11 Easy Care Shrubs

Wherever you are in your gardening life, a plant that is hard to kill probably sounds pretty good. Not every plant in our gardens can be high maintenance. So I’ve made a list of rugged plants to brave a range of elements, including a bit of neglect (speaking from experience). They aren’t just fluff or filler either, these are true spotlight plants that will keep bringing you beauty despite tricky conditions or limited gardening time. 

Aronia melanocarpa
A native aronia, Low Scape Snowfire, covered in white spring blooms.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 3-4 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 3-9

A native that TRULY does it all. Spring flowers for pollinators, dark purple fruit for wildlife and fiery color in fall. Super tolerant of harsh conditions – salt, drought, heat, and heavy moisture.

Care – After it’s established it truly needs little care. No pruning, as that will either remove its ability to bloom or set fruit, depending on when you do it.

Caryopteris x clandonensis
Beyond Midnight bluebeard thriving in a garden
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) 
  • 2-2.5 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Brilliant blue blooms arrive later in the growing season to help hungry pollinators still buzzing around in the fall. Thrives through heat and drought and doesn’t need any deadheading. 

Care – Benefits from being cut back hard in the springtime. Try to cut each stem back just above a healthy, growing bud.

Buddleia
Thick butterfly bush flowers on Pugster Amethyst in a garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure)
  • 2 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Massive blooms arrive summer through fall, with no need to deadhead. These lightly fragrant flowers draw in bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Resists deer and is very drought and heat tolerant.

Care – Has the best structure with a little spring pruning. Watch a how-to video here.

Rhaphiolepis indica
Fluffy dark pink groups of flowers on La Vida Mas Indian hawthorn
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 1-2 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide
  • USDA zones 8-10

Blooms from spring to fall, no need to trim to encourage rebloom. Attracts pollinators by the plenty, all while managing heat, drought, and salty conditions. 

Care – Needs no special care after it’s established. 

Juniperus communis
Tortuga juniper, a wider than tall shrub growing in a garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 2 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide
  • USDA zones 2-7

A seriously tough native, ready to take on any of your conditions. Its fluffy evergreen foliage looks handsome through heat and drought, and will even thrive in salty soil or deer infested gardens.

Care – Pruning isn’t generally needed, but if you’d like to remove a branch, you can do so in the springtime. If you’d like to fertilize, you can use a granular evergreen formula in the springtime.

Physocarpus opulifolius
A whimsical flowy habit on Ginger Wine ninebark planted in a garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure)
  • 5-6 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 3-7

Enjoy year-round interest with this vigorous grower. Spring flowers, burgundy foliage in summer, red seed heads in fall, and exfoliating bark in winter. It has amazing resistance to drought and disease. 

Care – Doesn’t typically need pruning as it has a naturally graceful habit, but if you’d like to you can do so in the early spring. It can benefit from periodic rejuvenation pruning. Every 5 years or so, cut out 1/3 of the thickest branches.

Potentilla fruticosa
Five petaled light pink blooms atop tiny leaves forming the lovely rounded habit of Happy Face Pink Paradise potentilla.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 2-7

Belongs on every easy care list that ever has been or ever will be created, especially when it comes to deer. It flowers for an insanely long time, from late spring to frost. It’s unbothered by drought, and salty soil.

Care – Looks nice with a little spring trim off the top. Benefits from rejuvenation pruning every 3 to 5 years or so, when you can remove 1/3 of the oldest, thickest branches. Watch a how-to on that process here.

Cornus sericea
Two bright Arctic Fire Red red-twig dogwood shrubs in a landscape
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 3-5 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 2-7

With a compact habit in comparison to its fellows (that can grow to 8-10 feet tall and wide), it fits neatly into most gardens. This native isn’t bothered by deer, drought, or salt and its flowers feed pollinators in spring.

Care – Gets the brightest stem color with periodic rejuvenation pruning. Just cut 1/3 of the thickest stems to the ground to encourage juvenile growth.

Hibiscus syriacus
Tons of fluffy, rounded flowers on Dark Lavender Chiffon rose of Sharon
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure)
  • 8-12 feet tall and
    6-10 feet wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Like a bouquet for your garden, it blooms all throughout the summer. Its fluffy blooms produce very few seeds, if any. It’ll thrive through heat, drought, and salty soil and doesn’t interest deer at all.

Care – Roses of Sharon are pretty heavy feeders, so apply a granular fertilizer formulated for flowering shrubs every spring. 

Spiraea x
A low-growing, rounded Double Take Doozie spirea blooming in a garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 3-8

The first-ever reblooming spirea! Thanks to its seedless nature you can enjoy plentiful flowers from early summer all the way ’til frost. No need to deadhead. Great drought tolerance, disease and deer resistance. 

Care – If you’d like to shape it, or give it a trim, you can do so in early springtime.

Itea virginica
Long white blooms hover above the candy apple green foliage of Scentlandia sweetspire in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure), part sun (4-6 hours), and shade (less than 4 hours)
  • 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Showy and fragrant, you’ll love the way this native species braves hard conditions to bring you beauty. Doesn’t mind shade, deer, or drought and actually thrives in wet spots.

Care – Doesn’t need any regular pruning, but if there is any dead wood or irregular branching, you can remove them in spring. 

If you’re battling a specific garden nemesis, we’ve got more plant lists for you! Check out all of our deer-resistant shrubs, heat tolerant shrubs, or shrubs for very cold places.

Written by
Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.

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