23 Unique Shrubs You Might Not Know About

Falling in love with a new plant is one of the best feelings you can have as a gardener. The only thing that feels better is seeing your garden change right alongside you. Together, you and your garden get to evolve! Over time, you’ll see the plant choices come together to reflect your personality and ideas of beauty. Perhaps one of the plants below is the missing puzzle piece for your space, ready to make it even more unique to you and your style. 

Abelia × grandiflora

  • USDA zones 6-9
  • full to part sun
  • 2-3 ft. tall and 3-5 ft. wide
  • most colors of the rainbow are featured throughout the growing season
  • taller-than-wide habit gives the front of the border a lush and cohesive feeling
  • naturally maintains a tidy habit, but can easily be pruned to shape in late winter

Thuja plicata

  • USDA zones 5-8
  • full to part sun
  • 5-10 ft. tall and 3-6 ft. wide
  • bright golden foliage
  • resists winter burn quite well
  • rather small habit, easy to fit into most landscape sizes as a specimen or as a grouping

Rhododendron x

  • USDA zones 6b-9
  • full to part sun
  • 1-2 ft. tall and 2-2.5 ft. wide
  • impressive bloom count in the spring and again in late summer
  • small evergreen leaves make up its tight habit
  • an exciting new low-growing habit, perfect for use as ground cover

Betula x plettkei

  • USDA zones 2-7
  • full sun
  • 1.5-3 ft. tall and wide
  • extremely fine textured foliage adds depth to gardens filled with medium-texture
  • very cold hardy 
  • makes a neat low hedge or edging 

Caryopteris incana

  • USDA zones 7b-9
  • full sun
  • 2-2.5 ft. tall and wide
  • abundant light pink flowers attract pollinators in late summer and fall
  • essentially unaffected by deer, drought, and heat
  • looks its best when chopped to the ground in the late winter

Cephalanthus occidentalis

  • USDA zones 4-10
  • full sun
  • 4-5 ft. tall and wide
  • a remarkable quantity of handsome features – ball shaped summer flowers, bright red seed heads, shiny foliage
  • half the size of a typical buttonbushes
  • doesn’t need pruning


  • USDA zones 3-7
  • full to part sun
  • 3-4 ft. tall and wide
  • heavy fruit set for the fall
  • handsome matte blue foliage
  •  blooms on new wood, so you don’t have to worry about winter zapping your flower and berry show


  • USDA zones 6-9
  • full to part sun
  • 5-8 ft. tall and 4-6 ft. wide
  • a totally new plant, a combination of two North American natives
  • very long bloom time, starting in late spring and goes well into summer
  • unbothered by deer and heat

Sambucus racemosa

  • USDA zones 4-7
  • part sun
  • 3-5 ft. tall and wide
  • exciting foliage coloring – red tints in spring and chartreuse the rest of the season
  • flowers for pollinators and fruit for birds
  • handsome native species well suited as a border plant in any garden style

Bouvardia x

  • USDA zones 8-10
  • full to part sun
  • 1.5-2 ft. tall and wide
  • bold multi-colored starburst-like flowers attract pollinators like a magnet
  • super rugged performance
  • convenient low-growing habit fits in easily as an edging or hedge plant

Hydrangea arborescens subsp. radiata

  • USDA zones 3-8
  • full to part sun
  • 4-5 ft. tall and wide
  • delicate flowers scattered around a nicely rounded form
  • attracts pollinators and cut flower gardeners
  • gives any garden a care-free wild look, well suited for a border position

Hydrangea quercifolia

  • USDA zones 5-9
  • full to part sun
  • 6-8 ft. tall and wide
  • massive, nearly round blooms
  • large foliage that adds coarse texture to shady ornamental or native gardens
  • interesting twisted branches add architectural interest

Cestrum corymbosum

  • USDA zones 7b-10
  • full to part sun
  • 4-5 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide
  • plenty of flowers for pollinators
  • blooms for months, adding constant color to the middle of the border
  • stands up beautifully against heat and drought

Juniperus communis

  • USDA zones 2-7
  • full sun
  • 2 ft. tall and 3-4 ft. wide
  • the toughest plant you could wish for – holds up against deer, drought, and more
  • plentiful soft needles add texture to the garden, but no discomfort
  • wider-than-tall habit fills the front of the border nicely

Pieris japonica

  • USDA zones 5-8
  • full to part sun
  • 3-4 ft. tall and wide
  • interesting during the winter, when little else pops
  • evergreen foliage emerges a pretty red color and deepens to dark green
  • adds drama to gardens that successfully grow rhododendrons

Coprosma repens

  • USDA zones 9-11
  • full to part sun
  • 2-3 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide
  • tons of tiny multi-colored leaves make the front of the border look like a celebration
  • glossy foliage stays handsome year-round
  • vigorous grower, even in tough conditions

Philadelphus coronarius

  • USDA zones 4-7
  • full to part sun
  • 3-4 ft. tall and wide
  • very long season of interest with its speckled variegation
  • super fragrant blooms 
  • habit stays tight, perfect for the middle of the border

Punica granatum

  • USDA zones 7-9
  • full to part sun
  • 3-4 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide
  • one plant makes a powerful presence with its loud color and interesting springy habit
  • dwarf size works in a container or in the border of a warm zone garden
  • actually develops small fruit with a few edible seeds


  • USDA zones 4-9
  • full sun
  • 5-8 ft. tall and 2-4 ft. wide
  • a true icy, pale purple color is a novelty for rose gardens
  • easy to train habit looks at home on a trellis or as a mounded border plant
  • wide open blooms invite pollinators in for food

Hibiscus syriacus

  • USDA zones 5-9
  • full sun
  • 4-6 ft. tall and wide
  • doubled flowers don’t produce seedlings
  • grows as a tall mound, softening the back or middle of the border
  • elegant variegation blends into any style garden

Heptacodium miconioides

  • USDA zones 5-9
  • full sun
  • 15-20 ft. tall and 6-10 ft. wide
  • stately in all four seasons
  • massive white flowers attract pollinators late in the growing season
  • small enough to fit in most garden spaces

Viburnum nudum

  • USDA zones 5-9
  • full to part sun
  • 5-6 ft. tall and wide
  • very showy and colorful for a North American native 
  • produces an abundance of berries for wildlife
  • rather easy size to use in the garden

Weigela florida

  • USDA zones 4-8
  • full sun
  • 1-1.5 ft. tall and wide
  • colorful like a coleus, but cold hardy and able to give you a color show for years
  • no fuss maintenance
  • range of colors goes with practically any garden aesthetic

We can love classic garden plants, but we’re allowed to find new favorites, too. After all, Mother Nature and plant breeders have made some pretty incredible flowers and foliage for us to look at every day. Maybe one of the plants above will help inject more of your exact personality into your space.

Comments (9)

  1. mollusk

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  2. Susan Whitridge

    Beautiful post…BUT I can’t believe that you do not include the latin!!! I know some people find it scary, but, really…you must at least put genus and species and varieties or cultivars in at the very end…how else will people ever learn?

    • Amy

      I agree. I would like to have seen the species and genus too.

  3. Lynne Eckman

    I loved seeing all these “less than common” species. Makes me want to plant my entire back yard with these plants! I’m looking for an unusual landscape scene, low maintenance, and something that attracts the b’s…butterflies and bees! Will be saving this email for future reference for sure! Any desire for a naked landscape to “refurbish?” If so, please reply! I’m a relatively new widow, and don’t have the budget I once did…would love some help if it’s available!!

  4. Susan Bockelman

    Thank you for this fun list. I knew all the ones in my zone (5). It would be better if you gave the botanical names.

  5. Joan Nieman-Agapas

    Please include the Latin names for these plants – much more useful.

  6. Eva Monheim

    This is a great selection. The only problem – no Latin names if I would like to teach them.

  7. joyce berman

    Some really beautiful choices. Thank you.

  8. Judith Royse

    They all look great.
    Please in future leave the latin name too.

Leave a Reply

Written by
Picture of 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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