Spring-Blooming Shrubs for Small Gardens

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

The daffodils are open, the air is warming, and the spring garden is starting to bloom! 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

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 it as an accent right at entryways.

Deutzia gracilis bloom

FORSYTHIA

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.

Forsythia blooms

LILACS

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.

Lilac flowers before being pruned.

  • Syringa pubescens subsp. spatula ‘Miss Kim’  grows to about 6′ to 8′ tall and wide with mauve blooms.
  • S. meyeri ‘Paliban’ (dwarf Korean lilac) tops out at about 5′ tall and 5′ to 7′ wide, with mid-season reddish-purple buds that open to lavender-colored blooms.
  • Syringa x pendpa (the ‘Bloomerang’ reblooming lilacs) grow to about 4′ to 5′. Available in pink, purple and dark purple, they bloom in spring and then sporadically throughout the summer.

VIBURNUM

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

White viburnum bloom

  • Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’ gets about 4′ 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. trilobum compatum 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.)

WISTERIA

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 a one of these luscious vines to your garden, choose one of these less-rampant, American cultivars instead.

Wooden trellis covered in wisteria against brick wall

Spring-blooming shrubs for small gardens