All bushes are perennial but some of them grow only in cooler climates while others will die if winter temperatures get too cold. Determine which U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zone you live in, and select shrubs that are hardy in your zone to be sure they will return year after year. Select shrubs that thrive in partial or full shade, if the garden is shady, and consider the mature size of the shrub. Planting shrubs that will fit comfortably in their space eliminates the need for severe pruning later on.
Large Deciduous Shrubs
Bottlebrush buckeyes (Aesculus parviflora) and oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) are large, deciduous shrubs that grow well in full or partial shade. Bottlebrush buckeyes grow to a height and width of 8 to 12 feet, and bloom in the spring, producing white, bottlebrush flower clusters that attract butterflies. Hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8, these shrubs are deer- and rabbit-resistant. Oakleaf hydrangeas grow to a height and width of 6 to 10 feet and produce fragrant, cone-shaped flower clusters in the spring. The flowers start out white but change to pink then brown-orange by fall. These shrubs also provide colorful red, bronze and purple fall foliage. They are hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9 and are drought-tolerant, although they will usually drop their flowers during extended dry periods. Both of these shrubs are toxic if ingested.
Large Evergreen Shrubs
“English Roseum“ rhododendrons (Rhododendron “English Roseum”) and “Mr. Goldstrike” spotted laurel (Aucuba japonica “Mr. Goldstrike“) are shade-loving broadleaf evergreens. Growing to a height of 4 to 10 feet and a width of 5 to 11 feet, “English Roseum” produces showy, lilac-pink flowers in the spring. It is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8 in partial or full shade. Rhododendron species are toxic when ingested. “Mr. Goldstrike” is a variegated, spotted laurel cultivar with yellow-speckled leaves. It grows to a height of 6 to 15 feet and produces 4 1/2-inch long clusters of burgundy flowers in the spring. This shrub will thrive in partial or full shade, although the yellow markings tend to fade in deep shade. It is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10 and is tolerant of drought, salty conditions, and air pollution. The foliage and berries of spotted laurels are toxic when ingested..
Small Deciduous Shrubs
“Carol Mackie“ daphnes (Daphne x burkwoodii “Carol Mackie“) and “Ryan Gainey” smooth hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens “Ryan Gainey”) are deciduous shrubs that thrive in partial shade with direct morning sun. Hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8, “Carol Mackie” grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet and width of 3 to 4 feet and sports white-edged leaves. Light pink blooms appear in the spring, and berries ripen to red in the fall. All parts of daphne bushes are poisonous to animals and people when ingested. “Ryan Gainey” grows to a height and width of 3 to 4 feet and blooms from spring to fall, producing round clusters of white flowers. This plant is drought-tolerant, although the leaves will wilt and wither in dry conditions. They are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9. Smooth hydrangea bark and foliage is toxic when ingested.
Small Evergreen Shrubs
Southern Indian azaleas (Rhododendron indicum) and “Amoenum” Kurume azaleas (Rhododendron x obtusum “Amoenum”) are evergreen to semi-evergreen shrubs that grow best in bright or dappled shade. Both of them will also grow well in partial shade with direct morning sun. Southern Indian azaleas are hardy in USDA zones 7 to 8, growing to a height and width of 2 to 3 feet and producing showy red flowers in the spring. “Amoenum” shrubs produce magenta flowers in the spring that are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. They grow to a height of 1 to 3 feet and width of 2 to 4 feet in USDA zones 5 to 8. All parts of both of these bushes are toxic if eaten.