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Small Shrubs, Green Foliage Plants

Landscaping Workhorses With a Big Payoff


Elephant ear plants picture.

Elephant ear plants near a water feature.

David Beaulieu

On Page 1 we considered some of our shorter options for green foliage. Now it's time to look at some options with a bit more height, including small shrubs and not-so-small shrubs. Meanwhile, don't forget choices that offer flashy colors, too, such as Tricolor sage (see below). Some offer golden leaves, for example; others blue leaves, such as Blue Star juniper, blue spruce trees and Blue Rug juniper. If you want gold with height and you want it fast, you could also grow a vine: namely, golden hops.

Green Foliage at an Intermediate Size

Tricolor sage plants do put out violet-colored blooms, but they are often grown more for their variegated leaves. The older foliage on this herb tends to be green in the middle, with an irregular white margin; the younger leaves are purplish. These foliage plants are also fragrant plants (although the aroma they afford is perhaps an acquired taste).

Read article: Tricolor Sage

Although they do bloom, hostas are most often grown as foliage plants. Classified as perennials, many hostas are nonetheless used in the landscape as if they were small shrubs (note, however, that hostas vary greatly in size, depending on the type). For instance, these shade-loving foliage plants are sometimes used in border plantings as "leafy edging" for a planting bed.

Read article: Hosta Plants

Want green foliage with a tropical feel? Many Northern homeowners include elephant ear plants in their landscapes, treating them as annual plants. I think they look especially nice near water features (see picture).

Read article: Elephant Ear Plants

Small Shrubs: Green Foliage With Greater Height

Boxwood shrubs are broadleaf evergreens: they don't bear needles. Prized for their densely packed light-green leaves and rounded, compact growth habit, English boxwoods are small shrubs, reaching a height of 3 feet, at most. There are other boxwoods from which to choose, some of which attain to greater heights. These elegant foliage plants have traditionally been used for formal garden hedges in areas with full sun to partial shade.

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Like boxwoods, yews are evergreen shrubs. But unlike boxwoods, yews are needle-bearing shrubs. English yews grow to about 4 feet tall, but they are "small shrubs" in terms of height, only. For their spread is much greater (12-15 feet): they are hardly compact plants! There are other yews from which to choose, some of which attain to greater heights. Yew shrubs are often used as hedges or foundation plants, especially in shaded areas (where many other shrubs wouldn't perform well).

Read article: English Yews

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