The Best Shrubs for Small Lawns

boxwood bushes on lawn Ted Lare

As urban yards get smaller, landscaping trends are starting to shift away from huge overgrown shrubs in favor of smaller trees and tidy shrubs. If you have a small lawn space, you can still have a few beautiful shrubs without them taking over your entire space or requiring tons of maintenance. 

Here are a few of our favorite small performers. These shrubs will grow great in the Des Moines area.

Little Giant Arborvitae is a compact soft needle evergreen that grows in an attractive globe shape. It’s perfect for a full to part sun location. It grows up to an average size of 3′ tall and wide. It’s small size and slow growth makes this the perfect low maintenance shrub. 

Dwarf Korean Lilac Ted Laare

Dwarf Korean Lilac is a slightly larger shrub, growing up to 4-5′ tall and wide, but it is much smaller than more common lilacs that get as tall as 12′. These shrubs are smothered in wonderful, highly fragrant purple flowers in late spring. Lilacs perform best in full sun to part sun. 

Yuki Cherry Blossom Deutzia is a tiny but powerful little flowering shrub. It is loaded with hundreds of soft pink flowers in mid-spring. Forming a mound about 2′ tall and wide, these are great planted in a group as a ground cover. They enjoy full to part sun. 

boxwood Ted Lare

Boxwood is a classic, beautiful, and reliable evergreen. This shrub is a perfect choice because it can be pruned to be any size you want. Boxwood performs well almost anywhere, tolerating everything from full sun to mostly shade. Its average size is 4-5′ tall, but it takes a long time to get that big. You can easily give it a trim with the hedge trimmer once a year to keep it to your desired size and shape. 

Bobo Hydrangea is an awesome dwarf hydrangea with gigantic white flowers in summer. It can reach up to 4′ tall and wide, making it the perfect hydrangea, even for a smaller garden. This hydrangea does need at least half-day, or more, of full sun to deliver the best blooms. 

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My Monet® Weigela is just one of many varieties of weigela that stays small! My Monet® has variegated white, pink, and green leaves and pink trumpet-shaped flowers in late spring. It grows to about 3′ tall and wide. It will do best with morning sun and a bit of afternoon shade. 

My Monet Weigela and Spilled Wine Weigela Ted Lare

Spilled Wine® Weigela is another fairly small weigela that features gorgeous deep purple foliage and bright pink flowers. It’s colorful all season long, even when it’s not in bloom. It can get up to 3′ tall and wide. This will also bloom best with morning sun and some afternoon shade.

Kodiak Orange Bush Honeysuckle has beautiful coppery red leaves in early spring that fade to green for the summer, then transition to the most vibrant orange in fall. It’s not a true honeysuckle, it’s a Diervilla, so it’s an excellent eco-friendly North American native shrub. These average a size of 3′ tall and wide and are happy in woodland edges, so you can grow it in full sun or part shade. 

Sweetspire Little Henry One

Little Henry Sweetspire is an awesome 3-season-interest plant. It has lush green leaves in spring, beautiful white flowers in mid-summer, and ends the year with beautiful orange foliage in the fall. Its size of 4′ tall and wide makes it a perfect choice for a foundation planting. Another plus is that it does well in full sun to part shade.



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