Georgia Gardener Newsletter Design Tip: November 27, 2008

Dwarf Plants

Need design help?
Or help "drought-scaping?"
Check out our Design Services.

We're also offering a 10% discount
for November & December Appointments
Dwarf Boxwood

I encounter this scenario on almost a daily basis: someone who didn't read the plant tag installed a plant which has become so overgrown that it's either blocking an access area or view. In an attempt to regain control of the landscape, homeowners and inexperienced landscapers severely (and usually improperly) prune the offending plant. As home landscapes continue to shrink, the problem grows worse and worse.

A leyland cypress is much too big to plant near the front door. This remaining leyland was at one time part of a pair that flanked the door until they grew together and had to be limbed up. This leyland was eventually removed when it started blocking the upstairs windows.

Fortunately, astute plant breeders have spent years isolating and propagating different cultivars and varieties that either grow much more slowly or stay much smaller than their counterparts. Many common evergreen plants that are frequently used for foundations have quite a few dwarf choices available. These include: hollies, false cypresses, loropetalums, nandinas, junipers, laurels, cryptomerias, arborvitaes, abelias, yews, Indian hawthorns and gardenias. Not to be outdone, many deciduous shrubs are also becoming available in scaled-down varieties. These include roses, crape myrtles, Japanese maples, etc.

Some Terms To Look For

There are "buzz" words in the industry that give a clue as to a plant's smaller growth habit. These Latinesque words include such terms as: nana/nanus, prostrata, horizontalis, minimus, pumila/pumilus, pygmaeus, humulus, repens and compacta. Be aware that some plants that are labeled as dwarf will eventually grow to be just as large as their non-dwarf counterparts only they grow much more slowly. In some cases, no one knows exactly how large some of the slower growing "dwarf" varieties will become.

Dwarf Plants

The following list is by no means complete. The majority of these plants are under five feet tall.

Name Cultivars/Species
Hollies 'Compacta', 'Helleri', 'Nana' Yaupon, 'Compacta' Inkberry, 'Burfordii Nana'
False Cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera) 'Mops', 'Golden Pin Cushion', 'Tsukumo', 'White Pygmy'
False Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa) 'Bess', 'Butter Ball', 'Dainty Doll', 'Gnome', 'Golden Sprite', 'Nana'
Atlantic White Cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) 'Heather Bun', 'Top Point'
Creeping Juniper
(Juniperus horizontalis)
All cultivars are ground covers (i.e. 'Blue Rug')
Misc. Junipers
(Juniperus spp.)
'Daubs Frosted', 'Saybrook Gold', 'Blue Star', 'Silver Mist'
Japanese Cedar
(Cryptomeria japonica)
'Elegans Nana', 'Birodo', 'Hino', 'Mignone', 'Black Dragon', 'Mushroom', 'Pygmaea', 'Tensan', 'Yellow Twigg'
(Thuja spp.)
'Rheingold', 'Hetz Midget', 'Goldent Tuffet', 'Cuprea', 'Golden Globe', 'Teddy'
Plum Yew
(Cephalotaxus harringtonia)
(Loropetalum chinense)
'Suzanne', 'Ruby', 'Purple Pixie'
(Nandina domestica)
English Laurel
(Prunus laurocerasus)
'Otto Luyken', 'Schipkaensis'
(Buxus spp.)
'Suffruticosa', 'Faulkner', 'Green Velvet', 'Glencoe', 'Green Gem', 'Compacta'
(Abelia spp.)
'Kaleidoscope', 'Little Richard', 'Prostrata', 'Rose Creek', 'Sunrise', 'Mardis Gras'
Indian Hawthorn
(Rhaphiolepis spp.)
'Georgia Petite', 'Indian Princess', 'Dwarf Yedda', 'Snow White'
(Gardenia jasminoides)
'Veitchii', ''Kleim's Hardy' (aka 'Daisy'), 'White Gem', 'Chuck Hayes', 'Radicans'
Shrub Roses
(Rosa spp.)
'Champlain', Flower Carpet® varieties and Miniatures
Crape Myrtles
(Lagerstroemia spp.)
'Baton Rouge', 'Bourbon Street', 'Chica Pink', 'Chica Red', 'Chickasaw', 'Delta Blush', 'New Orleans Weeping', 'Pink Blush', 'Pocomoke', 'Rosy Carpet', 'Sacramento', 'Tightwad Red', 'Velma's Royal Delight', 'World's Fair Weeping', 'Weeping Alamo Fire'
Japanese Maples
(Acer palmatum)
Most Dissectum Varieties


When it comes to purchasing plants, ALWAYS read the plant tag. The mature size of the plant will be listed and this will be your guide as to where to place the plant. Unless you are familiar with the plant you're buying, never buy a plant that has no tag.

Copyright © 2008 by Theresa Schrum - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be reproduced without the expressed written permission of Theresa Schrum