Border shrubs

Shrubs bring beauty and structure to any border, with fabulous flowering displays, attractive foliage and vibrant fruits. There are choices to suit all growing conditions and planting styles – as well as classic roses, there are bold-leaved fatsias for tropical borders, aromatic lavenders for cottage-style gardens, clipped topiary or contemporary designs, and much more. These plants are especially valuable from autumn through to spring, when many other border stars disappear.


With their woody stems, these shrubs form a year-round feature in borders, often bursting into spectacular bloom in spring or summer. Many also have attractive foliage and fruits too. There are taller types for use as a border backdrop, and medium or small ones that can be woven throughout. Some are evergreen, and can be clipped into topiary balls or cones, while others drop their leaves in autumn.


Shrubs like plenty of space in a border to show off to their full potential. To get these long-lived plants off to a good start, enrich the soil with well-rotted compost or manure before planting.


Shrubs will struggle if not given the conditions they need, so check plant labels carefully when choosing what to buy. Don’t let new shrubs dry out before they’ve had a chance to get their roots down into the soil – water regularly for the first year.

Did you know?

Evergreen topiary adds year-round interest to any border and has been gracing European gardens since Roman times. Choose shrubs with dense, compact growth and small leaves, such as box or yew and clip into formal cones or balls, or even animals and birds.

Growing guide

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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.