no. 7.415

Deciduous Shrubs

by R.A. Cox and J.E. Klett*(12/13)

Quick Facts...

  • Use shrubs for screening, privacy, windbreaks, wildlife habitats, landscape color and texture.
  • Deciduous shrubs provide a seasonal change of interest in the landscape.
  • Well-placed shrubs take into account available space, exposure and soil conditions.
  • Table 1 lists shrubs for elevations below 6,000 feet that are widely available in garden centers and nurseries.

Shrubs are immediately noticeable in the landscape because they are at eye level. Flower and fruit displays, interesting foliage shapes and colors, and even bark color and texture add interest. Shrubs can visually anchor a building to a site, guide the eye toward or away from certain views, and bridge the space between lower-growing perennials and taller trees. Deciduous shrubs offer seasonal changes not found with evergreen shrubs.

Because of their varied size, shrubs are versatile landscape performers. A 2-foot shrub can complement perennials in the flower bed, while a 20-foot hedge can screen even the largest property. Some shrubs may be pruned to a single or few stems for growth as small specimen trees. Pruning others flat to decorate a wall in an espalier can provide a focal point for a courtyard or walkway. Space shrubs singly or mass them in small odd-numbered groups to fill in a shrub border. Spacing closely in a line will allow plants to grow into a hedge or screen. The spacing at planting depends on the growth habit and mature size of the shrub species, as well as the intended purpose.

Before purchasing shrubs, decide the function you need them to perform in the landscape. Are you interested in screening an undesirable view, intercepting the glare of car headlights from the street, hiding the house foundation, reducing the wind velocity, attracting birds, or adding flowers or fall color?

After determining the function, write down a description of the intended planting site to include soil texture (clay, sand, etc.), available moisture, and exposure (compass direction and sunny vs. shady). Remember, as landscapes mature, a sunny site may change to a shady one.

Colorado growing conditions present both challenges and opportunities. Dry, sunny days and cool nights make plant diseases relatively rare and prolong or intensify flowering. Late frosts may damage the flowers of spring flowering shrubs. Soil conditions often are not conducive to growing certain species. Both climate and soil conditions vary widely across the state, meaning some shrubs may grow well in one area but not in others.

The following list, while not comprehensive, provides information on the more commonly available deciduous shrubs for elevations below 6,000 feet. For a listing of shrubs adapted to higher elevations, refer to fact sheet 7.423, Trees and Shrubs for Mountain Areas. Drought-tolerant shrubs are listed in 7.229, Xeriscaping: Trees and Shrubs. Native shrubs suitable for landscapes are listed in 7.422, Native Shrubs for Colorado Landscapes.

Table 1: Most commonly available shrubs for elevations below 6,000 feet.
Plant Name Soil
Moisturea
Exposureb Flower Colorc
and Month
Fruitd Fall
Colore
Comments
small SHRUBS (less than 4 feet high when mature)
Berberis thunbergii
atropurpurea

   Purpleleaf Japanese barberry
    'Crimson Pygmy'
   Golden Nugget™



L-M
L-M



S-PSh
S-PSh



NI
NI



R
R



R-Pu
O



Reddish-purple foliage.
Golden foliage
Caryopteris spp.
    Blue mist spirea
L-M S-PSh Bl-P/7-9 Tan NI Cut back in late winter.
Cornus sericea 'Kelseyi'
    Kelsey dogwood
H S-PSh NI NI R-Pu Mounded; red stems.
Cotoneaster apiculatus
    Cranberry cotoneaster
M S-PSh P/5 R R Mounded habit.
Cotoneaster horizontalis
    Rock cotoneaster
M S-PSh P/5 R R-Pu Good tall groundcover; distinctive branching pattern.
Hydrangea arborescens
   Smooth Hydrangea
   'Annabelle'
   Incrediball®
   Invincibelle® Spirit


M-H
M-H
M-H


Sh-PSh
Sh-PSh
Sh-PSh


W/7-9
W/7-9
P/7-9


NI
NI
NI


NI
NI
NI


Large, showy flowers.
Very large flowers.
Very large flowers.
Hypericum kalmianum
    Hypericum (St. John's-wort)
    'Hidcote'
L-M

M
S-PSh

S-PSh
Y/7-9

Y/7-9
NI

NI
O-Pu

NI
Blue-green foliage; hardier.

Cut back to ground in fall.
Ligustrum vulgare 'Lodense'
    Privet, 'Lodense'
L-M S-Sh W/6-7 B NI Dark green foliage held late.
Lonicera spp.
    Honeysuckle
    'Emerald Mound'
   ‘Wolfii’
    'Clavey's Dwarf'


M
M
M


S-Sh
S-Sh
S-Sh


W/5-6
P/5-6
W/5-6


R
-
R


NI
NI
NI


Mounded habit.
Fragrant, trumpet-like flowers.
Good hedge.
Potentilla fruticosa
   Potentilla (shrubby cinquefoil)
   'Abbotswood'
   'Coronation Triumph'
   'Gold Drop'
   'Jackmannii'
   'Katherine Dykes'
L-M S-PSh Y-W/6-9

W
Bright Y
Golden Y
Deep Y
Light Y
NI NI Compact, rounded.

Spreading.
Upright.
Compact.
Upright.
Spreading.
Prunus besseyi
   Pawnee Buttes®
   Creeping Western sandcherry

L

S

W/4-5

B

R-Pu

Low groundcover.
Plant Select® 2000.
Ribes alpinum
   Alpine currant
L-M S-Sh NI NI Y Good for hedge.
Rhus aromatica Grow-low
   Grow-low sumac
L-M S-PSh Y/3-4 R R-Pu Vigorous, widespreading.
Ribes trilobata
   ‘Autumn Amber’
   Autumn Amber Threeleaf
        sumac
L S Y/3-4 R O-Y Low groundcover.
Spiraea x bumalda
   Bumald spirea
   'Anthony Waterer'
   'Froebelii'
   'Goldflame'

M-H

S-PSh

P-Pu/6-8
R-rose
P
P

NI

Br-Pu


R-O

Spreading, flat-topped.

Slightly taller.
Yellow-green foliage.
Spiraea japonica 'Little Princess'
   Little Princess spirea
   ‘Alpina’
M

M
S-PSh

S-PSh
P/6-7

P/6-7
NI

NI
Br

Br
Delicate, mounded.

Low groundcover.
Symphoricarpos x chenaultii
   Hancock coralberry
M S-PSh NI R-P NI Blue-green leaves; persistent fruit; lower growth.
MEDIUM SHRUBS (4-6 feet high when mature)
Aronia melanocarpa
   Black chokeberry
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 B O-R Glossy green foliage.
Berberis thunbergii
B. thunbergii atropurpurea

   Purpleleaf Japanese barberry
   'Rose Glow'
L-M S-PSh NI R O-R
P-R
Spiny; hedges or barrier.
Reddish-purple foliage.

Pink blotches on leaves.
Berberis x ‘Tara’
   Emerald Carousel™ barberry
L-M S-PSh Y/5-6 R O-R Arching-rounded growth habit. Heavily spined.
Buddleia davidii
   Butterfly bush
M S-PSh L/6-7 NI NI Cut back in late winter.
Chaenomeles speciosa
   Flowering quince
M S-PSh R/P/W/4 Y NI Spiny stems; large fruit only occasionally.
Cornus sericea ‘Isanti’
   Isanti dogwood
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 W R-Pu Red twigs; compact habit.
Euonymus alatus 'Compacta'
   Compact burning bush
M S-Sh NI P/O R Slightly winged twigs.
Ligustrum x vicaryi
   Golden vicary privet
M S W/6-7 NI NI May show winter dieback.
Perovskia atriplicifolia
   Russian sage
L S L-Pu/7-9 NI NI Very small, fine leaves; cut back to 6" in late winter.
Philadelphus coronarius 'Aureus'
   Golden mockorange
M-H S W/5-6 NI NI Yellow foliage all season.
Prunus x cistena
   Cistena plum
   (purpleleaf sand cherry)
M S-PSh P/5-6 B-Pu Pu Purple foliage all season.
Prunus glandulosa
   Dwarf flowering almond
   'Alba'
   'Rosea Plena'
M S P/4-5

W
P
NI NI Flowers precede leaves.

Single flowers.
Double flowers.
Rhus trilobata
   Threeleaf sumac (skunkbush)
L S-PSh Y/4 R Y-O-R Native; pungent foliage.
Ribes aureum
   Golden currant
L-M S-PSh Y/4-5 B R-Pu Native; fragrant flowers
Ribes odoratum
   Clove currant
L-M S-PSh Y/4-5 B Y-R Clove scented flowers.
Salix purpurea nana
   Dwarf arctic willow
M-H S-PSh NI NI NI Fine texture; needs winter moisture.
Spiraea x vanhouttei
   Vanhoutte spirea
   ‘Renaissance’
L-M

L-M
S-PSh

S-PSh
W/5-6

W/5-6
NI

NI
Br

Br
Graceful, arching habit.

Very similar.
Symphoricarpos albus
   Snowberry
L-M S-PSh P-W/6-7 W NI Very adaptable.
Syringa meyeri 'Palibin'
   Lilac, dwarf Korean
L-M S-PSh L-P/5-6 NI NI Rounded, dense habit.
Syringa patula 'Miss Kim'
   Miss Kim lilac
L-M S Bl-L/5-6 NI R-Pu Rounded, dense habit.
Viburnum opulus 'Compactum'
   Compact European
      cranberrybush viburnum
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 R NI Showy, persistent fruit.
Viburnum trilobum 'Compactum'
   Compact American
       cranberrybush viburnum
M-H S-PSh NI NI R Dense, rounded.
Weigela florida
   Weigela
   ‘Red Prince’'
   Wine and Roses®
M

M
M
S-PSh

S-PSh
S-PSh
P/5-6

R/6
P/6
NI

NI
NI
NI

NI
Ni
Trumpet-shaped flowers.
Bronze-red foliage.

Purple foliage.
LARGE SHRUBS (greater than 6 feet tall when mature)
Amelanchier spp.
   Serviceberry (Juneberry)
M S-PSh W/4-5 R-Pu YOR Shrub or small tree.
Caragana arborescens
   Siberian peashrub
L S Y/5 NI Y Very adaptable.
Cornus sericea
   Redtwig dogwood
   'Baileyi'
   'Flaviramea' (yellowtwig dogwood)
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 W-Bl

W-Bl
W-Bl
R-Pu Red stems in winter.

Red stems in winter.
Yellow stems in winter.
Cotinus coggygria
   Smoketree
   'Royal Purple'
   'Nordine'
M S-PSh P-W/7 NI Pu-O Flowers like "pink smoke."
Purple leaves; less hardy.

Purple leaves; hardier.
Cotoneaster lucidus
   Hedge cotoneaster
L-M S-PSh P/5 B R-O Screening or hedge use. Can re-seed.
Euonymus alatus
   Burning bush (winged
       euonymus)
M S-Sh NI P/R/O R Winged stems; pink fruit.
Euonymus europaeus
   Spindletree (European
       euonymus)
M S-Sh NI R-Pu/O R-Pu Shrub or small tree.
Forsythia spp.
   Forsythia
   'Meadowlark'
   'Northern Gold'
   'Northern Sun'
M S Y/3-4 NI Y-Pu

Hardy flower buds.
Smaller; flower buds hardy.
Flower buds hardy.
Hibiscus syriacus
   Rose-of-Sharon (shrub althea)
M S-PSh V/7-8 NI NI Showy, late flowers.
Many varieties.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Grandiflora'
   PeeGee hydrangea
   ‘Limelight’
M-H

M-H
S-PSh

PSh-Sh
W/7-8

G-P/7-8
NI

NI
NI

NI
Large flower clusters.

Upright - rounded.
Kolkwitzia amabilis
   Beautybush
L-M S-PSh P/5-6 NI Br Shredding bark; coarse texture.
Ligustrum vulgare 'Cheyenne'
   Cheyenne privet
M S-PSh W/6-7 B NI If sheared, no flowers or fruit.
Holds leaves late.
Lonicera korolkowii
   Blueleaf honeysuckle
L-M S P/5 R NI Resistant to aphids.
Lonicera tatarica
   Tatarian Honeysuckle
   'Arnold Red'
L-M S-PSh R/5 R NI Some resistance to aphids
Philadelphus x virginalis
   Mockorange
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 NI NI Fragrant flowers; coarse.
Philadelphus lewisii
   Cheyenne®
   Cheyenne Mockorange
L-M S-PSh W/5-6 NI NI Fragrant flowers; coarse texture. PlantSelect® 2001.
Physocarpus opulifolius
   Common ninebark
   'Dart's Golden'
   'Luteus'
   Diabolo®
M



L-M
S



S
W/5-6



W/5-6
NI



NI
Y-O



Br
Shreddy bark; adaptable.

Yellowish-green foliage.
Golden yellow foliage.
Red-purple foliage.
Prunus tomentosa
   Nanking (Manchu) cherry
L-M S-PSh P-W/4 R Y Edible fruit attracts birds.
Prunus triloba
   Double flowering plum
M S-PSh P/4 NI NI Double pink flowers.
Prunus virginiana
   Common chokecherry
   'Shubert' (Canada red cherry)
M S-PSh W/5 R-Pu Y Suckering, attracts birds.
Green leaves turn maroon.
Rhamnus frangula 'Columnaris'
   Columnar buckthorn (Tallhedge)
   ‘Asplenifolia’
   Fernleaf buckhorn
M

M
S-PSh

S-PSh
NI

NI
R-B

R-B
Y

Y
Thornless; vertical habit.

Long, narrow leaves.
Rhus glabra
   Smooth sumac
L-M S-PSh G-Y/5-6 R R-O Suckers; best in poor soil.
Rhus typhina
   Staghorn sumac
   'Laciniata'
   Tiger Eyes®
L-M


L-M
S-PSh


S-PSh
G-Y/5-6


G-Y/5-6
R


R
R-O


R-O
Larger; suckers; best in poor soil.

Deeply cut leaves.
Bright yellow leaves.
Salix discolor
   Pussywillow
H S Gray/3-4 NI NI Early catkins (flowers), very susceptible to canker.
Sambucus canadensis 'Aurea'
   Golden elder
M-H S W/6-7 R-B NI Golden leaves; edible fruit.
Sambucus nigra
   Black Lace™
M-H S W/6-7 R-B NI Lacy, dark purple foliage.
Sorbaria sorbifolia
    Ash-leaf spirea (Ural false-
      spirea)
M S-PSh W/6-7 NI NI Lush foliage; suckering.
Syringa x chinensis
   Chinese lilac
M S Pu/5 NI Y Small leaves, loose flowers.
Syringa x prestoniae
    Canada lilac
   'James McFarlane'
   ‘Miss Canada’
M S Bl-L-P-Pu/5-6
P
P
NI


NI
Y


Y
Blooms later.

Upright growth habit.
Slightly smaller shrub.
Syringa vulgaris
Common lilac (includes "French
       hybrids")
   'Charles Joly'
   'President Grevy'
M S V/5


R-Pu
Lt Bl
NI NI Prone to powdery mildew. Many varieties.


Double flowers.
Double flowers.
Viburnum x burkwoodii
   Burkwood viburnum
M S-PSh P-W/4-5 R-B NI Leathery leaves persist.
Viburnum lantana
   Wayfaring tree viburnum
   'Mohican'
L-M S-PSh W/4-5 R-B Pu-Br Leathery leaves persist.

More compact form.
Viburnum lentago
   Nannyberry viburnum
M S-PSh W/4-5 Bl ROPu Can be used as a small tree.
Viburnum opulus
   European cranberrybush
       viburnum
   'Roseum' (Snowball)
M-H S-PSh W/5-6 R


NI
R-Pu Fruit persists; aphid prone.


Showier flowers; aphid prone; no fruit.
Viburnum x rhytidophylloides 'Alleghany'
   Alleghany viburnum
M S-PSh W/5-6 R-B Pu-Br Leathery leaves persist. Plant Select® 1997
Viburnum trilobum
   American cranberrybush
       viburnum
   ‘Wentworth’
M-H


M-H
S-PSh


S-PSh
W/5-6


W/5-6
R


R
R-Pu


R-Pu
Showy, persistent fruit; less aphid prone.

Showy, persistent fruit, less aphid prone.
aSoil moisture: L=Low M=Medium H=High
bExposure: S=Sun PSh=Partial shade Sh=Shade
cFlower color: Bl=Blue G=Green L=Lavender P=Pink Pu=Purple R=Red W=White Y=Yellow V=varies with cultivar NI=Not
Important Months numbered 1 - 12
dFruit: B=Black Bl=Blue O=Orange P=Pink Pu=Purple R=Red W=White Y=Yellow NI=Not Important
eFall color: Br=Bronze O=Orange Pu=Purple R=Red Y=Yellow NI=Not Important

1 R.A. Cox, Colorado State University Extension horticulture agent, Arapahoe County; and J.E. Klett, Extension horticulture specialist, horticulture and landscape architecture 10/97. Revised 12/13.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.

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Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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