Designing Shrub Bed Areas With Water Conservation in Mind

Shrubs are very versatile and provide functional and visual benefits in water-wise landscape designs. Shrubs can be used for screening unsightlyviews, adding year round beauty, and as visual transitions between trees and shorter herbaceous perennials and groundcovers.  Fortunately, local garden centers are increasing their inventory of native and water-wise shrubs.

General information on using shrubs in the landscape. Source: Nebraska Extension

Design Considerations

Shrubs are available in vase, mounding, upright, and spreading forms. Since shrubs have great visual impact in the landscape, careful placement is necessary.

Contrasting forms provide variety, but too much variety can tire the eyes. Too many shrubs with the same form can create monotony.

Consider spring and summer bloom and leaf color as well as the powerful effects of red, yellow, and orange autumn leaf color. Leaves and bark also provide seasonal textural interest.

  • Use shrubs in masses at property edges to reduce maintenance and provide a backdrop for  herbaceous perennial plants.
  • Use shrubs with interesting color, texture, or bark qualities as accents and focal points in the landscape.
  • Provide seasonal interest by selecting species with different characteristics in all seasons.
  • Plant species that attract beneficial wildlife.  Remember to use both deciduous and evergreen shrub species for variety and to provide shelter and food especially for birds and pollinators.
  • Carefully consider the size of the bed and where it will be located.

Always conduct a landscape inventory and analysis to identify opportunities and constraints of plant placement. Check plant tags for information such as mature size and spacing, water requirements, sun and shade requirements, USDA Hardiness Zone, and botanical name.

Additional Resources:

Plant Selection for Shrub Beds

Proven Winners – Basic Design Principles and Styles for Garden Beds


Missouri – Selecting Landscape Plants: Deciduous Shrubs