30 Best Bushes for the Garden: A Guide

Choosing bushes for the garden can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task. Before adding bushes to your garden, ask yourself

3 very important questions

1) What is your intended purpose for adding bushes? (for Hedging, for greenery in a Shaded area, or for Flowers)

2) What bushes grow the best in your environment, and have the look that you are going for? (Deciduous or Evergreen)

3) What types of bushes are available? (Hardiness Zones)

If you are unable to answer any of the questions above, or need some advice on the best bushes for the garden to add, then read ahead!

Deciduous vs Evergreen

First, to determine what bushes you want for your garden, you need to know the difference between Deciduous trees and Evergreen trees. In short, deciduous trees shed their leaves annually, whereas evergreen, keep their leaves all year long! Therefore, deciduous trees are more sensitive to temperature changes than evergreen trees are. You will find deciduous trees in places with cold and dry weather conditions, whereas evergreen trees can not survive extreme weather changes.

Bushes Type: Hedging Shrubs, Shade Shrubs, and Flowering Shrubs

Next, to determine the best bushes for the garden, you will need to decide if you are looking for hedging shrubs, shade shrubs, or flowering shrubs. 

Hedging shrubs are most commonly used to create a border around your property. However, hedging can also be used to divide a garden, increase your privacy, or add some green-elements to a space. Hedges take some time to grow, but can create a natural and affordable barrier as opposed to building a wall. Hedges are also the most commonly used bushes for the garden, and are quite easy to plant! 

If you are looking to add bushes for the garden, but live in a very shaded area, then you will need to invest in some shrubs that can grow well without much sunlight! Shade shrubs thrive in areas that receive part sun (3-4 hours of sun per day) to full shade (the shrub only receives indirect sunlight). If you are someone who is looking to add some life to your garden, but dislike the lack of sunlight, well shrubs who thrive on shade will be perfect for you!


Lastly, Flowering shrubs are for individuals who want to add some curb appeal to their property. Flowering shrubs create luxurious blooms, and can attract pollinators like bees, hummingbirds and butterflies! There are some shade shrubs that are also flowering shrubs, but most large blooming shrubs require full-sun access for at least 4-6 hours a day. If you are looking to add beauty and color to your garden, and if you have a lot of sun access, then flowering shrubs are for you.


Let’s look at some of the best, most popular, options for bushes in each category (Hedge, Shade, Flowering)! 

Note: To determine your Hardiness Zone, you can look up the USDA Plant Hardiness Map, using your zip code.

10 Best Bushes for Hedging

1. Boxwood Shrubs


Aristocratic Europeans used Boxwood shrubs to create elegant designs, and pathways for their gardens. However, if you live in Northern America, then you definitely need to add some Boxwood shrubs to your space because they are deer-resistant! This shrub is great for creating formal landscapes and require minimal care. So, if you want a bush for the garden that adds a level of sophistication, then Boxwood shrubs are for you! 

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 6 to 8 

Sun Exposure: Partial

2. Japanese Holly

If you want a hedge that can get quite dense and about three to ten feet tall, then Japanese Holly is the bush for your garden! Also, this shrub actually looks a lot like boxwood shrubs, but requires even less work to keep alive. Many gardeners choose to plant Japanese Holly close to their foundation, as their year-round green has the ability to add to your curb appeal, and therefore improve your property value!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Full

3. Hornbeam Hedge

If you want a really tall hedge to add a lot of privacy, then the European Hornbeam is for you. Furthermore, this hedge has the ability to grow up to 10 to 80 feet! You can expect about a foot’s worth of growth per year, so you will be able to keep this hedge to a height that you prefer. In the Fall, this hedge turns a copper-tone to add some dynamic Autumn beauty to your space. If you googled “Bushes for the garden” because you want some privacy and greenery, then you need to invest in the Hornbeam hedge.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8 

Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Full Shade

4. Portuguese Laurel

The Portuguese Laurel is tolerant to warm climates and can thrive in various soils including clay, loam, and sand. If you want a dense hedge with dark green leaves then this hedge is for you. The Portuguese Laurel has the ability to grow up to 25 feet, and it is very popular in the US due to its nice appearance, low-maintenance, and deer-resistance.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

5. Yew

Yews make great bushes for the garden. In the US, the hedge is very popular due to its ability to thrive in diverse climates. The yew hedge has a deep olive color that creates a great privacy screen. The Yew is also very popular for creating shelter and food for various types of birds. If you live in an urban area or by a main road, you can add this hedge as it provides great noise reduction and can be grown to various heights!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

6. New Zealand Broadleaf

The New Zealand Broadleaf produces gorgeous light-green oval leaves that look gorgeous year-round. This hedge has the ability to grow up to 32 feet, and prefers to be planted near coastal areas, as it enjoys salty soils. These hedges grow roughly 20-40 cm per year, so they are easy to manage, and create great borders for any property! 

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 9 to 10 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

7. Leyland Cypress

If you want bushes for the garden that have rapid growth, and a slender shape, then the Leyland Cypress is for you. This hedge provides a great barrier, especially for really windy and drafty areas as it is very dense. The Leyland cypress can easily grow to a height of 60–70′ and spreads to 15–25′ at maturity. This hedge will look great in your space, and is super popular in the US, but will require annual pruning to keep its look nice and tidy. 

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 6 to 10 

Sun Exposure: Full

8. Thuja Emerald

Also known as the Emerald cedar, this hedge creates a neat and tidy appearance that can even thrive in containers and pots! If you are someone who hates to trim and upkeep your hedges every year, then this bush is definitely for you. These plants can grow in almost any soil, grow a foot a year, and has a stunning cone-shape that does not get very wide.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

9. American Cranberry-bush

If you want to plant a hedge that you can leave alone for years and it will still look good, then go with the American Cranberry-bush. This hedge produces red berries and white flowers, and many of the berries can stay alive through the cold winter months. Many people use this bush as a screen, or have them planted at their foundation or lining a sidewalk. If you live in a moist/rainy area, but have well-drained soil, then the American Cranberry-bush is for you.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 2 to 7 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

10. Cornelian Cherry Dogwood

If you want bushes for the garden that come in various varieties, be shaped easily, and have gorgeous yellow blossoms in the spring– then get yourself a cornus mas hedge! The Cornelian cherry produces edible cherries that make great preserves. Additionally, this hedge grows 2’ per year and can get up to 12’ in height and 4’ in width. Many individuals use Cornelian Cherry dogwood to frame landscapes or as decorative hedges.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Either (depending on variety)

Hardiness Zones: 1 to 6 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

10 Best Bushes for Shaded Areas

1. Oakleaf Hydrangea

The Oakleaf Hydrangea is native to the American Southeast and looks spectacular year-round. Depending on the variety of Oakleaf Hydrangea you get, these beauties can grow anywhere between 3 to 15 feet tall and wide! You will be able to get stunning white-blooms that thrive even in shaded areas.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Shaded to Light Sun

2. Camellias

If you want bushes for the garden that can be planted in-ground or in pots, have year-round glossy green foliage, and nice fall/winter blooms, then Camellias are for you. Most Camellia varieties grow 4-5 feet, so even if you have a small garden, these shrubs will look great. You can also find a tree variety that can grow even larger and taller! These plants do not do well with moist soil, so make sure your location has drier soil, as you will be able to leave these beauties alone to grow and spice up your space without much work.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 7 to 10

Sun Exposure: Shaded to Light Sun

3. Dwarf Chinese Holly

Dwarf Chinese Holly get roughly 2-3 feet tall and wide, and have glossy-green leaves. Most people like the Dwarf Chinese Holly as it is winter hardy, and has beautiful prickly leaves and little red berries. If you want a slow growing, low-maintenance bush, then this shrub is for you!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Shaded to Light Sun

4. Indian Hawthorn

If you are looking for bushes for the garden near a seaside location, then Indian Hawthorn is for you. When planted closely together, Indian Hawthorn has the ability to form a dense hedge. This bush also is slow-growing, and has a nice round-shape that produces sweet-scented pink and white blooms in the spring. In the winter, this shrub takes on a purplish tone, and is quite hardy throughout the year.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 8 to 11 

Sun Exposure: Shaded to Full

5. Rhododendron

If you are looking for large leathery leaves, with fragrant blooms then get yourself a Rhododendron! With so many varieties to choose from, Rhododendrons can either grow low at 1-2 feet whereas some can get to 25 feet. If you want versatility, bloom color/size options, and year-round greenery then get a Rhododendron!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Either (Depending on the Variety)

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

6. Hakonechloa

The Hakonechloa is actually a Japanese forest grass, but it’s clump-forming nature looks like a gorgeous bush. If you are searching: plants for the shady garden that look the absolute best, then you need to get your hands on a Hakonechloa. The cascading golden-green, or lime-toned leaves that turn purple or orange in the fall are absolutely stunning. The slender-blades, golden hues, and easy to care for look and requirements of this plant make it a must-have for shaded locations. You will wow all of your neighbors with this gorgeous forest grass.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Shaded

7. Honeysuckle

The Honeysuckle plant not only produces blooms with gorgeous scents, but it’s nectar is also known to taste like the first half of its name! There are many varieties of Honeysuckle, and they can grow just about anywhere in the United States. If you were looking for a bush for the garden that is both a shrub and a climbing expert, then the Honeysuckle is for you! This plant is fast-growing and requires little care but can also become invasive, so if you want gorgeous blooms and scents with little work and don’t mind them taking over, then get yourself a Honeysuckle plant.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Either  (Depending on the Variety)

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Shaded to Full Sun

8. Mountain Laurel

The Mountain Laurel has gorgeous blooms and deep green leaves. This dense shrub has a habit of growing in a rounded shape, and tends to be a bit picky about what soil it prefers. At maturity, expect your bush to be anywhere between 5 to 15 feet with various colorful blooms or brownish fruit. If given the right soil and location, these bushes will require very little work and will thrive in your garden.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9

Sun Exposure: Shaded to Part Sun

9. Boxwood Shrubs

Yes, this shrub can be found in our hedge section too, but it also does great in the shade! Aristocratic Europeans used Boxwood shrubs to create elegant designs, and pathways for their gardens. However, if you live in Northern America, then you definitely need to add some Boxwood shrubs to your space because they are deer-resistant! This shrub is great for creating formal landscapes and requires minimal care. So, if you want bushes for the garden that add a level of sophistication, requires minimal sun, and is green year-round, then Boxwood shrubs are for you!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 6 to 8

Sun Exposure: Partial

10. Bottlebrush Buckeye

The Bottlebrush Buckeye produces stunning white fluffy flowers in narrow clusters. Native to the southeast, the Bottlebrush Buckeye can grow up to 12 feet tall and blooms in late June or early July. As long as you have moist, well-drained soil then these gorgeous fellas will thrive and grow with minimal care and effort, and will even give you stunning yellow-leaves in the fall!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8

Sun Exposure: Partial

10 Best Flowering Bushes for the Garden

1. Azalea

When Azaleas are blooming, then you know spring has started! If you are looking for a shrub that keeps its blooms alive for several weeks, then Azalea’s are a must for your garden. Azalea’s come in various varieties so you can have one that grows up to 2 feet, or one that grows to 20 feet or more. There are a broad spectrum of colors when choosing the right Azalea for your garden, and they are also relatively easy to grow.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9

Sun Exposure: Partial to Full

2. Forsythia

William Forsyth was a Scottish botanist known to be a great royal head gardener! The Forsythia plant is named after William Forsyth, and if you have seen the shrub then you know that it does a great job honoring its namesake. The Forsythia plant can grow anywhere between 3-9 feet, and adds a dramatic flair to every garden with stunning yellow flowers. While the Forsythia plant is easy to care for, proper soil, sun and watering will affect the size and quality of its blooms!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9

Sun Exposure: Full

3. Lilac

If you want bushes for the garden that grow between 5 and 15 feet, have a sweet-fragrance, and attract lots of butterflies, then you need to get some Lilac! Lilac is known as the “Queen of Shrubs” for its attractive flowers, and blooms that last a minimum of two weeks! Lilacs are also used in soaps and perfumes, and have the ability to brighten a yard, and they also do not require intensive care. Fun fact: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson even had Lilacs growing in their colonial garden!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Full

4. Rhododendron

While also a great shade plant, the Rhododendron produces gorgeous flowers! If you are looking for large leathery leaves with fragrant blooms, then get yourself a Rhododendron! With so many varieties to choose from, Rhododendrons can either grow low at 1-2 feet and some can even get to 25 feet. If you want versatility, bloom color/size options, and year-round greenery then get a Rhododendron!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Either (Depending on the Variety)

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8 

Sun Exposure: Shaded to Light Sun

5. Butterfly Bush

If you googled best bushes for the garden, and you didn’t see Butterfly bush on the list, then you are missing out. The Butterfly bush is gorgeous, fast, growing, and has long multi-colored blooms that last for months! Adult butterflies also love to feed off of the butterfly bush, and can grow anywhere between 6 to 12 feet.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Full

6. Buttonbush

If you live in a moist environment that gets lots of rain and has well-drained soil, then the Buttonbush is for you. The Buttonbush produces ball shaped flowers, and is loved by pollinators. This shrub can also grow up to 20 feet tall, and is very fragrant and eye-catching.

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Either (Depending on the Variety)

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 10

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

7. Abelia

Bushes for the garden that have bell-shaped flowers with pink, peachy, or red hues is a must for every gardener. Abelia’s make for a great border plant, have sweet-scented blooms, and are known as an ornamental shrub. This plant will also produce leaves that are gold and burgundy, and once it is well-established, you can leave it alone for years and have long-lasting blooms that many pollinators will love!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Evergreen

Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9 

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

8. Caryopteris

If you hate that your garden has no blooms left in late summer or in early fall, then you need to get a Caryopteris shrub. Caryopteris is a sun-loving plant that shows-off its stunning blue blooms early to late summer, and keep their beauty into late fall. These plants can grow 2 to 3 feet, and are known to attract butterflies and bees while showing off some of the most unique deep blue and purple hues. 

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 6 to 9

Sun Exposure: Full

9. Beautyberry

Fall floral displays always tend to include some Beautyberry clipping in their designs. So, if you are looking for bushes for the garden that can be used to make decorative pieces, then this one is for you! The Beautyberry bush produces white blooms in late summer, which turn into stunning purple berries in the fall. This plant prefers rich organic soil that is well-drained, and can be found naturally growing in the southeastern United States. At a height and width of four feet, these gems are easy to care for and can add some color to your late summer garden!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

10. Rose of Sharon

If you want a summer garden filled with purple, white, and pink flowers then add some Rose of Sharon. This bush not only produces gorgeous delicate and large flowers, but it is also loved by pollinators, and can also make a great hedge or accent piece. This plant can grow 8 to 10 feet tall, and is relatively easy to care for and grow!

Deciduous or Evergreen?: Deciduous

Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9

Sun Exposure: Full to Partial

If you still can’t figure out the perfect bushes for the garden, and would like to grow some super easy flowers instead, check out our other gardening article. Or, find some inspiration and design through some great deals and perks at Houzz:

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