Spring-Blooming Shrubs for Small Gardens

Categories|Garden Design, Season: Spring
Spring-Blooming Shrubs for Small Gardens

The heavenly fragrances of spring-blooming shrubs are one of the best things about the spring garden. But many of the traditional spring bloomers are way too big for a small garden (we’re looking at you, 12-foot-tall lilac).

If your garden is tiny, consider one of these dainty versions of spring favorites!


Deutzia gracilis (slender deutzia) is a fuss-free addition to the garden. Smothered in blooms in late spring, it then takes up a position as a lovely, tidy green shrub. Because it’s so compact, we especially like this spring-blooming shrub as an accent right at entryways.

Deutzia gracilis bloom


Brilliant yellow forsythia blooms are early harbingers of spring. While the old-fashioned kind gets at least 10′ tall and wide, more compact versions are now available. Forsythia looks terribly sad when pruned to anything except its natural fountain shape, so choose one that will fit the available space without pruning contortions.

Bright yellow forsythia blooms


The fragrance of lilac really says spring! Alas, the truly fragrant varieties are also the truly tall ones, varieties of Syringa vulgaris. For a small garden, we recommend these less-fragrant but better behaved lilac species.

Spring-Blooming Shrubs for Small Gardens


Viburnums are among our favorite spring-blooming shrubs, supplying spring blooms, summer fruits for wildlife, and terrific fall colors. These compact varieties deserve a place in every garden!

Viburnum bloom

  • Viburnum carlesii ‘Spice Baby’ gets about 3.5′ to 5′  tall and wide. The white flowers of this half-size version of the Korean spice viburnum have a glorious spring fragrance.
  • V. dentatum ‘Blue Muffin’ grows 5′ to 7′ tall and wide. The blooms on this Indiana native aren’t show stoppers, but the blue fruit is terrific addition to the summer garden.
  • V. dentatum ‘Glitter and Glows’ is actually two different plants in one pot! The leaves of ‘All That Glitters’ and ‘All That Glows’ are shinier than those of most viburnums. Growing to 5′ tall and wide, these two plants pollinate each other for the maximum number of berries.
  • V. trilobum compactum is the America cranberry bush. It grows to about 5′ to 6′ tall and wide. (Don’t plant the European cranberry bush, V. opulus; it’s invasive.)


The waterfall of wisteria over a trellis is breathtaking. Unfortunately, the popular Asian wisterias are capable of swamping inadequate trellises, taking over garages, and even eating entire houses. If you want to add one of these luscious vines to your garden, choose one of these less-rampant, American cultivars instead. And read more about it at our blog Growing Wisteria in the Midwest.

Wisteria on trellis

Want to add some spring beauty to your garden? Contact Spotts Garden Service to schedule a garden coaching or design consultation!