Low Growing Deciduous Shrubs (under 5 feet)
- Generally grow up to 5 feet tall, easy to maintain in proper scale
- Essentially, a low-growing woody plant that branches at its base
- Lose their leaves in fall (deciduous)
- Recommended for the Midwest on the basis of ornamental value, proven hardiness, availability, and freedom from serious problems
USES IN THE LANDSCAPE
- Define boundaries, fill-in bare spots, soften sidewalks and "hardscapes"
- Provide seasonal interest with attractive flowers, fruits, nuts, seedpods, fall color, stem and bark color, texture, and form
- Add "close-in" interest
- Provide foundation plantings under windows
- Create structure or "bones" in a mixed border
- Provide a backdrop against which other plants can be highlighted
- Some selections attract wildlife
FACTORS TO CONSIDER
- Ultimate size - If your site is limited by walkways, driveways, patios and buildings, or by surrounding plantings, keep in mind the ultimate height and width of the plant you're selecting. Shrubs can be expensive and difficult to move or remove if they outgrow their location. Or, they can require constant pruning to maintain a desired size. Select a shrub whose mature size suits the site.
- Proximity - Deciduous shrubs offer delightful blossoms and pleasing fragrances. Plant them near a window, patio, or deck, where you can easily encounter and enjoy these benefits.
- Maintenance - Deciduous shrubs offer seasonal interest with fruits, nuts, and seedpods. However, some of these can also be messy. Consider these factors when planting a shrub near patios, walkways, entries, and driveways.
- Shape - Deciduous shrubs come in a variety of shapes: columnar, pyramidal, round, vase, weeping, upright. Select a variety that naturally grows in the shape you desire to avoid added care and maintenance.
The chart below provides information about the size and other important characteristics of small deciduous shrubs recommended by The Morton Arboretum for their suitability and desirability in the Midwest.
Key to growth Rate:
|F||Fast (more than 12 inches per year)|
|M||Medium (6-12 inches per year)|
|S||Slow (less than 6 inches per year)|
|BOTANICAL NAME||COMMON NAME||HEIGHT||SPREAD||FORM||RATE||ZONE||CULTURAL/COMMENTS|
||Leadplant||2-4'||4-5'||Rounded||M||2-6||Sun; does well in dry sandy to clay soil; attractive gray-green foliage adds nice contrast in rock gardens; purplish-blue flower spikes in June; occurs in native prairies|
||Black Chokeberry||3-5'||6-8'||Suckering||M||3-8||Sun, tolerant of shade; tolerant of wet soils; black fruits; purplish-red fall color; best used in mass, forms large colonies; native in Midwest|
|Aronia melanocarpa 'Morton'
||Morton Black Chokeberry -IROQUOIS BEAUTY™||2-3'||4-5'||Suckering||S||3-8||Dwarf form; good fall color; Chicagoland Grows introduction|
|Caryopteris x clandonensis
||Bluebeard||2-4'||3-4'||Rounded||M/F||5-9||Sun; prefers well-drained to dry soil; late summer blue flowers; winter tender, cut to ground in spring|
|Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Arthur Simmonds'||Arthur Simmonds Bluebeard||2-4'||3-4'||Rounded||M/F||5-9||Dark blue-purple flowers; gray-green foliage|
|Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Worcester Gold'||Worchester Gold Bluebeard||2-4'||3-4'||Rounded||M/F||5-9||Yellow to chartreuse foliage; blue flowers|
||New Jersey Tea||3-4'||3-5'||Rounded||S/M||4-8||Sun to partial shade; tolerant of dry soil; white flowers in early July; native in Midwest|
||Sweet-fern||2-4'||4-8'||Erect spreading||S/M||2-5||Sun to part shade; prefers acidic, sandy to gravelly soil, but adaptable to poor, infertile soil; aggressively colony forming; aromatic, fern-like foliage; drought, salt, and heat resistant|
||Cranberry Cotoneaster||3-4'||3-6'||Spreading mound||M||4-7||Sun; dry soil; requires well-drained soil; pH adaptable; salt tolerant; red fall color|
|Cotoneaster dammeri||Bearberry Cotoneaster||1-2'||2-6'||Spreading||F||5-7||Sun; dry soil; semi-evergreen; showy fruit; winter damage below -15 F|
|Cotoneaster dammeri 'Coral Beauty'||Coral Beauty Bearberry Cotoneaster||1-2'||3-6'||Spreading||M||5-7||Excellent coral red fruits; glossy, evergreen foliage|
|Cotoneaster dammeri 'Lowfast'||Lowfast Bearberry Cotoneaster||6-12"||1-2'||Low-spreading||S||5-7||Grows only 12" tall; glossy evergreen foliage; glossy red fruit|
|Cotoneaster horizontalis||Rockspray Cotoneaster||2-3'||5-8'||Low-spreading||S/M||5-7||Sun to light shade; well-drained soil, pH adaptable; tolerant of wind and salt; stiff horizontal branching create layered effect; winter damage below -15 F|
||Hesse Cotoneaster||1-2'||5-6'||Spreading||S/M||4-7||Sun to light shade; moist, well-drained soil, glossy green foliage turns rich burgundy in fall; red fruits; good resistance to spider mite; use on slopes or as ground cover; Chicagoland Grows introduction|
||Slender Deutzia||2-4'||3-4'||Compact mound||S/M||4-8||Sun to light shade; well-drained soil; pH adaptable; drought sensitive; pure white flowers borne in clusters|
||Bush Honeysuckle||3-5'||3-5'||Mounded||M||3-7||Full sun to part shade; moist, well drained soil; yellow flowers in July; excellent fall color|
Georgia Bush Honeysuckle
|2-3'||3-5'||Compact mound||M||4-7||Large, sulfur-yellow trumpet-like flower clusters in July; Chicagoland Grows introduction|
||Dwarf Fothergilla||2-3'||2-3'||Rounded||S||5-8||Full sun to part shade; well-drained soil high in organic matter; white, honey scented, bottle-brush shaped flowers; attractive, late, yellow-orange-red fall color|
|Fothergilla x intermedia 'Mount Airy'
||Mount Airy Fothergilla||3-5'||3-5'||Upright||S||5-8||More upright habit than above; vibrant yellow-orange-red fall color|
|Hills-of-Snow-Hydrangea||4-5'||6-10'||Suckering||F||4-9||Shade; moist soil; white clustered flowers (6-8") on new wood|
|Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
||Annabelle Wild Hydrangea||4-5'||6-10'||Suckering||F||4-9||Very large white flowers (8-12") on new wood|
|Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes Dwarf'
||Sikes Dwarf Oak-leaved Hydrangea||2-4'||2-4'||Compact mounded||S/M||5-9||Sun to part shade, requires moist, well-drained organic soil|
For additional hydrangeas, click here.
St. John's Wort
|2-3'||3-4'||Rounded||F||4-7||Sun to part shade; dry soil; does well in dry, rocky soils; bluish-green foliage; bright yellow flowers in mid-summer|
|Sungold St. John's Wort||2-3'||2-3'||Rounded||M||4-7||Sun to light shade; adaptable to heavy, dry soils; stiff upright stems; clean, blue-green foliage; golden yellow flowers in mid-summer; excellent fall color|
||Sweetspire||3-5'||4-6'||Rounded||M||5-9||Full sun or shade; moist, acidic soil; suckering plant; abundant white summer flowers; good fall color|
|Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet'||Henry's Garnet Sweetspire||3-4'||3-4'||Mounded||M||5-9||More compact form; 3-4" long white flowers; excellent red-purple fall color|
||Japanese Kerria||3-6'||5-8'||Upright, arching||M||4-9||Sun to deep shade; well-drained soil; colony forming; bright green stems and foliage; bright yellow-gold flowers|
|Kerria japonica 'Picta'
||Variegated Japanese Kerria||3-4'||4-6'||Upright arching||M||4-9||Variegated green leaves edged in white; prefers shade; single yellow-gold flowers|
|Physocarpus opulifolius 'Nanus'||Dwarf Common Ninebark||2-6'||3-6'||Rounded||M-F||2-7||Shade; dry alkaline soil; creamy-white flowers; attractive red fruit capsules; useful on slopes as a ground cover|
||Shrubby Cinquefoil||1-4'||2-4'||Mounded||F||2-7||Sun; alkaline soil; tolerates poor soils; drought intolerant; yellow flowers bloom throughout summer|
|Potentilla fruticosa 'Goldfinger'||Goldfinger Shrubby Cinquefoil||2-3'||3-4'||Mounded||F||2-7||Compact form; yellow flowers; dark green foliage|
|Potentilla fruticosa 'McKay's White'||McKay's White Shrubby Cinquefoil||2-3'||2-3'||Mounded||F||2-7||Creamy white flowers|
|Potentilla fruticosa 'Pink Beauty'
||Pink Beauty Shrubby Cinquefoil||2-3'||2-3'||Mounded||F||2-7||Attractive pink flowers|
|Potentilla fruticosa 'Primrose Beauty'||Primrose Beauty Shrubby Cinquefoil||3-4'||5-6'||Mounded||F||2-7||Primrose flowers that pale with age; gray-green foliage|
||P.J.M. Rhododendron||3-6'||3-6'||Rounded||S||4-7||Evergreen, part to full shade, thrives in rich, well-drained slightly acidic soil rich in organic matter, protect from wind|
||Fragrant Sumac||2-6'||6-10'||Mounded||S/M||3-9||Sun to part shade; prefers acid, well-drained soil, tolerates dry soil; fragrant foliage; good, orange-red fall color|
|Rhus aromatica 'Gro-low'
||Gro-low Fragrant Sumac||2-3'||6-8'||Low mound||S/M||4-8||Maintains a uniform height; glossy leaves turn orange-red in fall; good cover for bank or slope|
|Shining Sumac - PRAIRIE FLAME™||5-6'||10'||Rounded||S/M||4-8||Sun for best fall color; dwarf compact habit; glossy foliage; brilliant red fall color; Chicagoland Grows® introduction|
|Ribes alpinum||Alpine Currant||3-6'||4-8'||Rounded||M||2-7||Sun or shade; urban tolerant; good as a hedge plant|
|Ribes alpinum 'Green Mound'||Green Mound Alpine Currant||2-3'||3-4'||Low mound||M||Compact; good quality foliage; good informal hedge; better leaf disease resistance|
||Rose-KNOCK OUT®||3-4'||3-4"||Round, compact bush||S/M||5-9||Sun to light shade, drought tolerant once established|
||Rose - PINK KNOCK OUT®||3-4'||3-4'||Round, compact bush||S/M||5-9||Sun to light shade, drought tolerant once established|
||Rugosa Rose||4-6'||4-6'||Rounded||M||3-7||Sun; best in well-drained, organic soil; pH adaptable; hardy shrub rose with stout, upright stems; solitary, rose-purple to white, fragrant flowers; attractive, large, orange-red fruits|
|Rosa rugosa 'Blanc Double de Coubert'
||Blanc Double de Coubert Rugosa Rose||4-6'||4-6'||Rounded||F||4-7||Sun; well-drained soil; clean, glossy dark foliage; semi-double, white, fragrant flowers with showy yellow stamens|
|Rosa rugosa 'Frau Dagmar Hastrup'
||Frau Dagmar Hastrup Rugosa Rose||3-4'||3-4'||Mounded||F||4-8||Prolific, fragrant, light-pink, single flowers with yellow stamens; large red fruit; excellent yellow to orange fall color; disease resistant|
Spiraea x cinerea 'Grefsheim'
|Spirea - FIRST SNOW™||4-5'||4-5'||Rounded||F||4-7||Sun; well drained soil; arching branches; early, white clusters of flowers before leaves emerge|
|Spiraea japonica 'Goldflame'
||Goldflame Japanese Spirea||2-3'||3-4'||Rounded||F||4-7||Sun; dry soil; medium- pink flowers; yellow-orange foliage in spring and fall; very heat tolerant|
|Spiraea japonica 'Anthony Waterer'||Anthony Waterer Spirea||3-4'||4-5'||Rounded to flat-topped||F||3-8||Sun; well-drained, dry soil; new leaves emerge brownish-red, change to green, then wine-red in fall; raspberry red flowers|
|Spiraea japonica 'Golden Princess'||Golden Princess Japanese Spirea||24-30"||2-3'||Low mound||F||4-8||Sun; bronzy-yellow foliage changes to yellow; pink flowers; good low ground cover|
|Spiraea japonica 'Little Princess'
||Little Princess Japanese Spirea||24-30"||24-30"||Dense, rounded||F||4-8||Full sun to light shade, pH tolerant|
|Spiraea japonica 'Neon Flash'||Neon Flash Japanese Spirea||2-3'||2-3'||Low-mound||F||4-8||Reddish-green foliage matures dark green; deep red flowers|
|Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa'
||Dwarf Cut-leaved Stephanandra||4-7'||4-8'||Mounded||F||4-7||Sun or shade; well-drained soil with organic matter added; suckering shrub with graceful arching stems; red-orange fall color|
||Coralberry||2-5'||4-8'||Upright arching||F||2-7||Sun to part shade; prefers well drained soils; found in floodplains, stream banks, and dry woods; coral-red berries persist into winter; valued by birds|
|Viburnum opulus 'Compactum'||Compact European Cranberry Bush||4-6'||6-8'||Rounded||S||4-7||Sun to shade; soil adaptable; dense habit; white flowers; showy persistent red fruit|
|Viburnum opulus 'Nanum'||Dwarf European Cranberry Bush||2-3'||3-4'||Globe||S||4-7||Sun to shade; needs well-drained soil; compact habit; good for low hedge|
For additional viburnums, click here.
|Wine & Roses® Weigela||5-6'||3-5'||Rounded||F||4-8||Sun; adaptable to any well-drained soil; graceful arching branches; vibrant rosy-pink flowers; burgundy-purple leaves|
|Weigela florida 'Elvera'
||Old fashioned weigela - MIDNIGHT WINE®||1-2'||1-2'||Low mounded||F||4-8||Dwarf version of above; dark metallic burgundy-purple foliage; deep pink flowers; use in front border|
|Weigela florida 'Minuet'
||Minuet old Fashioned Weigela||2-3'||2-3'||Rounded||M||5-8||Dwarf, compact habit; purple-tinged leaves; ruby red flowers with yellow throat; excellent cold hardiness|
||Tango Weigela||1-2'||2-3'||Rounded||M||5-8||Long leaves predominately purple with underside green; flowers red with yellow center; cold hardy|
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