Attractive low growing shrubs for the front of the house are great for reducing yard maintenance. While most gardeners love to work in their garden, they may not love pruning their shrubs every year. One way to make landscaping easier while increasing your home’s curb appeal is to move beyond the typical overgrown azaleas and rhododendron and choose foundation plant varieties that stay compact. The list of 16 low growing bushes featured in this article consists of both evergreen shrubs and flowering choices. They’re the perfect solution for homeowners who don’t enjoy pruning!
Why low growing shrubs for the front of the house are best
Dwarf shrubs for the front of the house are a wise choice for several reasons. Aside from their minimal pruning requirements, many of these compact shrubs for front yards are evergreen and provide year-round interest to the landscape, while others produce beautiful blooms. Some even have interesting bark. Plus, many of these low growing shrubs for the front yard produce flowers that support bees and other pollinators. And lastly, as you’ll see in the plant profiles below, most exhibit extensive cold hardiness, some as far down as USDA zone 3.
6 Flowering low growing shrubs for the front of the house
I’ll start by introducing you to 6 deciduous low growing shrubs for the front of the house. These gorgeous flowering shrub choices stay compact yet still provide color and texture to your foundation plantings.
Dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’)
This flowering shrub produces lovely, pink to purple, sweet smelling flowers in late spring. Requiring full sun, the bushes top out at 4 to 5 feet in height, without pruning. It makes a great compact flowering hedge, and the foliage not prone to powdery mildew like traditional lilacs are. It flowers profusely and is hardy down to -30°F. When it comes to low growing shrubs for the front of the house, the deer-resistant dwarf Korean lilac is a real stunner.
Dwarf hydrangea Little Lime® (Hydrangea paniculata ‘Jane’)
Little Lime hydrangea produces panicle-shaped clusters of light green to white blooms in summer and is hardy to -30°F. Topping out at 5 feet in height, it thrives in full sun to part shade. Like other hydrangeas, Little Lime prefers moist soil. It’s a multi-stemmed shrub and is especially easy to care for. Unlike mophead hydrangeas (H. macrophylla) whose buds often freeze out in cold climates, the flowers on Little Lime are produced on stems that develop in the spring, so there’s no risk of the buds freezing out. This compact hydrangea looks so lovely in front of a house. Guests will no doubt ask about this beauty. The smooth hydrangeas (H. arborescens), such as ‘Annabelle’, are another group of low growing shrubs for the front of the house worth growing. Their blooms are globe shaped rather than being panicle shaped.
Summersweet Clethra (Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’)
If you’re looking for a low growing bush for foundation plantings that produces pretty summertime blooms, Clethra is my top choice. This compact variety attracts several types of bees and butterflies. It handles everything from full sun to heavy shade (though it won’t bloom quite as well with less than 4 hours of sun per day). Reaching a maximum height of just 4 feet and winter hardy in zones down to -30°F, it even tolerates wet soils. This is a cultivar of a North American native plant that’s very easy to grow. ‘Hummingbird’ is known for its slow growth and compact, mounded shape. It also produces more creamy white flowers than the straight species.
Dwarf Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Sprich’)
Known as the Little Henry® sweetspire, this full sun, low growing shrub for in front of the house produces drooping, cylindrical spires of white flowers in early spring. The stems are red-hued which adds another element of interest. In autumn, the foliage of this compact shrub turns a brilliant orange or red. It is hardy to -20°F and thrives in full sun to partial shade. The blooms strut their stuff anytime from early June to late July. Damp to wet soil is preferred, but as long as you don’t let the soil get bone dry, Virginia sweetspire will do just fine. This is a dwarf cultivar of a North American native shrub.
Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa, syn. Dasiphora fruticosa)
In the summertime, there are few low growing shrubs for the front of the house that outshine the cinquefoil. Smothered in bright yellow, orange, pink, or white blooms (depending on the variety), this pretty, compact shrub is a vigorous grower for full sun to part shade conditions. It is attractive to bees and butterflies and survives winters down to -30°F. Growing to a maximum height of just 4 feet, the soft, feathery shape of this shrub is quite distinct. It makes a great deer-resistant flowering hedge or foundation plant. If you trim off the spent flowers, the bush often reblooms and may even be in near-continual flower from early summer through autumn.
Spirea ‘Little Princess’ (Spiraea japonica ‘Little Princess’)
Japanese spirea has long been adored for its low maintenance requirements and reliable blooms. But many varieties grow too large for the front of the house without regular pruning. ‘Little Princess’ is a dwarf shrub that stays super compact, topping out at a height of just 30 inches! It produces flat-topped clusters of pink flowers from late spring through summer. Not only is this compact Japanese spirea easy to grow (just provide full sun), it is also deer resistant and handles a wide range of soil conditions. The growth is dense and rounded.
10 Evergreen low growing shrubs for the front of the house
Next, let’s look at some low growing shrubs for the front of the house that are evergreen. Because they hold onto their green leaves or needles year-round, they’re a prime choice for almost any climate, except for very warm ones. Their evergreen foliage provides shelter for winter birds and looks lovely when topped with a light layer of snow. Let’s meet 10 compact, low maintenance evergreen shrubs for the front yard.
Dwarf Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo cultivars)
There are several varieties of mugo pine that are compact and make perfect low growing shrubs for the front of the house. They are drought resistant, deer resistant, and can be used as a great low hedge. Regular mugo pines grow large (up to 20 feet in height) so be sure to look for dwarf varieties, including the dwarf mugo pine (P. mugo variety pumilio) which reaches just 5 feet tall, ‘Teeny’ which tops out at a mere 1 foot tall, and ‘Paul’s Dwarf’ which grows to 3 feet. All are fully evergreen, non-flowering, and very low maintenance. Hardy down to -40°F. Full sun is best. Deer resistant.
Dwarf Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana Gracilis’)
Though the deer absolutely adore feasting on the green foliage of this shrub, I won’t garden without it. I have two, and both are covered with a layer of deer netting year-round. I find them to be the finest of the low growing shrubs for the front of the house because their deep green, fan-shaped foliage is so distinctive. An Asian native, dwarf Hinoki cypress are very slow growing. It takes 10 to 15 years for them to reach their maximum height of 6 feet. Plant this foundation plant in full to partial sun and avoid waterlogged soils. The straight species grows very tall, so be sure to seek out the dwarf form. It’s quite winter hardy, down to about -30°F.
Round Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis varieties)
Most gardeners are probably familiar with tall, pyramidal-shaped arborvitae varieties, but did you know there are also compact arborvitae that are globe-shaped? I love these little cuties! One of my favorites is Mr. Bowling Ball®, but other options are ‘Little Gem’, ‘Hetz Midget’ and ‘Globe’. In late winter, when covered with a dusting of snow, these petite shrubs are extra fun. New growth emerges in spring, but there’s no need to prune this shrub to keep it round and compact. Skip this plant if you have a problem with deer. Choose a full sun to partial shade location and plan for a height of 3 feet. Most are hardy to -40° F.
Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Globosa’)
Deer resistant? Check! Pest and disease resistant? Check! Compact growth habit? Check! Unique foliage color? Check! And those aren’t the only traits this fun shrub for the front yard possesses. It’s also very hardy (-40°F), drought tolerant, and fun as all get out. Think of it as a classic blue spruce shrunk down to a tiny size. Dwarf Globe blue spruce reaches 4 feet tall and wide at maturity, but it struggles in climates with very hot summers.
Bird’s Nest Spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’)
Another compact spruce variety, bird’s nest spruce has long been a favorite in the category of low growing shrubs for the front of the house. It’s been around for decades. Picea abies is known as the Norway spruce, and the straight species is a massive tree that grows to over 150 feet tall. However, this cultivar grows just a few feet in height and does so very slowly, taking several decades to reach maturity. The flattened tops of these compact shrubs look a bit like a bird’s nest, hence the common name. Hardy to -30°F and preferring full sun, it is deer resistant.
Emerald and Gold Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald n Gold’)
If you’re looking for variegated low growing shrubs for the front of the house, then this is the choice for you. The glossy, evergreen leaves are a combination of golden yellow and rich green. It’s so low growing that some gardeners grow it as a groundcover. Emerald and gold wintercreeper has great winter interest and tolerates lousy soils and shade (though the color is best in full to partial sun). This plant has been classified as invasive in some growing zones, so be sure to check with your state’s database for invasive plants before introducing it to your garden.
Rockspray Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis)
Admittedly I’m not a huge fan of this shrub, but it’s for a silly reason. The arching stems make it challenging to clean leaves out in the autumn. Not a critical fault, to be sure, but one that has kept me from planting it in my own garden. However, if a persnickety leaf clean up isn’t a concern of yours, then consider the rockspray cotoneaster for the front of your house. This low-growing shrub is a broadleaf evergreen. It produces small pink to white flowers in the spring, followed by clusters of orange or red berries in the fall. The spray-like branches arch out from the trunk, giving it an almost cascading look. Hardy to -20°F, choose a site that receives full to partial sun. Avoid in southern locations with hot summers.
Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)
A fast-growing ground cover, this low growing shrub is very popular. Reaching a height of just 18 inches with a spread up to 8 feet wide, it’s a great dwarf shrub for covering a lot of ground. Its evergreen needles are a lovely blue-green and it’s both deer and drought resistant. Full sun is best for this North American native shrub that’s hardy to -40°F. Though it has few insect pests, creeping juniper can develop fungal blight which leads to dieback of the stems and can be spread by pruning equipment. All the more reason to never prune this low growing shrub! It looks great along the front walk or on front yard slopes.
Dwarf Boxwoods (Buxus species and varieties)
Boxwood is a very popular shrub for the front of the house because it is deer-resistant and easy to care for. Standard English boxwood and Japanese boxwood varieties grow large and need to be pruned yearly, but compact dwarf varieties like ‘Green Pillow’, ‘Baby Gem’, ‘Green Mound’, ‘Morris Midget’, and others are a great bet if you don’t want to have to prune. Partial shade to full sun is best. Some dwarf boxes only reach a foot in height, while others top out at 3 to 4 feet. Pay attention to the plant tag to be sure you are choosing the best variety for your needs.
Inkberry Holly (Ilex glabra)
The lovely dark green leaves of the inkberry holly are spineless and evergreen, and they make it among the finest of the low growing shrubs for the front of the house. Inkberry holly thrives in conditions from full sun to full shade. It’s one of those low maintenance shrubs that everyone asks about because it’s not very common (though it should be because it’s a terrific choice!). Barely noticeable flowers appear in spring, but they are soon followed by dark black berries that feed many different species of birds through the winter months. These plants need minimal pruning and top out at 8 feet tall. The shape is naturally rounded. The cultivar ‘Shamrock’ is among the most compact and worth seeking out. Native to eastern North America, the inkberry holly is hardy to -30°F.
How to plant low growing shrubs for the front of the house
As you can see, there are so many great low growing shrubs for the front of the house. Combine several species together to create an interesting design. Plan for 3 to 5 of each species to create small masses of the same texture and color. I’m sure you’ll find these compact shrubs to be easy to care for and an enjoyable addition to your front yard for many years to come.
For more great shrubs for the garden, please visit these articles:
- Late season shrubs for fall beauty
- Dark-leaved shrubs
- Low maintenance shrubs
- The best early-flowering shrubs
- Flowering shrubs for the shade
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