Help us achieve our goals:
make a donation »
Join the RHS today and support our charity
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Make a donation
I have forgotten my password
Keep me signed in
Register for free to receive our newsletters, add comments to blogs/articles and to save content.
See what events are on near you and browse your bookmarked pages.
For a larger garden or to provide height at the back of a bed, decent sized shrubs (1.5-3m height and spread) can offer great structure and function. Large evergreen shrubs also offer screening and provide privacy. Deciduous shrubs offer practical opportunities to provide shade and shelter in gardens too small for trees. Unlike many trees shrubs respond well to pruning.
Our top 5 large shrubs for year round interest
Normally at least a third of the shrubs in a border will be evergreen or semi-evergreen. This lends a strong structure, even in winter.
This selection consists of widely available, medium to larger shrubs for general garden use.
See our additional advice page for a selection of smaller shrubs for year round interest.
Before choosing a shrub it is important to understand your garden. Here are a few points to consider before making your choice;
A suitable soil test (RHS Soil Analysis Service) will help identify the soil texture and acidity or alkalinity which will influence the range of suitable plants. Acid-loving (lime-hating) or ericaceous shrubs grow best in a pH range of 4-6, and ideally pH 5-5.5.
Shrubs have been chosen with an emphasis on flowering qualities and there are many other good shrubs for autumn colour or winter berries. Plants are grouped by season of flowering.
f = femalem = malev = variegated
a) EvergreenBerberis darwinii AGM, B. ‘Goldilocks’ Camellia japonica, C. × williamsii (many) – lime hatingCeanothus ‘Puget Blue’ AGMChoisya ternata AGMGarrya elliptica ‘James Roof’ (m) AGMOsmanthus delavayi AGM, O. × burkwoodii AGMPieris ‘Firecrest’ AGM – lime hatingPoncirus trifoliataRhododendron (many) including deciduous azaleas – lime hating (size 2.5-4m) (size 4-8m)
b) DeciduousBerberis × ottawensis ‘Superba’ Chaenomeles speciosa ‘Moerloosii’ AGMCornus mas Cytisus multiflorus, C. scopariusDeutzia × hybrida ‘Mont Rose’ AGM, D. × rosea ‘Carminea’ AGMEnkianthus campanulatus AGMForsythia × intermedia ‘Lynwood’ AGM – lime hatingMagnolia liliiflora ‘Nigra’ AGM – lime hatingMagnolia stellata ‘Water Lily’ AGMPaeonia ludlowii(s) Ribes sanguineum ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ AGMStachyurus praecox AGMViburnum × burkwoodii ‘Fulbrook’
a) EvergreenEscallonia ‘Donard Seedling’, E. ‘Peach Blossom’ AGMHebe ‘Great Orme’ AGM (slightly tender)Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ AGM, H. ‘Rowallane’ AGMPyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ AGMRosmarinus officinalis ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ AGM
b) DeciduousAbelia × grandiflora Buddleja alternifolia AGM, B. davidiiCeanothus × delileanus ‘Gloire de Versailles’ AGMFuchsia ‘Riccartonii’ AGM (slightly tender)Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’ AGMKolkwitzia amabilis ‘Pink Cloud’ AGMPhiladelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ AGM, P. ‘Virginal’ AGMRosa (many shrub roses)Spartium junceum AGMSpiraea nipponica ‘Snowmound’ AGMSyringa × josiflexa ‘Bellicent’ AGM, S. vulgaris ‘Katherine Havemeyer’ AGM, S. ‘Madame Lemoine’ AGMTamarix ramosissima ‘Pink Cascade’Viburnum plicatum ‘Grandiflorum’Weigela ‘Mont Blanc’
a) EvergreenOsmanthus heterophyllus ‘Variegatus’ AGMViburnum tinus ‘Eve Price’ AGM
b) DeciduousAbelia × grandiflora Berberis × ottawensis ‘Superba’Clerodendrum trichotomum var. fargesii AGMCotinus ‘Flame’ AGMCotoneaster bullatus AGMHibiscus syriacus ‘Hamabo’ AGM, H. ‘Woodbridge’ AGMHydrangea macrophylla ‘Altona’ AGM, H. paniculata ‘Grandiflora’Rosa ‘Geranium’ (moyseii hybrid) AGM, R. sericea subsp. omeiensis f. pteracantha
a) EvergreenCotoneaster lacteus (berries) AGMMahonia × media ‘Charity’, M. japonica AGM
b) DeciduousLonicera fragrantissimaHamamelis × intermedia ‘Jelena’ AGM, H. mollis ‘Pallida’ AGM – lime hatingSymphoricarpos orbiculatusViburnum × bodnantense ‘Deben’ AGM, V. ‘Dawn’ AGM, V. farreri (syn. V. fragrans) AGM
a) EvergreenElaeagnus pungens ‘Maculata’ (v) AGMFatsia japonica AGMIlex aquifolium ‘Handsworth New Silver’ (f/v) AGMPhotinia × fraseri ‘Red Robin’ AGMPrunus lusitanica ‘Variegata’
b) DeciduousCornus alba ‘Elegantissima’ (v) AGM, C. ‘Spaethii’ (v) AGM, C. mas ‘Variegata’ AGMCotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple’ AGMSambucus racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’ AGM
RHS Find a Plant
The Timber Press Encyclopedia of Flowering Shrubs by Jim Gardiner (Timber Press 2011, ISBN 978-0881928235)
The book is made available through the RHS Lindley Library.
Buying: trees and shrubsGarden design: sources of informationShrubsShrubs: evergreen by sizeShrubs: evergreen for specific situationsShrubs: smaller for year round interestShrubs: pruning evergreensTrees and shrubs: colourful foliageTrees and shrubs: plantingTrees and shrubs: variegated foliageTrees for smaller gardens10 AGM shrubs for autumn berries10 AGM winter flowering shrubs
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
RHS members can get exclusive individual advice from the RHS Gardening Advice team.
Register for the site or sign in to share your experiences on this topic and seek advice from our community of gardeners.
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.
Join the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9