When choosing shrubs to line a walkway, you need to consider their mature height and spread. Select shrubs less than 6 feet tall so as not to create a closed-in space. Slow-growing species require less maintenance and are less likely to spread widely and overtake a walkway. For an open effect, plant deciduous shrubs; for a more formal, structured effect, chose evergreens, as they keep their foliage all year and tend to grow more densely.
Evergreen for Sun
If your walkway receives direct sunlight all day long, choose sun-loving shrubs. The boxwood (Buxus microphylla) thrives in sun and cool, moist soil. Protect this evergreen shrub with a layer of mulch. Boxwood grows in a compact, rounded shape to heights of 4 feet, with an equal spread. The boxwood produces fragrant spring flowers.
The spring heath (Erica carnea ) tolerates full sun to partial shade and moist, acidic and well-drained soil. Spring heath blooms with showy red and pink flowers from the late winter through the early spring. It grows to a foot tall and 2 feet wide and has bright green needles.
Deciduous for Sun
Deciduous shrubs lose their foliage in the winter, so choose species with attractive bark, nuts or fruits, or colorful fall foliage to add late-season interest to your walkway. The buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis ) grows in full sun to light shade and has reddish-brown to shiny green stems. This shrub blooms in the late summer with white, spherical flowers. The buttonbush prefers moist soil and grows to 6 feet tall, with a rounded shape.
The Virginia rose (Rosa virginiana) blooms with pink, fragrant blossoms in the late spring, followed by showy red hips in the late summer. The Virginia rose thrives in full sun and well-drained, acidic soil. These shrubs have reddish bark and red to purple fall foliage. They grow from 4 to 6 feet tall.
Evergreen for Shade
Sites that are in shade more than five or six hours a day are considered partially shaded, while lightly shaded sites receive four to five hours of sunlight. The rose daphne (Daphne cneorum), a slow-growing evergreen, prefers shady sites with moist, well-drained soil. The rose daphne grows to a foot tall and twice as wide, and has narrow, dark green foliage. Rose daphne shrubs produce fragrant pink flowers from the spring through the summer.
The mountain pieris (Pieris floribunda) tolerates partial shade to sun exposures with well-drained, acidic soil. This evergreen grows to 4 feet tall, with a similar spread, and has dense, leathery foliage. The mountain pieris blooms in the spring with white 4-inch-long aromatic flowers.
Deciduous for Shade
For shady areas, choose deciduous shrubs with fragrant, light-colored flowers that stand out in dark sites. The snow wreath blooms with feathery white flowers in the late spring. This shrub prefers partial shade and well-drained, moist soil. The snow wreath grows from 3 to 6 feet tall, with an equal spread, and has serrated foliage that turns yellow-green in the fall.
The Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica ) thrives in partial shade and rich, moist soil. This deciduous to semi-evergreen has serrated dark green foliage that turns yellow to crimson in the fall. Virginia sweetspires bloom with long spires of white flowers in the late spring. They grow from 3 to 6 feet tall, with a similar spread.
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Buxus Microphylla
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Cephalanthus Occidentalis
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension; Small Shrubs; Charlotte Glen
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Erica Carnea
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Rosa Virginiana
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Daphne Cneorum
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
- University of Vermont Extension; Cary Award Winning Plants; Leonard Perry
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension; Shrubs 1-4'; M. A. (Kim) Powell
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Pieris Floribunda
- University of Connecticut Plant Database: Neviusia Alabamensis
- North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension: Itea Virginica