New compact shrubs are worth trying

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Many have flowers and fruit.

Shrubs are making a comeback. What are shrubs? They are the woody plants that you put in the landscape between the annuals and perennials and the trees. They are usually the middle layer of the landscape.

Shrubs have always gotten a bad rap because of the fact that they can get so big. Take a dwarf burning bush for instance, it can grow to around 15 to 20 feet tall. Unless you have a lot of space, shrubs aren’t going to fit in your landscape. Until now.

There has been a lot of breeding in the shrub world and there are tons of new introductions of shrubs that are shorter, more compact, and have excellent characteristics such as flower, fruits, etc.

Take a look at hydrangeas. Many of those that were introduced around 10 years ago are quite tall. One of the most popular, limelight, can grow to around fifteen feet!

To keep it in bounds in a smaller landscape, we prune it. But why do we have to prune it every year? That’s just more work. Stop putting large plants in small spaces – help yourself!

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Many of the newer plants are naturally compact and won’t need pruned each year. The new hydrangeas that have been introduced recently are more compact. For example, Tuff Stuff is a mountain hydrangea that is two to three feet tall by the same as wide.

I am particularly interested in shrubs that give me color this time of the year and there is none better than Callicarpa or beautyberry. The purple fruits cover the plant now and are stunning.

A newer cultivar called Early Amethyst is much shorter than the species, growing around four by four feet. The tiny fruits line the branches and are in clusters that turn purple in September.

Another one of my favorite shrubs which happens to have edible fruits is Aronia or chokecherry. The cultivar Autumn Magic grows to around 18 to 24 inches in height and width. The plant blooms in the spring and has small white flowers that turn into beautiful dark purple, almost black fruit.

Though a little stringent, the fruit is edible and can be used to make jams and more. It hangs from the branches in clusters and if not picked, consumed by the birds. The plant also has a wonderful reddish fall color.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

And finally, one of my most favorite late-summer, early fall blooming shrubs is Ruby Spice summersweet clethra. This shrub starts blooming in late August and goes into September. Ruby Spice is one of the first clethra’s to have pink flowers. Most of the others have white flowers.

It is a great plant for moist or damp areas and does well in a little bit of shade. Ruby Spice is around four to six feet tall and can be pruned once in the spring if you want to keep it a little shorter.

If you are looking for something to fill in a spot in the landscape border or even in the foundation planting, consider some of the newer cultivars of shrubs that are almost no maintenance!

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at

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