A shrub is one of the most popular types of plants used in landscaping. A shrub can be told apart from a tree because of its many short stems and typically a shorter height than a standard tree. A shrub is typically thought of to be under 5 or 6 meters (or 15-20 feet) tall although officially to botanists, a shrub is technically any plant that fits the short stemmed description (although that term is relative; many plants can legitimately be classified as a shrub or a tree) and is under 8 meters (or 26 feet) tall. For the average person’s purposes though, a shrub is not going to be 26 feet tall, and in from preconceived notions about shrubs used in landscaping, a 26 foot tall shrub seems nearly unimaginable. So as far as landscaping purposes go, it is very rare to see a shrubbery that reaches 10 feet.

What’s interesting about shrubs is that, yes, they can reach 26 feet and still be considered a shrub. At the same time though, very small plants can also be considered shrubs. Thyme, lavender, and periwinkle are all classified in a group known as subshrubs, or prostrate shrubs. Plants belonging to the Ericaceae family, including cranberries, blueberries, and huckleberries, are also often classified as subshrubs.

As it should now be clear, there are many different kinds of shrubs throughout the world (ranging from something small enough to be called a subshrub up to a 26 foot tall plant) but only a handful of all of those are native to the state of Indiana. These include the Serviceberry, New Jersey Tea, Spicebush, Ninebark, Sumac, Elderberry, Silky Dogwood, Gray Dogwood, Virginia Sweetspire, Winterberry Holly, Buttonbush, Coralberries, and Viburnums. Since these are native to Indiana, they are typically used more in local landscapes. That is not to say however, that non-native shrubs cannot be used in Indiana lawns. On quite the contrary, some of the most popular shrubs used in Midwestern lawn care are not native to the state itself. That being said, local shrubs can add a homely sort of dimension, making the lawn, and by extension, the home, seem in a more natural state.

Although shrubs differ greatly in variety, the care for them is much the same from species to species. For the most part, shrubs are taken care of like other plants would be; they need water, sunlight, and are susceptible to various pests. Shrubs are particularly susceptible to bugs like aphids, who will feed on the leaves and cause serious damage to the plant. Especially deadly is the Honeysuckle aphid which, while obviously is mainly found on honeysuckle plants, will devastate nearly any type of shrubbery. Borers, caterpillars, beetles, and many species of mites are all also significant potential threats to not only shrubs, but all landscaping. As such, sometimes shrubs will require pesticides or other methods of pest control, and it is never a bad idea to try to adequately “pest-proof” the shrubs before a full-fledged infestation actually takes place.

This may make shrub owning more of a challenge than it is; pests aren’t going to necessarily be a huge problem. Most shrub owners will not struggle with pests at all. A much more pressing problem is pruning. Pruning shrubs can be an art, but for the average homeowner, simply cutting back branches will do the trick; no fancy designs are necessary. Of course one could hire an outside service to prune shrubs, but it is a fairly easy do-it-yourself project. Some type of shearing device is necessary, be it pruning shears, a chainsaw, a woodsaw, or some combination of all. After obtaining the necessary equipment, the actual process isn’t too difficult–there are just a few pointers to follow to make the best work. First, branches should be cut above the “branch collar” which is a ring of bumpy tissue. This is an area that contains many plant growth cells, and leaving this area rather than hacking it off along with the rest of the branch will allow the shrub to recover much easier than if it were removed. Next, branches should always be cut at a 45 degree angle. This is to make sure that rainwater doesn’t collect on a flat surface and cause potential fungus growth; a slant allows water to slide off with ease. A last tip is that it is always good to cut off more than seems like a good idea. It is always better to cut more and to have it grow back slower, than to not cut enough. Finally, there are some important distinctions between evergreen and decidiuous shrubs. The most practical difference is the time of the year that they need to be pruned. Even then, it varies a lot species to species, so it is important to note what type of shrub it is to find out the optimal time of the year to prune it.

For the most part, shrubs are fairly easy to take care of and don’t require too much work. However they do need pruned on occasion (just a few times a year) and just like any other plant, they will suffer if neglected. Thus proper shrub care is very important and conducive to a happy, healthy life for the shrub.