Best Shrubs for CO2 absorption


We live in Bloor West and would like to know your recommendations for carbon absorbing plants/shrubs to plant in our back yard?


Plants take in carbon dioxide during photosynthesis, much like we breathe oxygen. They then convert it into glucose, which helps them to grow.

When plants are front and centre, keeping hard landscaping to a minimum, your garden becomes a living sponge, sucking carbon dioxide directly out of the air. It is helpful to think in canopies, like those of a forest. Layered planting puts taller trees overhead, underplanting them with shrubs, then perennials and ground cover, all densely planted to knit together and create a seamless tapestry of greenery.

Plant in layers. Plant a wide mix of trees, shrubs, perennials and ground cover, and your garden will become a miniature carbon sink. Trees are so efficient at extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that planting them has become a recognized way of “offsetting” your carbon emissions in other areas of life.

Plant for permanence. The more you plant and replant, the more you have to cultivate the soil, disturbing fragile ecosystems and releasing the locked-in carbon underground. Focus on displays of long-lived, low-maintenance perennial plants that stay in place for many years. Plants with a woody, permanent framework of branches lock up most carbon, but your choice isn’t limited to trees. Shrubberies and hedgerows are really effective carbon sinks, and shrubs can often work well in gardens that are too small for trees.

Fast-growing plants and those with extensive root systems are particularly effective at capturing and holding on to atmospheric carbon. Bamboo in particular is a superstar in this regard, but pick a less-invasive clump former such as Chusquea, Fargesia or Dendrocalamus.

Plants thrive when grown in the right conditions and will need fewer carbon-hungry inputs like fertiliser. Plant sun-lovers in the driest spots. Try to choose plants that won’t outgrow the space, so you don’t have to keep cutting them back.

Native and non-native plants absorb carbon equally well. But some demanding, non-native plants that grow slowly and require high levels of fertilizer, watering, and extra heat may end up costing more in carbon emissions than they absorb – especially if they’re imported too. So pick natives and hardy non-natives wherever you can. You may wish to take a look at the link below.

Since we do no know the growing conditions in your garden, orientation, soil, surrounding structures other plants, it would be best to seek advice from a garden nursery. You may find the Landscape Ontario link helpful.

We wish you every success in planting a carbon neutral garden.