Small Shrubs For Front Yard Landscaping


An array of evergreen and deciduous shrubbery that will keep their proper place in your landscape discussed and described. Dwarf or small sized bushes for a front yard or foundation planting may be the solution for those seeking a lower maintenance landscape. Listing of small shrubs that might be what you are looking for to complete your front yard landscaping.

What Is The Biggest Landscape Mistake?

…and what do small shrubs have to do with it?

The worst landscaping mistake that I see, and it is everywhere, is shrubbery planted inspire too small for their mature growth.

They crowd the walkway, overhang the doorways, block the windows and look sadly out of place.

That is not the worst of it! The homeowner must constantly wrestle them into their spaces by pruning and hedging. Unfortunately, while that handles the irritating branches from getting in the way it does nothing for the looks of the place.

If your foundation plantings or other landscaping shrubs have grown too big for their space, go ahead and remove them. It is time to find shrubs in the proper mature sizes to flatter your home, not mask it.

Smaller Shrubs for Smaller Spaces

As mentioned, these areas of our yards are the spaces between the house and the walkway to the front door, the plantings adjacent to doorways, in front of windows, near driveways and sidewalks, among others that need clear access.

cottage path

Pathway planting in a cottage style garden. | Source

A new nursery plant may not give any indication of how much or how quickly it can outgrow its place. Even though many tags have this information, it requires some thought and visualization to match your planting bed position and the shrubbery’s eventual size. My answer to this dilemma is to research ahead of time, and create a plan. A rudimentary plan is enough to go by when avoiding the “oversize plant in undersize spot”.

  • Take measurements of the spot you are planning to fill.
  • Find several plant candidates to fulfill your requirements (height, width, moisture, light,  soil pH, cold hardiness).
  • Keep the list handy (your notes in a smartphone will work, as will a small notepad for the purpose) when shopping for plants.

Keeping a researched plan will also solve the common problem of slotting a poorly chosen plant that just never does well and looks poorly (should it survive, at all). The needs for sun or shade and the soil pH are probably the most crucial for plant survival in foundation plantings. But should you choose one that grows well, it is the height and width of the plant that will be either a joy or nuisance in the coming years.

….. which returns to the topic of which shrubs are low growing or compact enough for  a small front yard and restricted spaces.

What Defines “Small”?

An easy planting with sedums and dwarf shrubs makes a low maintenance front yard feature

Looking at the adjectives describing plants, many things can be meant by “dwarf” and  “compact”. “Lowgrowing” is also a variable that can be misleading. Compact for the usual size of the plant? Lowgrowing in comparison to a large shrub or one that hugs the ground? Again, it is time to check the maturity measurements for ultimate height and width.

It also helps to visit an Arboretum in your general location. Great way to see plantings of woody plants that have reached their full potential sizes.

Example of Finding a Smaller Shrub

Variegated weigela and blue hosta lovely with fringe trees

Weigelas.Usually a large, unwieldy shrub with beautiful spring flowers

Small Versions
‘Minuet’ Weigela is one of the best dwarf cultivars: 2-3 ft. x 3-4ft.
Dwarf Weigela ‘Wine & Roses’ is said to become 5ft. by 5ft.
“My Monet” 12-18 inches
‘Eyecatcher’ will be 2ft. tall and wide.

This example shows the wide degree of difference in “low growing” designation of the same type of bush.

List of Small Evergreen Shrubs for Foundation Planting

dwarf mugo pine

Be sure to buy cultivars that are compact and dwarf forms.

  • ‘KALEIDOSCOPE’ ABELIA (Abelia grandiflora)
  • ‘GREEN GEM’ BOXWOOD (Buxus hybrid)
  • ‘NANA’ DWARF BALSAM FIR (Abies balsamea)
  • WINTER HEATH (Erica carnea)
  • GEM BOX® INKBERRY HOLLY (Ilex glabra)
  • ‘BLUE STAR’ JUNIPER (Juniperus squamata)
  • DWARF MOUNTAIN PINE (Pinus mugo var. pumilio)
  • ‘LITTLE GEM’ NORWAY SPRUCE (Picea abies)
  • ‘TATER TOT’ Arborvitae

List of Dwarf Deciduous Shrubs for Small Spaces

  • ‘Double Play Dolly’ Spirea
  • ‘Magic Carpet’ Spirea
  • ‘Little Princess’ Spirea
  • ‘Fire Light Tidbit’ Hydrangea paniculata
  • ‘Otto Luyken’ cherry laurel 3-4 ft.
  • ‘Petite Plum’ Ninebark shrubs (Physocarpus)
  • ‘Little Joker’ ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius}
  • Viburnum opulus Nanum
  • ‘Yuki Snowflake’ Deutzia
  • ‘Hummingbird’ Clethra alnifolia
  • ‘Little Henry®’ sweetspire
  • Dwarf Encore Azaleas
  • ‘Sherwood Red’ Azalea
  • ‘Congratulatory Light’ Azalea
  • ‘Gumpo White’ Azalea
  • ‘Low Scape Hedger®’ Aronia
  • ‘Pink Micro Chip’ Buddleia
  • ‘Purple Diamond’ Loropetalum

Tip: Plants for rock gardens are compact, slow growing, and diminutive.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author


I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of "Ilona's Reflecting Pool". Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. The work on "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.