While trimming is an annual task for many woody plants in the landscape, some low-maintenance shrubs do not require pruning at all. In fact, these shrubs form a very pleasing shape without any pruning or shaping. They are easy to grow, have a refined shape and usually thrive without any pruning. Also, you can use your pruning shears for more demanding tasks like cutting bouquets. Plant several of these easy-care, no-pruning shrubs, and you'll create a lush and wildlife-friendly landscape.
1. American Arborvitae
An easy-care and cold-tolerant evergreen shrub, American arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) makes an excellent hedge plant. It has a smooth texture and medium green color. Its thick branches give it a compact shape that doesn't require pruning, although if desired, it can be trimmed for a more shapely, formal look.
Slow-growing boxwood (Buxus spp.) is a perfect candidate for low-maintenance shrubs that don't require club pruning. Boxwood is known for its small growth and small evergreen leaves. Plant the boxwood in a location that will allow it to expand to its mature size, and you'll enjoy these easy-care shrubs for years to come.
3. Dwarf conifers
Year-round color and interest make dwarf conifers a valuable part of any planting - from entrance gardens to shrub borders. There are many types of dwarf conifers and most are less than 5 feet tall and wide, growing only a few inches each year. For an upright, conical structure, a dwarf Alberta spruce (Picea glauca 'Conica', shown here) is well suited. For a rounded shape with cool blue color, try dwarf globe blue spruce (Picea pungens 'Globosa').
4. Indian Hawthorn
Indian hawthorn (Rhapheolepis indica) is an excellent evergreen shrub for use as a hedge plant or as an accent in a shrub border in areas with mild winters. After blooming for several weeks in late winter to early spring, it takes a break until a new bloom blooms in the fall. Look for 'Eleanor Taber' or 'Ballerina', two long-blooming varieties that are prized for their small size (2-4 feet tall).
5. Inkberry Holly
A slow-growing shrub with evergreen leaves, inkberry holly (Ilex glabra) is native to eastern North America. Small black berries form on female plants in autumn, attracting birds. Newer cultivars such as 'Nordic' and 'Gem Box' have dense growth habits that form round balls of green in the landscape year-round without the need for pruning.
6. Mayor Lilac
A smaller version of the rangy traditional lilac, the Meyer lilac (Syringa mayeri) is a round, slow-growing shrub that produces dense clusters of purplish-purple flowers in spring. Flower clusters fade and disappear into pure green foliage.
7. Rose of Sharon
Popular with bees and hummingbirds, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a summer-blooming shrub that is loaded with large flowers from mid-summer until frost. This low-maintenance shrub grows to 10 to 12 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide with room to spread.
There are many types of viburnums to choose from. Generally, viburnums have an upright, lax habit and grow 6 to 12 feet or more tall. Viburnums are prized for their spring flowers, summer or fall berries, and colorful fall foliage. Korean Spice (Viburnum carlesii, shown here) and Burkwood Viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodi) are two delightfully fragrant species.