Mark Weathington, director of the JC Raulston Botanical Garden at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, discussed several small shrub varieties that are very interested in compact packaging and the benefits of choosing the right size for a specific space:
“Don’t worry, even if space is limited, there are still many compact shrubs that can provide color, fun and excitement. Choosing the right size plants will ensure that you have no extra work to prevent them from overwhelming your neighbors. Treat each plant as a key part of the whole , If it doesn’t work, please move around or remove it completely without hesitation.”
In addition to choosing a shrub that you know will stay small and considering how it will adapt to your neighbors, it is also important to know whether a certain shrub grows well in your area.Find four small but powerful shrubs for the northeast below, and a more compact shrub in Mark’s article Compact shrubs that provide color, interest, and excitement.
See the best Compact shrubs in other regions
1. Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® Smooth hydrangea
Name: Hydrangea ‘NCHA7’
size: 30 to 36 inches in height and width
situation: Full to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil
Native range: Eastern United States
You can expect multiple softball-sized spheres, composed of tiny, dense, deep purple-red flowers from this smooth hydrangea. From early summer, flowers continue to appear on top of new stems, and often continue to develop until frost; with age, each flower head will turn pale pink, and eventually turn yellow-brown in autumn. Hard stem of Invincibelle Mini Mauvette® Covered with textured 3 to 8 inch dark green leaves, it provides attractive contrast and rigid support for the flower clusters. This recently introduced variety offers a revolutionary color. The smooth hydrangea allows the flowers to grow new blooms, so you can freely prune it every year.
2. Celtic pride® Siberian Cypress
Name: Flora ‘pride’
size: 1 to 3 feet high and 6 feet wide
situation: Full sun to ample shade; well-drained soil
Native range: Mountains of Southeastern Siberia
The growth of this Siberian cypress is similar to the ground cover juniper, but it is more shade-tolerant and more resistant to deer and pests. The soft, horizontally stacked branches of fresh green leaves expand into a charming 3D carpet.As winter approaches, Celtic proud of the leaf color® It transforms into a distinctive plum-auburn-bronze color, which is in sharp contrast with other conifers, ornamental grasses and fruit shrubs. It doesn’t like moist soil, especially in winter, but once established, it has excellent tolerance to dry conditions. This is a great choice for the slopes of the rock garden, with its undulating fern-like branches hugging the silhouette and boulders, changing colors with the seasons. Prune in the spring to control its spread and allow new growth to quickly arch over the exposed branches below.
Name: Rhododendron ‘Purple gem’
size: 4 feet high and wide (after 10 years)
situation: Full sun to partial shade; fertile, acidic, well-drained soil
Native range: Hybrids
From early spring to mid-spring, each branch of this shrub has a large number of small clusters of purple-purple flowers. As the flowers fade, shiny gray-blue leaves will appear, gradually turning to a rusty olive green in the warmer months, and then turning to bronze in the winter. As a bonus, the leaves are aromatic when bruised. In sunny places, the change in leaf color is most obvious. ‘Purple Gem’ cannot tolerate the accumulation of water around its roots. If the soil is too alkaline, chlorosis will cause the leaves to turn yellow. Although they are compact and slow-growing, most Rhododendron spp. will eventually grow leggy. Fortunately, they respond well to light or even severe cuts that control size and shape.
4. “Hummingbird” Summer Sweet
Name: Geranium ‘Hummingbird’
size: 2 to 4 feet high, 3 to 5 feet wide
situation: Partial to full shade; moist, acidic soil
Native range: U.S. East Coast and West to Texas
Summersweet is a common name that aptly describes the unique and long-lasting fragrance that this small piece of jewelry adds to our late summer outdoor enjoyment. Starting in midsummer, white bottle brush flower spikes cover each stem and attract pollinators for a month or more. The shiny dark green leaves of the’hummingbird’ 3 to 4 inches long turn yellow and golden brown before falling in autumn. This low-maintenance mound-shaped cultivar grows less than 6 inches per year, making it ideal for small-space gardens. Since it blooms on new growth, it is best to prune it in late winter to shape it and remove unattractive branches.
Wayne Mezitt is a plant breeder, a member of the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and the chairman of Weston Nurseries in Hopkinton, Massachusetts.