Growing Shrubs

Growing shrubs

Shrubs offer visual interest all year round – whether in full leaf, full bloom or with bare stems set against the winter sky.

Add shrubs to your garden to create a permanent framework, around which you can add other flowers and bulbs to create a fantastic overall garden display. You can choose evergreen shrubs for foliage interest all-year round or deciduous shrubs that lose their leaves at the end of the season, having turned lovely shades of reds and yellows in autumn.

Planting shrubs

Dig a hole about 15cm (6 in) wider than the spread out root system (if bare-rooted) and to a depth whereby the soil mark from the nursery on the main stems of the shrub will be just covered. (If delivered in plugs or pots dig a hole twice as wide as the root ball of soil, but only a little bit deeper than the height of the root ball of soil.

N.B. If your garden soil is on the heavy side, you will get better establishment by cultivating the sub-soil in the area where the shrub is to be planted. Take out a wider hole than the original root ball of soil and loosen the subsoil with a fork before planting the shrub.

After placing the shrub in the hole, spread out the roots and add layers of soil, firming down with your foot or an old log. The final layer should not be firmed however, as it could shed water away from the shrub.

How to care for Shrubs


Established shrubs tend to look after themselves and the roots are amazing in finding water and nutrients in the soil. Even so, they may like a helping hand in very hot or dry weather. Water generously in the morning and the evening during hot spells


Again, shrubs are very resourceful so generally look after themselves when planted in a flowerbed. Feed with a general fertiliser at the beginning of the season – compost or rotted manure is a great tonic for established shrubs. Be sure to avoid piling up fertiliser so it touches the central stem as that may cause the stem to rot.


Different shrub plants require different levels of sun and shade. Good plant catalogues will tell you what the siting requirements are for a specific plant. Staff of plant nurseries are generally happy to help too, giving advice where they can.


For any shrub in your garden, prune once the plant has flowered. The time of year for this will vary from plant to plant, but it’s a good rule of thumb.

Prune the dead, damaged and diseased stems and branches on all shrubs after they’ve flowered using good secateurs and loppers. This keeps shrubs healthy and robust and flowering year after year, with you having to do relatively little – just enjoy the display.

Also any crossing branches that are rubbing on others could do with coming out. Just see which branches tend to be growing in odd directions and make a judgement call as to whether that branch needs to come out.

Good varieties for flower-power

Hydrangeas -1.2m have varieties called ‘mopheads’ that produce large pom-pom flowerheads in mid to late summer. They brighten up flowerbeds, even in rainy weather, as they love sun but are equally happy when it rains.

For early summer, introduce rhododendrons – 1.8m to your garden in flowerbeds or containers. So long as they are treated to acidic soils, they’ll flower profusely in sun or semi-shade. They’re evergreen too as an added bonus.

In winter, daphnes -1.2m flower when little else does- so choose a daphne not only to cheer up the winter garden but to add captivating scent too- the flowers smell sublime on a clear, crisp, winter day.

Good varieties for foliage

Berberis thunbergii ‘Orange Rocket’ – 1.2m Dense shrub with two-toned red-green leaves. Provides a great backdrop to spring and summer bulbs.

Weigela Florida Moulin Rouge- 1.5m – variegated leaves from spring to autumn and trumpet-flowers in mid-summer. Great for pollinators and easy to prune to keep an attractive habit.

Sambucus Black Lace – 2m – moody, near-black intricate leaves brings a touch of intrigue to the garden, especially when contrasting with clouds of pink flowers in early summer. What’s more- there are elderberries in autumn.

Pests and diseases for Shrubs

This depends on the plant and the variety but you can ensure good general health by feeding and watering throughout a shrub’s flowering season and removing dead branches when you spot it. Dead branches are a great hiding place for garden pests – so get rid of these and get rid of the pests.