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10 Shrubs That Add Interest to Any Yard

Spring is officially here (or at least it is if you’re reading this as it’s published), and you’re likely itching to get in the dirt and make your outdoor spaces greener. 

But, you likely also run into the same problems that most of us do. What do I actually plant? And, how do I know if it can be planted this time of year? 

The Nashville area is in the 7b zone of the USDA’s plant hardiness zone map. Hardiness zones are based on an area’s average lowest extreme temperature. So, in the case of the Nashville area, that would be 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit. Be sure to check the labels on plants, as they normally indicate the zone for which they are best adapted.

Now that you know more about hardiness levels, it’s time to look for some inspiration! Here are 10 shrubs and trees that will add interest to your yard in any season:

Hydrangea

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This shrub is a favorite, especially in the south, because of the beautiful, large blooms it produces. There are several varieties of hydrangeas, but the oak leaf hydrangea is native to Tennessee. It has cone-shaped blooms, as well as large leaves shaped similarly to those of an oak tree (hence the name). Hydrangeas can be prone to root rot, so make sure you’re checking soil moisture levels before watering.

Looking for more information on the beloved hydrangea? Check out our post for the full guide to caring for these southern beauties!

Boxwood

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When you think of bushes in landscaping, the boxwood is probably what first comes to mind. While this classic shrub isn’t native to North America, it’s a classic in landscaping worldwide. That’s thanks to the boxwood’s many varieties being easy to grow, adaptable to different conditions, and its overall hardiness.

Holly

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Holly comes in both shrub and tree forms with their glossy green leaves. They also have blooms that pollinators love, and then there’s the classic holly berry that’s reminiscent of Christmas time. They also come in both evergreen and deciduous varieties. So, if you’re looking for something to keep your outdoor spaces green year round, make sure you’re planting an evergreen variety. (Inkberry holly can be a great native alternative to boxwoods.)

American Beautyberry

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As the name suggests, this shrub is native to America, and is also native to Tennessee. It does produce small flowers in the spring, but the crown jewel of this shrub is the bright purple berry clusters it yields in the fall. If you’re looking to welcome more wildlife, like birds and deer, the fruits of this shrub should do the trick. The American beautyberry tends to grow wide, so it can also be a great option if you’re looking to fill more space with fewer plants.

Crape Myrtle

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Crape myrtles come in shrub and tree varieties, but you’re likely most familiar with the trees. These are popular plants in the southeast, and you’ve likely seen them in neighboring yards or even along well-kempt highways and interstates. While the varieties that grow best in this area aren’t evergreen, crape myrtles do provide interest to outdoor spaces year round. They produce leaves in the spring, and they have beautiful exfoliating bark – much like a birch tree – that is exposed in the late fall and winter months. They flower in the summer with blooms that can be white, pink, red or even deep purple.

Rhododendron

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If you’ve been to the Great Smoky Mountains, then you’ll probably recognize this plant. It comes in shrub and tree varieties, most of which are evergreen. They do best away from direct afternoon sun and thrive in partly shaded areas. These shrubs and trees have green leaves and normally flower in the spring or early summer. (Even if you’re unfamiliar with rhododendron in general, you’re likely familiar with another popular shrub in the same genus – azaleas!)

Eastern Redbud

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This one is a personal favorite of mine, especially since it’s one of the first signs of spring. While the eastern redbud is a tree, it is a smaller one that can pass for a large shrub depending on how you shape it. This plant is known and loved for its deep pink, springtime flowers, as well as its irregular and wide branch patterns. This eastern North American native provides nectar to insects in the spring, and is often used by birds for nesting and shelter once leaves take over the branches. It’s a wonderful option to fill wide spaces and provide a bright pop of color in the spring.

Cherry Laurel

Cherrylaurel

photo from North Carolina State Extension

This shrub is one of the fastest growing, and it’s also likely another shrub you’ve seen around. This evergreen bush produces fragrant, white flowers in the spring and has large leaves year round. The cherry laurel also yields fruit that resembles a cherry. It is important to note that ingesting any part of this plant is poisonous to both humans and animals. If you have small children or curious pets, this shrub is likely not a good choice for your landscaping.

Juniper

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Whether or not you know it, you probably see junipers anytime you leave your house. These evergreen shrubs and trees grow in most of the United States. The juniper tends to be low maintenance and provides color and privacy to your yard all year long. They fit well in tight spaces, help prevent soil erosion, and even provide for wildlife with their small berries.

Abelia

Abelia

photo from North Carolina State Extension

If you’re searching for another flowering shrub, abelia might be the right choice for you. Part of the honeysuckle family, this shrub produces small but plentiful blooms with a sweet smell. While not native to North America, these flowering shrubs are still a favorite among southern gardeners. The abelia is often dense and can sometimes be used as hedging or screening, unlike many flowering shrubs. They also tend to need a little more care when it comes to watering and pruning to ensure optimal growth and flowering.

Now that you’ve made it to the bottom of this list, you have plenty of options for shrubs (and some trees) to enhance your outdoor spaces this year. Happy planting!

Need more inspiration, or even some design help? We’re all about making outdoor spaces usable, beautiful and enjoyable. Come see us at the garden center to get your questions answered, or schedule an appointment with one of our designers!

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