11 Easy Care Shrubs

Wherever you are in your gardening life, a plant that is hard to kill probably sounds pretty good. Not every plant in our gardens can be high maintenance. So I’ve made a list of rugged plants to brave a range of elements, including a bit of neglect (speaking from experience). They aren’t just fluff or filler either, these are true spotlight plants that will keep bringing you beauty despite tricky conditions or limited gardening time. 

Aronia melanocarpa
A native aronia, Low Scape Snowfire, covered in white spring blooms.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 3-4 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 3-9

A native that TRULY does it all. Spring flowers for pollinators, dark purple fruit for wildlife and fiery color in fall. Super tolerant of harsh conditions – salt, drought, heat, and heavy moisture.

Care – After it’s established it truly needs little care. No pruning, as that will either remove its ability to bloom or set fruit, depending on when you do it.

Caryopteris x clandonensis
A tough, drought tolerant Beyond Midnight bluebeard thriving in a garden with drought.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) 
  • 2-2.5 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Brilliant blue blooms arrive later in the growing season to help hungry pollinators still buzzing around in the fall. Thrives through heat and drought and doesn’t need any deadheading. 

Care – Benefits from being cut back hard in the springtime. Try to cut each stem back just above a healthy, growing bud.

Buddleia
Thick butterfly bush flowers on Pugster Amethyst in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure)
  • 2 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Massive blooms arrive summer through fall, with no need to deadhead. These lightly fragrant flowers draw in bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Resists deer and is very drought and heat tolerant.

Care – Has the best structure with a little spring pruning. Watch a how-to video here.

Rhaphiolepis indica
Fluffy dark pink groups of flowers on La Vida Mas Indian hawthorn in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 1-2 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide
  • USDA zones 8-10

Blooms from spring to fall, no need to trim to encourage rebloom. Attracts pollinators by the plenty, all while managing heat, drought, and salty conditions. 

Care – Needs no special care after it’s established. 

Juniperus communis
Tortuga juniper, a wider than tall shrub growing in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 2 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide
  • USDA zones 2-7

A seriously tough native, ready to take on any of your conditions. Its fluffy evergreen foliage looks handsome through heat and drought, and will even thrive in salty soil or deer infested gardens.

Care – Pruning isn’t generally needed, but if you’d like to remove a branch, you can do so in the springtime. If you’d like to fertilize, you can use a granular evergreen formula in the springtime.

Physocarpus opulifolius
A whimsical flowy habit on Ginger Wine ninebark planted in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure)
  • 5-6 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 3-7

Enjoy year-round interest with this vigorous grower. Spring flowers, burgundy foliage in summer, red seed heads in fall, and exfoliating bark in winter. It has amazing resistance to drought and disease. 

Care – Doesn’t typically need pruning as it has a naturally graceful habit, but if you’d like to you can do so in the early spring. It can benefit from periodic rejuvenation pruning. Every 5 years or so, cut out 1/3 of the thickest branches.

Potentilla fruticosa
Five petaled light pink blooms atop tiny leaves forming the lovely rounded habit of Happy Face Pink Paradise potentilla.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 2-7

Belongs on every easy care list that ever has been or ever will be created, especially when it comes to deer. It flowers for an insanely long time, from late spring to frost. It’s unbothered by drought, and salty soil.

Care – Looks nice with a little spring trim off the top. Benefits from rejuvenation pruning every 3 to 5 years or so, when you can remove 1/3 of the oldest, thickest branches. Watch a how-to on that process here.

Cornus sericea
Two bright Arctic Fire Red red-twig dogwood shrubs planted in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 3-5 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 2-7

With a compact habit in comparison to its fellows (that can grow to 8-10 feet tall and wide), it fits neatly into most gardens. This native isn’t bothered by deer, drought, or salt and its flowers feed pollinators in spring.

Care – Gets the brightest stem color with periodic rejuvenation pruning. Just cut 1/3 of the thickest stems to the ground to encourage juvenile growth.

Hibiscus syriacus
Tons of fluffy, rounded flowers on Dark Lavender Chiffon rose of Sharon in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure)
  • 8-12 feet tall and
    6-10 feet wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Like a bouquet for your garden, it blooms all throughout the summer. Its fluffy blooms produce very few seeds, if any. It’ll thrive through heat, drought, and salty soil and doesn’t interest deer at all.

Care – Roses of Sharon are pretty heavy feeders, so apply a granular fertilizer formulated for flowering shrubs every spring. 

Spiraea x
A low growing, rounded Double Take Doozie spirea blooming freely in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure) to part sun (4-6 hours)
  • 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 3-8

The first-ever reblooming spirea! Thanks to its seedless nature you can enjoy plentiful flowers from early summer all the way ’til frost. No need to deadhead. Great drought tolerance, disease and deer resistance. 

Care – If you’d like to shape it, or give it a trim, you can do so in early springtime.

Itea virginica
Long white blooms hover above the candy apple green foliage of Scentlandia sweetspire in a drought tolerant garden.
  • full sun (6+ hours of exposure), part sun (4-6 hours), and shade (less than 4 hours)
  • 2-3 feet tall and wide
  • USDA zones 5-9

Showy and fragrant, you’ll love the way this native species braves hard conditions to bring you beauty. Doesn’t mind shade, deer, or drought and actually thrives in wet spots.

Care – Doesn’t need any regular pruning, but if there is any dead wood or irregular branching, you can remove them in spring. 

If you’re battling a specific garden nemesis, we’ve got more plant lists for you! Check out all of our deer-resistant shrubs, heat tolerant shrubs, or shrubs for very cold places.

Written by
Kristina Howley

Kristina Howley

I am all in when it comes to gardening. Almost every part of the experience delights me – new leaves emerging in spring, pollinators buzzing in summer, birds devouring berries in fall, and the somber beauty of seed heads in winter. Thanks to a background in horticulture and gardening my own clay-filled, flowery USDA zone 5b plot, I’ve learned plenty of practical things as well. I like sharing these joys and lessons with my fellow gardeners and soon-to-be gardeners any way I can.

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34 Responses

  1. Don’t mean to be snarky but I can flat out guarantee you that none of those would survive to establishment in the Southwest without massive soil ammendments and excessive water. How about if you assign a regionality to this plant list? Not USDA zones. Zone 9, 8.5 alkaline soil, humidity of 16 percent, and 110F for 100 days is not something “rose of Sharon” can tolerate.

    1. An absolutely reasonable request, not snarky at all honestly. I’ll brainstorm how we can incorporate this kind of information into future posts and potentially this one as well. I really appreciate the feedback!

      1. Very helpful to know! We’ve been working on developing some super drought-tolerant plants that are built primarily for gardens like yours. I hope some find their way to your local garden centers and get the stamp of approval from local experts.

  2. Nice list, but why isn’t the genus and species in the description? Only listing common names can be confusing for shoppers

  3. Great content! I love that you show the zone hardiness information: this is such important information when choosing a perennial for your yard!!

    1. So happy it was helpful info for you! Isn’t it incredible how much plants can vary based on growing zones?

  4. thanks for new the new ideas we have to think of tolerance and reliability due to changing climates love the colours!!!

    1. Very true, changing gardens means changing our plant palettes too! On the bright side, it is nice to get to know new plants.

  5. Here in Central Alabama, we have a problem with Entomosporium leaf spot in Indian Hawthorn because of either excess rainfall. Everything else on this list does well. Thanks for the valuable info!

    1. Always glad to share inspiration! I’ll pass on your note about the leaf spot to our breeders and check in with them about that issue to see what impact it has had on our two Indian hawthorns.

  6. I have been searching for browallia for zone 2 will you have some in the spring and if so can I order this as we have none available at our location I

  7. I am really excited to read about these beautiful species that will stand our South Carolina heat. I gravitate towards pinks, reds, and yellows,
    but easy to grow and maintain will sway me in the selection to buy.

  8. DEFINITELY agree with regionality importance, but as a 50yr PLA, I’ve made my own spreadsheet of plants for CT-NY with Symbol, Qty, botanical/ common name (Genus, species, var., x), comments [planting info, spacing, colors (stem, leaf, fower, seasonal)], Item size [BR, B&B, H, W, Cont., Bulbs (cm),

    1. That sounds like an incredible spreadsheet! Honestly, I’d love to see it if you ever feel like sharing. Our designer recently made an incredible reference chart/spreadsheet for the new copy of our Gardening Simplified magazine. If you’re a fellow chart lover, the hard copy and the digital versions will be available soon!

    1. Oh no! If you’d like, you could email me photos of your plants when the growing season gets back into full swing and we could chat about possible solutions.

  9. Interesting selection! Your plants are always well grown. I killed Aronia Low Scape which was sent to me to trial. The first winter the rabbits ate it to the ground. It recovered somewhat and we covered it with a wire cage the second winter but it didn’t make it through the second summer which was very wet. Too bad. I grow other aronias and haven’t had any trouble with them. They are more ornamental and easier to grow than black currants here in Central New York and the fruits have many of the same virtues.

    1. Oh interesting! I haven’t heard of it having that kind of trouble up to this point. Did you communicate your results with someone here at Proven Winners ColorChoice?

  10. I love your plant list, but most of them won’t survive our sandy soil and hot summer temps. I would love to see a list of shrubs/plants that will survive AND thrive out here in west Texas without having to completely replace our sandy soil, or watering them three times a day or holding a sunshade over them all afternoon. And that have little-to-no maintenance requirements. The kind you plant and forget. LOL. I don’t want much do I? I’m in zone 8. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. You only want what we all want! We have definitely been working on introducing more plants that are well-suited for the south, you should see some really exciting options like Estrellita Little Star Bouvardia and Chicklet Orange Tecoma coming into the market soon.

    1. I’m very sorry to hear this! If you’d like to chat about possible solutions, feel free to email me some photos of your plant this spring and some info about its growing conditions. Amount of sunlight, pruning regimen, soil type, etc.

  11. I love the list!!! I am a very new gardener. Will any of these survive morning sun only? In the shade from noon on.

  12. Hello,
    Some of the shrubs are listed as salt-tolerant. I live in Minnesota where salt is put on the roads to melt winter ice. I have an area next to the road where I’d like to plant some shrubs, but I’m not sure how much salt can be tolerated. I’m particularly interested in the Tortuga Juniper. Would it survive/thrive is exposed to road salt? Thanks.

    1. Tortuga in particular is an extraordinary plant. It seems to think nothing of salty soil. You should be able to grow it with success!

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A close view of gorgeous fluffy flowers on Dark Lavender Chiffon rose of Sharon.

11 Easy Care Shrubs

We’ve gathered a list of some of our most rugged plants. They’re prepared to brave a range of elements, including a bit of occasional neglect.

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