Low-growing Shrubs for St. Louis
Low-growing Shrubs for St. Louis2 (HIDE)

by Ronda Anson

Following is a wide selection of low-growing shrubs recommended for the St. Louis area. Some are nativars (cultivars of Missouri native shrubs). Others are excellent, non-invasive exotics. All should perform well in St. Louis if planted in a suitable location.

These shrubs should mature at roughly 3 feet or less. The width varies; some are much wider than they are tall. Expected size is listed with each shrub.

To learn what conditions each shrub requires, click on the Latin name of the plant (orange text) for more information. Many of these shrubs were voted "Tried and Trouble-free" by five or more area professionals and should be easy to find at local nurseries. Although others may be harder to find, they are worth the search. Several are "Plants of Merit." Most have or are currently performing well at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Come and take a look at them.
Abelia × grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope'
Glossy abelia

Average size: 2-2.5' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Fragrant, pink buds open white / May - September
Foliage: Emerges green & yellow, turns gold in summer
Fall color: Fiery red to orange
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Atropurpurea Nana'
Japanese barberry

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 1.5-2' tall, 2.5-3' wide
Fruit: Bright red berries in fall & winter
Foliage:  Reddish to purplish
Fall color: Attractive shades of orange, yellow and red
Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea 'Bagatelle'
Japanese barberry

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 1-1.5' tall, 1-1.5' wide
Fruit: Bright red berries in fall & winter
Foliage:  Reddish to purplish
Fall color: Attractive shades of orange, yellow and red
Buxus 'Green Gem'
Boxwood

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 3-4' tall, 3-4' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen
Buxus 'Green Velvet'
Boxwood

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 10 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 3-4' tall, 3-4' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen
Buxus microphylla 'Peergold' GOLDEN DREAM
Japanese boxwood

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-2.5' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen / Leaves bright green with irregular golden margins
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Buxus microphylla 'Golden Triumph'
Japanese boxwood

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen / leaves green with showy golden-yellow margins
Buxus microphylla var. japonica 'Morris Midget'
Japanese boxwood

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 0.75-1' tall, 1-1.5' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen
Buxus sempervirens 'Vardar Valley'
Boxwood

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 4-5' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen,  medium green with a blue hue
Buxus sinica var. insularis 'Winter Gem'
Korean boxwood

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 9 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: Insignificant but extremely fragrant
Foliage:  Evergreen
Caryopteris × clandonensis 'Dark Knight'
Bluebeard

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 1.5-2' tall, 1.5-2' wide
Flower: Fragrant, deep bluish-purple flowers from late summer into fall
Foliage:  Aromatic, dull green with silvery underside
Other notable characteristics: Attracts butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects
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 Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Korball'
Bluebeard

Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2.5' tall, 2' wide
Flowers: Deep blue
Foliage: Highly fragrant, rich green foliage with silvery undersides
Other notable characteristics: Attracts butterflies
Caryopteris × clandonensis 'Worcester Gold'
Bluebeard

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-2.5' tall, 2-2.5' wide
Flowers: Fragrant, light lavender-blue flowers from late summer into fall
Foliage:  Aromatic, golden
Other notable characteristics: Attracts butterflies, bees and other beneficial insects
Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Duke Gardens'
Spreading Japanese plum yew

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-4' tall, 2-4' wide
Foliage: Evergreen
Other notable characteristics: Slow grower
Clethra alnifolia 'Crystalina'
Sweet pepperbush

Sun: Full sun to full shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Sweetly fragrant, pure white in July and August
Foliage:  Glossy, dark green
Fall color: Attractive shades of yellow to golden brown
Other notable characteristics: Attracts butterflies and bees
Cotoneaster apiculatus
Cotoneaster

Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-6' wide
Flowers: Small pinkish flowers in late spring
Fruit: Red (cranberry-like) berries (pomes) from late summer persisting into winter
Foliage: Glossy green
Fall color: Attractive shades of purple, red and bronze
Deutzia gracilis 'Duncan' CHARDONNAY PEARLS
Slender deutzia

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers:  Pearl-white flower buds open to a profuse bloom of fragrant white flowers in May
Foliage: Lemon-lime
Deutzia gracilis 'Nikko'
Slender deutzia

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 4 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1-2' tall, 2-5' wide
Flowers:  Tiny white flowers cover the shrub in early spring
Fall color: Attractive deep burgundy
Forsythia 'Courtasol' GOLD TIDE
Forsythia

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 4 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1-2' tall, 1-4' wide
Flowers: Profuse light yellow flowers in late winter to early spring
Forsythia × intermedia 'Mindor' SHOW OFF
Border forsythia

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 3-6' tall, 3-6' wide
Flowers: Profuse, funnel-shaped golden yellow flowers in late winter to early spring
Forsythia viridissima 'Bronxensis'
Greenstem forsythia

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 0.75-1' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: Profuse, light yellow flowers in late winter to early spring
Fothergilla gardenii
Dwarf fothergilla

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1.5-3' tall, 2-4' wide
Flowers: Fragrant, showy white
Fall color: Brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red

Fothergilla gardenii 'Blue Mist'
Dwarf fothergilla

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 3 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: Fragrant, showy white
Foliage: Attractive frosty blue-green
Fall color: Yellow, orange and red
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Hydrangea paniculata 'Bombshell'
Panicle hydrangea

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Blooms earlier and longer than most panicle hydrangeas (July - September) / Dense, nearly round white clusters maturing to rosy pink
Hydrangea paniculata 'Ilvobo' BOBO
Panicle hydrangea

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Abundant white conical-shaped clusters maturing to red-purple from July through September
Hydrangea paniculata 'Jane' LITTLE LIME
Panicle hydrangea

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 3-5' tall, 3-5' wide
Flowers: Soft, light green mopheads maturing to pink-burgundy purple from July through September
Hydrangea paniculata 'SMHPLQF' LITTLE QUICK FIRE
Panicle hydrangea

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 3-5' tall, 2-4' wide
Flowers: Abundant white conical-shaped clusters maturing to red-purple from July through September
Hypericum calycinum
St. John's wort

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professional
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1-1.5' tall, 1.5-2' wide
Flowers: Bright yellow, July-August
Other notable characteristics: Allan Armitage calls the species "one of the finest ground covers available."
Iberis sempervirens
Candytuft

Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.5-1' tall, 0.5-1.5' wide
Flowers: Dense clusters of pure white March-May
Foliage: Evergreen in warm winter climates
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Ilex crenata 'Soft Touch'
Japanese holly

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Fruit: Black berries all winter
Foliage: Soft, glossy evergreen leaves with an interesting silver midvein
Other notable characteristics: Requires a male pollinator to produce berries
Ilex verticillata 'Nana' RED SPRITE
Winterberry
Nativar

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2.5-3' tall, 2.5-3' wide
Fruit: Bright red berries all winter
Other notable characteristics: Requires a male pollinator (such as, 'Jim Dandy') to produce berries
Itea virginica 'Sprich' LITTLE HENRY
Virginia sweetspire
Nativar

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 11 professionals
Sun: Full sun to heavy shade
Average size: 1.5-2' tall, 2-2.5' wide
Flowers: Fragrant white spikes
Fall color:  Varying shades of red, orange and gold
Other notable characteristics: Tolerates wet soils / Can form dense colonies by root suckering if left unchecked

Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific'
Shore juniper

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 3 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.5-1' tall, 4-6' wide
Foliage: Evergreen
Other notable characteristics: Slow grower
Juniperus horizontalis 'Mother Lode'
Creeping juniper

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.25-0.5' tall, 8-10' wide
Foliage: Evergreen / Brilliant gold
Fall color: Golden bronze
Juniperus horizontalis 'Wiltonii' (aka, J. horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’)
Creeping juniper

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.25-0.5' tall, 6-8' wide
Foliage: Evergreen / Silver blue foliage
Fall color: Purple tones
Juniperus × pfitzeriana 'Saybrook Gold'
Juniper

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 5 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 5-6' wide
Foliage: Evergreen / Bright yellow
Fall color: Bronze yellow
Juniperus procumbens 'Green Mound'
Japanese garden juniper

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.5-0.75' tall, 4-6' wide
Foliage: Soft, rug-like evergreen carpet
Juniperus procumbens 'Nana'
Japanese garden juniper

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.5-1' tall, 5-6' wide
Foliage: Evergreen / Spiny-pointed blue-green needles
Fall color: Purplish
Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'
Singleseed juniper

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 1-3' tall, 1-4' wide
Foliage: Evergreen / Silver blue
Juniperus virginiana 'Grey Owl'
Red cedar
Nativar

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 7 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 4-6' wide
Fruit: Profuse berry-like cones attract birds
Foliage: Evergreen / Silver gray
Lagerstroemia 'Chickasaw'
Crape myrtle

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professional
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 1-2' tall, 1.5-2' wide
Flowers: Pinkish lavender from mid-summer to frost
Foliage: Glossy dark green

Lagerstroemia 'Pocomoke'
Crape myrtle

Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-5' tall, 2-5' wide
Flowers: Deep rose-pink
Foliage: Glossy dark green leaves that emerge maroon in spring
Fall color: Bronze-red
Other notable characteristics: Typically 18" tall after 8 years / Fits the category when pruned as a shrub in spring
Lagerstroemia indica 'Gamad I' RAZZLE DAZZLE CHERRY
Crape myrtle

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 3 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Cherry red July-August
Foliage: New growth bronze / mature foliage dark green
Fall color: Burgundy-red
Lagerstroemia indica 'Velma's Royal Delight'
Crape myrtle

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-5' tall, 2-4' wide
Flowers: Magenta pink July to frost
Foliage: Dark green
Fall color: Orange to red
Other notable characteristics: Better winter hardiness than most crape myrtles

Lespedeza bicolor 'Little Buddy'
Bush clover

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professional
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers:  Purple in summer
Fruit:
Foliage: Evergreen
Fall color: Yellow
Other notable characteristics: Less aggressive than species / sometimes sold as a cultivar of Lespedeza thunbergii.
Nandina domestica 'Aka' BLUSH PINK
Heavenly bamboo

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-2.5' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: None
Fruit: None
Foliage: All first year leaves, blush pink; then dark green with only new growth blush pink
Fall color: Red
Nandina domestica 'Fire Power'
Heavenly bamboo

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1-2' tall, 1-2' wide
Flowers: None
Fruit: None
Foliage: Lime green maturing to medium green with red tints
Fall color: Fiery red
Nandina domestica 'Tuscan Flame'  
Heavenly bamboo

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 3-4' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: Hidden beneath the foliage
Fruit: Hidden beneath the foliage
Foliage: Scarlet red with underlying yellow-green / Finely divided producing a lacy effect
Fall color: Scarlet red
Philadelphus 'Miniature Snowflake'
Mock orange

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2.5-3' tall, 2.5-3' wide
Flowers: Fragrant / Snow white
Picea abies 'Little Gem'
Norway spruce

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 3 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.75-2' tall, 2-3' wide
Foliage: Evergreen / Light green, turning to a glossy, dark green with age
Other notable characteristics: Slow growing (3" per year)
Pinus strobus 'Sea Urchin'
Eastern white pine

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-4' wide
Foliage: Evergreen / Bluish green needles
Other notable characteristics: Slow growing (1-2" per year)
Rhododendron 'Girard's Hot Shot'
Evergreen azalea

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 8 professionals
Sun: Part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Dark reddish-orange flowers with dark red spotting in May
Foliage: Evergreen / Glossy, medium green foliage become a dark yellow-green in winter
Other notable characteristics: Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies
Rhododendron 'Girard's Rose'
Evergreen azalea

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 10 professionals
Sun: Part shade
Average size: 2-2.5' tall, 2-2.5' wide
Flowers: Deep rose pink (reverse is yellowish-pink) April-May
Foliage: Evergreen / Glossy, dark green foliage acquires a reddish-orange tinge in winter
Other notable characteristics: Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies
Rhododendron 'Herbert'
Evergreen azalea

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals
Sun: Part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: Reddish-purple flowers, each with a dark purple blotch in April
Foliage: Evergreen / Glossy, dark green
Other notable characteristics: Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies
Rhus aromatica 'Gro-Low'
Fragrant sumac
Nativar

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 10 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1.5-2' tall, 6-8' wide
Fruit: Red berries attract wildlife
Foliage: Aromatic glossy green leaves
Fall color: Attractive shades of orange and red
Spiraea betulifolia 'Tor'
Spirea (aka, birchleaf spirea)

Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: Tiny white clusters in late spring
Foliage: Dark green
Fall color: Quality shades of orange, red and purple
Other notable characteristics: Attractive to butterflies
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Spiraea fritschiana
Spirea (aka, Fritsch's spirea)

Sun: Full sun to light shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-5' wide
Flowers: Flat-topped white clusters in late spring to early summer
Foliage: Dense, quality dark green foliage
Fall color: Yellow-orange to red
Other notable characteristics: Attractive to butterflies
Spiraea fritschiana 'Pink Parasols'
Spirea (aka, Fritsch's spirea)

Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Large pink clusters
Foliage: Emerges red tinted, matures to blue-green in summer
Fall color: Yellow-orange-red
Other notable characteristics: Attractive to butterflies
Spiraea japonica 'Gold Mound'
Japanese spirea

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 11 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Flat-topped pink clusters
Foliage: Emerges golden in spring, but gradually fades to gold-green
Fall color: Yellows, oranges and reds
Other notable characteristics: Attractive to butterflies

Spiraea japonica 'Golden Elf'
Japanese spirea

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professional
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 0.5 to 0.75' tall, 1-2' wide
Flowers: Small flat-topped pink clusters
Foliage: Small golden leaves
Fall color: Gold
Spiraea japonica 'Limemound'
Japanese spirea

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 6 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 2-3' tall, 3-4' wide
Flowers: Flat-topped pink clusters
Foliage: Emerges yellow in spring, matures to lime green
Fall color: Attractive shades of red and orange
Other notable characteristics: Attractive to butterflies
Spiraea japonica 'Little Princess'
Japanese spirea

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 10 professionals
Sun: Full sun
Average size: 1.5-2.5' tall, 2-3' wide
Flowers: Flat-topped pink clusters
Foliage: Mint green
Fall color: Attractive red hues
Other notable characteristics: Attractive to butterflies
Stephanandra incisa 'Crispa'
Lace shrub

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1-3' tall, 1-4' wide
Foliage: Maple-like, bright green leaves on arching stems
Fall color: Yellow and orange
Other notable characteristics:  In ideal growing conditions, plants will spread rapidly by both root suckers and by rooting of stems ends where they touch the ground.
Symphoricarpos × chenaultii 'Hancock'
Snowberry

Plant of Merit
Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 1 professional
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1.5-2' tall, 6-8' wide
Flowers: Bell-shaped, pink flowers in summer
Fruit: Pink-coral berries attractive into winter
Foliage: On arching stems
Taxus cuspidata 'Monloo' EMERALD SPREADER
Japanese yew

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 3 professionals
Average size: 1-2.5' tall, 1-9' wide
Foliage: Evergreen
Taxus × media 'Everlow'
Yew

Tried & Trouble-free: Recommended by 2 professionals
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 1-1.5' tall, 4-5' wide
Foliage: Evergreen
Thuja occidentalis 'Bobozam' MR. BOWLING BALL
American arborvitae

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 2-3' tall, 2-3' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen
Thuja occidentalis 'Tiny Tim'
American arborvitae

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Average size: 0.5-1' tall, 1-1.5' wide
Foliage:  Evergreen