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Shrubs are deciduous or evergreen woody plants and provide a variety of fragrant flowers, berries, autumn colour, foliage and coloured stems. In addition, they add shape and a basic structural framework to the garden and provide shelter and a food source for wildlife. They can be evergreen (retain leaves in winter) or deciduous (lose leaves in winter), although there are some that lose their leaves only in very cold weather (semi-evergreen).
Shrubs vary substantially in shape, size and habit and come from a wide range of habitats and climatic conditions.
With an enormous range of shrubs, both deciduous, evergreen and semi-evergreen, offered by garden centres and nurseries it is possible to find ones to suit a wide range of sites. Selecting the right shrub for the right place and soil conditions and buying a good quality plant is important if the shrub is to thrive.
A shrubs native habitat indicates the growing conditions it requires in the garden. Most shrubs are usually reliable and easy to plant successfully but some from warmer climates suffer in winter and need the shelter of a wall or greenhouse and well-drained conditions. Others such as ericaceous (lime-hating) shrubs including rhododendrons and camellia thrive in a moist acid soil and should not be planted in dry, alkaline or limed soils.
To keep shrubs healthy, productive and attractive as well as to restrict their size, shrubs often need pruning. This can cause gardeners concern but these simple guides should help:
Many shrubs can be raised from cuttings; softwood, semi-ripe or hardwood. Others can be raised from seed.
There are literally thousands of shrubs to choose from and some of the best can be seen on the RHS Find a Plant. See the links below for help with choosing suitable shrubs for your garden:
Shrubs are usually very robust garden plants, but sometimes will start to decline for no apparent reason. This often starts with browning leaves but may indicate an underlying disease such as honey fungus, phytophthora root rot or verticillium wilt.
Yellow leaves (chlorosis) indicate a nutrient deficiency.
Newly planted trees have their own set of problems.
Buying: trees and shrubs
Climbers and wall shrubs
Moving trees and shrubs
RHS video: shrub planting
Shrubs: smaller for year round interest
Shrubs: larger for year round interest
Shrubs: evergreen by size
Shrubs: evergreen for specific situations
Trees and shrubs: native to Britain
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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.