For you Monty Python fans out there, sometimes we’re like the Knights Who Say “Ni:” We want a shrubbery.

Hydrangea quercifolia

Oakleaf hydrangea offers multiple seasons of interest.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

Kerria japonica

Kerria has nice yellow blooms in spring.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing


Old-fashion lilacs are wonderfully fragrant.

Photo Credit: Felder Rushing

But which one?

Having an idea of what you want – and what you need – will help you choose the right plant for your yard. Here are several questions to ask yourself when making that important plant decision:

Evergreen or deciduous?

Do you want a shrub that’s evergreen (holds its leaves year-round) or deciduous (drops its leaves in winter)? Evergreens are especially nice in winter, but shrubs such as forsythia or lilac are lovely in spring.

What time of year do you want interest?

Everyone loves spring-blooming shrubs, but don’t forget about fall-fruiting shrubs like holly, beautyberry, snowberry and cotoneaster. Camellias provide winter bloom – a rarity.

How big of a plant do you need?

Don’t waste your time buying a plant that’s the wrong size for the allotted area. If you try to force a big plant into a small space, you’ll end up hating it because you’re constantly running into it or having to prune. On the other hand, a plant that’s too small will leave a big gap that you’ll just have to fill later. The key to remember: Size does matter.

Sun or shade?

Shade-loving shrubs like azaleas die in a year or two if planted in full sun. Sun-loving shrubs can live for a few years in shade, but they won’t produce many flowers. Always follow a plant’s light requirements.

What about fragrance?

Shrubs that you smell first and see later are some of my favorites. Winter honeysuckle, banana shrub and Elaeagnus are some of these. Scent can be an important feature in a garden – so don’t rule the possibility out!

What’s available to you?

Shrub selection also depends on what you can find, your budget and plant health. Make a list of several plants that would work in your yard before you go to buy one, so you’ll know what your options are. Remember, 1-gallon plants are cheaper and easier to plant, but they take much longer to fill in.

Once you’ve selected and purchased your shrub, it’s time to put it in the ground. I recommend digging a hole no deeper than the rootball of the plant, but three times as wide. Unless you have really, really bad soil, don’t add anything to the hole. Set the plant into the hole at the same depth at which it was growing in the pot (don’t bury it any deeper or plant it above the original soil line). Refill the hole with the original soil, and water in thoroughly – even in winter. (Watering-in is a crucial step that many people disregard.) Don’t prune the plant, unless there are broken branches.

And that’s it! Enjoy your shrubs…and feel free to quote other Monty Python skits, now.