The Best Low Shrub With Color


Growing shrubs with colorful leaves as well as flowers keeps your garden display going year-round. Berries are another decorative feature shrubs can provide. Grow evergreen shrubs for structure and color through the winter, and select cultivars with leaves that also change color in spring and fall for variety and interest. Select shrubs that thrive in your landscape's existing conditions, such as full-sun sites -- which receive at least six hours' direct sunlight per day -- or partially shaded spots, which receive four to six hours of sunlight.

Warm Climates

Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) can grow up to 6 feet tall, but more commonly reaches only 3 feet, and spreads 1 1/2 to 3 feet wide. Red or yellow flower-like bracts appear in flushes in winter, spring or summer, and occasionally over the rest of the year. Grow crown of thorns in sunny spots and dry or medium moisture soil that's freely draining. This evergreen shrub is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 9 through 11.


  • Crown of thorns is named for its thick, sharp thorns, which appear on stems and branches. Wear thick gardening gloves when caring for this shrub.

Common gardenia 'Radicans Variegata' (Gardenia jasminoides 'Radicans Variegata') provides color year-round with its gray-green leaves edged with creamy white and its very fragrant white flowers that grow to 3 inches wide. Hardy in USDA zones 8 through 10, 'Radicans Variegata' grows 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide, and prefers partially shaded growing spots with organically rich, acidic freely draining soil.

Cool Climates

Winter daphne 'Aureomarginata' (Daphne odora 'Aureomarginata') grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. It's is hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9. Named for the yellow margins on its glossy green, evergreen leaves, 'Aureomarginata' bears very fragrant, reddish-purple blooms in winter through early spring. Grow 'Aureomarginata' in freely draining, neutral pH, sandy, organically rich soil in a partially shaded site.


  • Grow 'Aureomarginata' near doors, decks or patios to enjoy the intense fragrance of its flowers.

Heavenly bamboo Sienna Sunrise (Nandina domestica 'Monfar') features fiery red spring leaves that mature to green and turn red-tinted in fall and winter. Loose clusters of white flowers sometimes appear in spring. Hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, Sienna Sunrise grows 3 to 4 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide. This multi-stemmed shrub grows best in average, freely draining soil and sunny or partially shaded spots.

Cold Climates

Japanese pieris 'Valley Valentine' (Pieris japonica 'Valley Valentine') has orange-bronze spring leaves and maroon spring flowers. Its leaves mature to glossy dark green; in late summer, flower buds appear that persist through winter. Growing best in freely draining, organically rich, slightly acidic soil and sunny or partially shaded sites, 'Valley Valentine' grows 2 to 4 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.

Drooping laurel Scarletta (Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Zeblid') grows 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, and prefers partially shaded spots and acidic, freely draining soil. This shrub is named for its foliage. New spring growth is bright scarlet and matures to glossy deep green in summer. In fall, the leaves turn burgundy red and fade to purplish red or bronze in winter. Scarletta also blooms with creamy white spring flowers.

'Valley Valentine' and Scarletta are hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8.

Very Cold Climates

Scotch heather 'Spring Torch' (Calluna vulgaris 'Spring Torch') bears rose pink flowers in late summer through fall, and its evergreen foliage is vermilion-tipped winter through spring. In fall, the leaves become bronze or purple-toned. Growing 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall and wide, 'Spring Torch' is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 6 and grows best in full sun or partial shade and very freely draining, moist, acidic soil.

Common bearberry 'Big Bear' (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi 'Big Bear') grows 1/2 to 1 foot tall and 3 to 6 feet wide, and is hardy in USDA zones 2 through 7. This evergreen shrub grows cluster of small, pink-tinged, white spring flowers, followed by red berries that can persist through winter. Another decorative feature is its foliage, which turns red in winter. Grow 'Big Bear' in sunny spots and acidic, freely draining, dry to medium moisture soil.

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