reddish-purple oval leaves with a very thin yellow-golden margin, sharp barbs, small yellowish bell-shaped flowers, and red berries.

The dwarf shrub with red leaves grows 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and wide and thrives in USDA zones 4 to 8.

Rose Glow Barberry (Berberis thunbergii var. atropurpurea ‘Rose Glow’)

Rose Glow Barberry

Rose Glow Barberry Deciduous shrub grows up to 4-5 ft. (1.2-1.5 m)

The stunning rose glow barberry is a red-leafed shrub with a mounding, rounded growth pattern. The thorny red bush has purplish-pink foliage that matures to deep reddish-purple. Other characteristics of the colorful deciduous shrub are barbed stems, tiny greenish flowers, and bright red berries.

The red bushy shrub with its exceedingly sharp thorny stems makes for an ideal security screen, foundation planting, hedge, or specimen plant. Plant in full sun for spectacular colors. Rose glow barberry thrives in USDA zones 4 to 8.

Helmond Pillar Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Helmond Pillar’)

Helmond Pillar Barberry

Helmond Pillar barberry is a slow growing shrub with a vertical growth habit

Helmond Pillar Barberry is an upright reddish-purple shrub with ornamental appeal in a garden landscape. Its unique columnar form and richly colored foliage give it a distinct architectural look. It has a slow growth rate and it reaches 3 to 4 ft. (0.9 – 1.2) tall, 1 to 2 ft. (30 – 60 cm) wide.

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica) – Low Maintenance Small Shrub

Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)

The low growing sweetspire shrub is great plant for landscaping compact spaces

Virginia sweetspire is a small flowering shrub, identified by its dark green lance-shaped leaves, creamy-white bottlebrush flowers, and clumping habit with arching stems. The multi-stemmed shrub has deciduous or semi-evergreen foliage, consisting of smooth elliptical green leaves that turn coppery-orange in the fall. Virginia sweetspire thrives in USDA zones 5 to 9.

The Virginia sweetspire is a rounded flowering shrub with masses of cylindrical flowering spikes that is ideal for planting as a hedge, shrub border, or ground cover for shade.

Dwarf Blue Honeysuckle Shrubs (Lonicera caerulea, Lonicera xylosteum)

Lonicera xylosteum

Lonicera xylosteum (in the picture) is a low growing shrub with fragrant flowers

Several species of honeysuckle shrubs are low-maintenance flowering bushes that grow up to 3 ft. (1 m) tall. The dwarf honeysuckles are characterized by yellowish-white flowers, broad ovate silvery-green leaves, and dark reddish or purple berries. The hardy flowering shrubs thrive in USDA zones 2 to 7 in full sun or part shade.

With their dwarf habit, low-growing honeysuckle shrubs are ideal for planting as a flowering hedge, foundation plant, or in a fruit garden. The Lonicera caerulea species has tasty dark blue fruit.

Small Landscaping Shrubs  (With Pictures)

Small landscaping shrubs provide a variety of benefits for your yard. Here are more shrubs with fragrant flowers, low-growth, and a compact structure.

Kaleidoscope Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’)

Kaleidoscope Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’)

Kaleidoscope abelia changes its foliage colors throughout the seasons and provide long-year interest in the landscape

The kaleidoscope abelia is a dwarf ornamental shrub with colorful variegated foliage. The dwarf shrub’s leaves are lance-shaped and emerge yellowish-green in spring, turning golden yellow in the summer before transforming into vibrant red shades in the fall. The low-growing, easy-care shrub grows 2 – 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide.

Ideal as a low accent plant, the kaleidoscope abelia is perfect as ground cover for part shade. You can also plant this shrub as a low informal hedge, foundation planting, or mass for shrub borders.

Small Hydrangea Shrubs (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer Bloomstruck’

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Endless Summer Bloomstruck’ is 3 to 4 ft. (1 – 1.2 m) tall and up to 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide

Dwarf hydrangea shrubs are excellent flowering plants for landscaping due to their large, showy flower clusters. Also called bigleaf hydrangeas, the deciduous shrubs have a rounded habit, large, serrated leaves, and colorful rounded flower heads. Hydrangeas grow in full sun or partial shade and thrive in USDA zones 5 to 9.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Masja’

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Masja’ is 2 to 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and wide

Dwarf hydrangeas grow 2 to 5 ft. (0.6 – 1. 5 m) tall and make ideal accent plants, foundation plants, or deciduous hedge plants. Additionally, you can grow these low maintenance small shrubs in containers for a patio, balcony, or deck area.

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Pia’

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Pia’ is 2 or 3 ft. (0.6 – 1 m) tall and wide

Dwarf Spirea Shrubs 

Spiraea japonica 'Gold Mound'

Gold Mound Japanese spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Gold Mound’) grows to 2 – 3 ft. (60 – 90 cm) tall and 3 – 4 ft. (0.9 – 1.2 m) wide

Dwarf spirea shrubs are deciduous flowering shrubs that don’t grow taller than 3 ft (1 m). The small shrubby plants are famous for their spectacular fall foliage that can be shades of orange, red, and purple. In addition, during spring and summer, showy clusters of tiny white or pink flowers grow abundantly.

Daphne Spirea (Spiraea japonica 'Alpina')

Daphne spirea (Spiraea japonica ‘Alpina’) is a low growing deciduous shrub, 2 ft. (60 cm) tall by 5 ft. (1.5 m) wide

Low-growing spirea shrubs are ideal for adding three-season interest to your yard. The colorful leaves and fragrant flowers look stunning at the front of house or growing as a low hedge, border, or along a fence. The landscaping shrubs thrive in USDA zones 4 to 8 and full sun.

Bonanza Gold Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Bogozam’)

Bonanza Gold Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Bogozam’)

Bonanza gold barberry is a dwarf slow-growing shrub with yellow-green foliage

The barberry ‘Bonanza Gold’ is a dwarf yellow-leafed shrub that only grows 2 ft. (0.6 m) tall and wide. The deciduous slow-growing landscaping shrub has a rounded growth habit and bright gold foliage. The attractive mounding shrub has graceful arching branches, small yellow flowers, and bright red berries that persist through winter.

The ‘Bonanza Gold’ barberry shrub thrives in USDA zones 4 to 8. This small, brightly-colored dwarf shrub can be used as a border plant or foundation planting.

Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)

Paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha)

Paperbush is a small flowering shrub that requires minimal care and is great for winter landscape

Paperbush is a suckering flowering dwarf shrub with fragrant winter flowers, attractive lanceolate deep green leaves, and a rounded mounding growth. The ornamental flowering shrub has distinctive yellowish-white flower clusters that give off a pleasant scent. The low-growing shrub grows 4 to 6 ft. (1.2 – 1.8 m) tall and wide.

The paperbush dwarf flowering shrub brightens up winter landscapes with its silky white and yellow flowers on bare stems. You can plant this beautiful shrub as a border or foundation planting or grow in containers on a patio.

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