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11 of the Best Shrubs for Minnesota Yards and Gardens

Landscaping can add so much to your yard. Whether for practical purposes like assisting drainage or providing privacy or just for the joy of aesthetic appeal, the right plants can really upgrade your home’s appearance.

But with fierce winters, it can be challenging to find good shrubs that can withstand the Minnesota climate. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of the best winter-ready plants that will bring more curb appeal to your Minnesota home. Whether you’re looking for more privacy, more birdwatching opportunities, or just something safe for your curious pup to nibble on, we’ve got it on this list of best shrubs for Minnesota.

Beautify your landscaping with a burning bush, one of the best shrubs for Minnesota
Add that pop of color to your landscaping with one of the best shrubs for Minnesota

Best Shrubs for Making Your Minnesota Home Stand Out

If you’re looking for some natural ways to make your yard stand out among the others in your neighborhood, look no further than the following shrubs on this list. Not only can these shrubs withstand Minnesota winters, but many of them look their best contrasted against the snow.

1. Arctic Fire Dogwood

First on our list of best shrubs for Minnesota is the Arctic Fire Dogwood. This green, leafy bush looks pretty in the spring and summer but really shines in the fall when its leaves disappear for the season. True to its name, its branches are bright fiery red, and contrast beautifully against the snow.

Arctic Fire Dogwood is one of the best shrubs for Minnesota Yards

While other dogwood varieties reach between eight and ten feet in height, the Arctic Fire Dogwood only grows to be four to five feet tall. This manageable size makes it a great choice for landscaping. Full to partial sun is ideal for this striking Minnesota shrub.

2. Burning Bush

Another bright red shrub to contrast the snow, this bush hails from Asia. It has long, pointed leaves that droop attractively from the branch. In late spring it bears small white blossoms that turn into red berries. The burning bush is wonderfully low-maintenance and hardy. It needs very little care and will flourish in virtually any soil type. Minnesota winters are no problem, and the uneven bark on the trunk and branches of this tree catch the snow to add a winter wonderland look to your property.

Burning Bush is one of the Best Shrubs for Minnesota Yards

The original burning bush grows up to fifteen feet tall. If a smaller size would suit your landscaping needs better, the Rudy Haag cultivar is a dwarf version of this plant. These Minnesota shrubs flourish in full to partial sun.

3. Forsythia

If more red isn’t what your landscaping needs, how about some vibrant, sun-shine yellow? These gorgeous shrubs actually produce flowers before leaves each year, so you can enjoy their incredible color before the leaves even come in. Forsythia plants grow quickly, but with a wide variety of sizes to choose from, you’ll be able to find one that’s the right size for your yard easily.

A blooming forsythia produces beautiful, bright, yellow flowers each year
A blooming Forsythia produces beautiful, bright, yellow flowers each year

Some grow as large as ten feet and may be better suited for landscape centerpieces, while smaller versions don’t get over two feet high and make excellent backdrops or edging. These plants thrive in full to partial sun and do best in moist but not drenched soil.

Best Shrubs for Attracting Minnesota Birds to Your Yard

Some landscaping may be for practical purposes, but there’s always at least an aesthetic element if not a focus on the visual appeal. And what’s nicer to look at than beautiful birds and butterflies enjoying your flowers and shrubs? Check out these Minnesota-winter-resistant flowering shrubs that will attract life to your landscaping all year round.

4. Serviceberry Tree

Birds love the Serviceberry Tree for its perching opportunities as well as its delicious red or purplish-black June berries. At fifteen to twenty-five feet in mature height and width, some varieties of serviceberry trees get quite large for landscaping purposes. The Canadian serviceberry reaches six to twenty feet at its full height and could be regularly pruned to keep it smaller. The Snowy Mespilus serviceberry tree gets no taller than sixteen feet and could make a better fit for some yards. Each of these varieties will attract butterflies to your yard as well as Minnesota songbirds.

Its leaves turn a vivid shade of red-gold in the fall, making it one of the most attractive landscaping trees for Minnesota autumns. Full sun is ideal for these trees.

5. Goldflame Honeysuckle

Next on our list of best shrubs for Minnesota yards is the Goldflame Honeysuckle. This woody vine featuring clusters of fragrant, pinkish-red trumpet-shaped flowers with yellow overtones is loved by Minnesota bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It can reach heights of twenty feet, so it may need pruning every fall to keep it at a manageable height. It grows best over a fence or a trellis and will add a natural, garden look to your landscaping.

It won’t tolerate standing water but will grow well in most other soil types. It thrives in full sun and a little mulch can help the plant survive the intense Minnesota winters.

Best Shrubs for Privacy in Your Minnesota Yard

Your yard is your domain. You don’t need neighbors or passing cars looking in on you when you’re trying to relax. Whether your neighborhood doesn’t allow fences or you just prefer a natural look, here are some great choices for natural privacy barriers.

6. Smoke Bush

With a ten-to-fifteen-foot mature height and thick foliage, the Smoke Bush makes a great natural privacy barrier. Its flowers are beautiful purple-pink smokey plumes that add visual interest as well as more foliage to block the view from your yard to your neighbor’s.

Enjoy the unique smokey plumes from a Smoke Bush; one of the best shrubs for Minnesota yards
Enjoy the unique smokey plumes from a Smoke Bush; one of the best shrubs for Minnesota yards

Its leaves are large and green, though some cultivars tend toward purple. In the fall, leaves turn yellow, orange, or purplish-red, and the flowers turn to a smokier pink color. The whispy hairs attached to the flowers, which are where the smoke bush derives its name from, stay with the flower throughout the year.

These shrubs thrive in most soil types. Full sun exposure (at least six hours a day) is required to meet their sunlight needs. The sap from this plant can cause mild skin irritation, so it’s best to handle the plant with gloves. Because of this, it is best suited for yards without children or where children have other trees or a playset to play in.

7. Boxwood Shrub

There are over seventy species of boxwood shrubs. The most common are the dwarf boxwood varieties, prized for their extremely dense growth. Larger varieties reach eight feet or more in height and make excellent privacy hedges. They have lots and lots of branches covered in small but dense little green leaves.

Their roots are shallow, so they do best in places sheltered from extreme wind and heat. They thrive in either full or partial sun and need very little maintenance. When used as a hedge, the only maintenance they are likely to need is regular pruning to maintain their desired shape. The Arborescens boxwood variety grows eight to ten feet and is commonly used as a privacy hedge. The Monrue Green Tower is three times as tall as it is wide, making it a good choice for topiary design.

8. Yew Bush

An evergreen needle-bearing shrub, the yew bush likes to spread out. It’s a slow grower but can reach as tall as fifty feet if given enough time. Its tendency to fan out as it grows will require some pruning, but the beautiful green color of this bush and its lovely red berries make it well worth the trouble.

The Yew Bush is drought-tolerant and flourishes in full to partial sun and even shade.

Best Shrubs for Dog Owners in Minnesota

These days, dogs are as much a part of the family as humans. If you are a furbaby family, the safety of your pets is a top priority. With this in mind, here are a few non-toxic plants that are safe for those dogs who enjoy sampling everything in sight.

9. Weigela

This sprawling Asian shrub comes in a wide variety of sizes and colors. With five-lobed tubular flowers that reach one to two inches in length and variegated leaves, they also have a unique and intriguing look about them. Some weigela plants can reach ten to fifteen feet in height and width. These plants make stunning hedges and their thick foliage is an almost 100% vision blocker.

If you’re looking for smaller plants, there are also weigela varieties that reach around two feet in height and width at full maturity, like The Spilled Wine Weigela. There are many sizes in between this and the hedge size. Flowers come in red, pink, white, or yellow depending on the variety. Their leaves can be green, chartreuse, gold, burgundy, or deep purple. These plants prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They’re also considered non-toxic to humans and dogs.

10. Purple Basil

A more purple and pungent basil variety than the sweet green herb you might be used to, this dog-safe shrub will add a dash of rich purple to your landscaping. It’s also great for adding an exotic flavor and unexpected color to many recipes.

This plant prefers full sun and should have about a foot of space around it when first planted so that it has room to grow. Soon, it will fill out and spread its vibrant color around. And best of all, it’s completely safe and delicious for you and your dog to enjoy!

11. Coral Bells

Last, but not least on our list of great shrubs for Minnesota yards are Coral Bells. While most of our Minnesota shrubs prefer full sun, Coral Bells actually prefer the shade. They’re natural to wooded environments, and appreciate having those conditions mimicked. The tall stems covered in bell-shaped blossoms are where these plants get their name. They are low growers that tend to form mounds, so they make great filler plants to sparse shady areas of your garden or landscaping.

Uniquely preferring the shade, Coral Bells are one of the prettiest shrubs for Minnesota
Uniquely preferring the shade, Coral Bells are one of the prettiest shrubs for Minnesota gardens

These plants are delightfully low-maintenance. The most they’ll need is a little watering in the summer. You may also want to cut back woody growth in the spring to help manage the plants. And best of all, if your dog takes a nibble, he won’t be in any danger.

More Shrubs for Minnesota?

Did we leave out your favorite, hardy Minnesota shrub from this list? Let us know what you think we should add to our list of best shrubs for Minnesota yards in the comments!

Looking to upgrade your outdoor spaces at home? Then find inspiration for your Minnesota backyard with our landscaping ideas, outdoor furniture suggestions, gardening recommendations, and more!