Front yard Shrub Suggestions


Our front yard faces east and gets pretty direct sunlight in the summer hours until the early afternoon, therefore making it pretty hot and dry as there is no shade.
Can you recommend a few slow growing shrubs that thrive in these type of conditions?  Ideally they would also be shrubs that would prevent weeds from growing underneath them.


Your full sun exposure gives you a lengthy list of shrubs to choose from.  I’m including a link below to a Toronto Master Gardener guide that provides guidance on the selection and care of shrubs for different light conditions.  Not all of the shrubs in the full sun list will meet your other criteria of slow growth and weed suppression.  I’ll make some suggestions from this list and add some conifers for year round interest.  All of my suggestions will tolerate dry conditions once established.

A variety of heights and textures make for a more interesting combination so I’ll make suggestions for tall, medium and low growing shrubs.  In general, for weed suppression you’ll want dense, mounding shrubs that will block light at the ground level.  The taller shrub(s) will serve as a focal point in the bed so I’m looking for a more upright growth habit.


Royal Purple Smoketree (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) is a beautiful shrub with that matures over time to 10-15 feet with a similar spread.  It is an upright, multi-stemmed shrub that, like all smoke trees, gets its name from the billowy smoky pink hairs that appear after the insignificant yellow flowers are done – these cover the shrub with hazy, smoke-like puffs all summer.  The Royal Purple cultivar is distinguished by it’s dark purplish-red foliage that retains it’s colour throughout the season.

An evergreen alternative is Blue Arrow Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum ‘Blue Arrow’) which has blue-tinged foliage and a narrow, upright form.  Blue Arrow has a moderate growth rate with a mature height of 12-15 feet.


Grey Owl Juniper (Juniperus virginiana Grey Owl) is a slow-growing cultivar with a spreading habit that grows up to 3 feet high with a width of 6 feet.  The foliage is a silver-gray colour.  If required, it is very easy to prune to control the shape.  An excellent choice for weed suppression.

Weigela florida ‘Variegata’ is a dense, rounded deciduous shrub with mid-green leaves edged in creamy white and many clusters of funnel shaped light, pink flowers.  It grows to a height of 6 feet in 10-20 years.

Low Growing

Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) is a many-branched, compact deciduous shrub native shrub.  It has a mounded form with a height of 2-4 feet.  The leaves are blue-green and it is covered with open, 5-petaled, yellow flowers over a long summer bloom period.

Snowmound Spiraea (Spiraea nipponica ‘Snowmound’) is another mounded, deciduous shrub with a similar size as the Shrubby Cinquefoil.  It bears profuse white flowers on arching stems in late spring and narrow blue-green foliage.

A grouping of 3 or more these low growing, floriferous shrubs would be very attractive.

You’ll need to use some alternate means of weed suppression at least until the shrubs are established and putting out new growth.  A thick layer of mulch will help to control the weeds and will also preserve moisture.  You might also consider including some perennials to fill the initial gaps.  Ornamental grasses work well for this and can be moved to other parts of the garden as they become shaded by the shrubs.

Finally, it can be frustrating to have carefully selected a specific shrub for your garden and not be able to locate it at local garden centres.  If so, talk to the garden centre staff about alternatives that may closely match the plant you are after.

I hope some of these suggestions will work for you.

Ornamental Shrubs for Various Light Conditions: A Toronto Master Gardener Guide