How to Grow Ornamental Trees and Shrubs in your Garden

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How to Grow Ornamental Trees and Shrubs in your Garden

Trees and shrubs are the backbone of a garden - they offer many benefits such as privacy, shade, a beautiful backdrop, and can effectively hide unsightly areas, or views. 

Planning & Plant Selection

Garden centres typically have a good selection of ornamental trees and shrubs year-round. The term “ornamental” means plants that are grown for the beauty of their flowers, and leaves with interesting shapes or colours, scent, bark, form, or decorative fruits, to enhance the look of a garden or landscape. 

Top tips when Selecting Plants:

  • Always buy fresh, new stock as old plants are often root bound and may not grow as well.
  • Check the plant’s final “mature height” as some varieties can grow to a considerable size or spread widely. Tree surgeons are kept very busy removing trees that are far too big for their position in the garden! 
  • Plan! Buy a new plant that fits a gap in your garden. Never buy a plant and then wander around the garden looking for somewhere to plant it (tempting as that is!). 
  • Try to develop a theme for your garden by purchasing plants that are of a similar nature or complement each other.
  • Observing the neighbourhood's existing trees and shrubs will provide some guidance as to what plants can thrive in your garden.  
  • Ask your local garden centre or nursery for advice if you are unsure or need help or engage a landscape designer to help you plan your garden.


When selecting trees, it’s important to consider the variety and planting site carefully because they are often the largest and longest-lived plants in the garden. 

Size and Suitability

Check if they can be grown in your region and if they have any specific needs and characteristics – such as their mature size, preferred soil, light and shelter requirements - and whether they are deciduous or evergreen.
Trees can be used as "living sculptures" or focal points in a garden to draw the eye. Or plant them in groups or layers using their features, such as leaves, flowers, or bark, form, or size to create interest and depth, and combine them shrubs and other plants.  They can be used to improve the biodiversity of your garden by providing habitats for birds and insects (see shrub information below).
Some specimens to plant are Acer palmatum " Okagami" (Japanese Maple), Ackama rosaefolia, Alectryon grandis (also known as Three Kings titoki), Fraxinus griffithii (Evergreen Ash, Himalayan Ash), Magnolia "Black Tulip", Prunus Shimidsu-sakura (Japanese Cherry).


Growing shrubs has numerous benefits – they can produce beautiful, fragrant flowers and interesting foliage, adding color, shape, and texture to a garden. Use them to create structure and definition - as a backdrop, hedge or focal point or blended with other plantings. 

Spoilt for Choice 

Shrubs come in many varieties that differ in size, shape, and colours. Plant different types to provide flowers or foliage interest each season, even in the dark depths of winter! 
When choosing a plant and site in your garden, the same things apply as trees (or any plant for that matter). Check if they can be grown in you region (see tree tips above), their size, and if they have any specific needs – for instance, shrubs like azaleas and hydrangeas prefer an acid soil. 
Some shrubs (and trees) can attract wildlife, such as birds, bees, and butterflies, providing a source of food or nectar. For example, hebe flowers attract many pollinators.

Low Maintenance

Some types of ornamental shrubs are low maintenance and are perfect for gardeners who want a beautiful garden without the constant need for attention, such as 
Some evergreen shrubs to try are Brunfelsia pauciflora "Eximia" (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow), Camellia Nicky Crisp, Corokia 'Emerald and Jade', Eroiostemon ‘profusion’ (Wax flower), Ilex crenata (Japanese Holly), Lavendula dentata (French lavender), Royena lucida, and Westringia fruticose (Grey Box), 

Functional Use

In addition to their decorative qualities, trees and shrubs can also be used practically:

  • As windbreaks to protect other plants, animals, or outdoor spaces.
  • To create a barrier between your home and the road or mark the boundary of your property.
  • As hedges to create structure in your garden or provide privacy.
  • Improve or disguise unsightly views or areas in your garden. 

Some varieties to try are: Ficus Tuffy, Laurus nobilis (Bay Leaf / Bay Laurel), Olearia paniculata (Akiraho), Photinia ‘Red Robin’, Prunus lusitanica (Portuguese laurel).

Planting in the Garden 

  1. Prepare the planting site by digging a hole twice as wide and as deep as the container or planter bag the tree or shrub came in. 
  2. Add generous amounts of Garden Time™ Compost and Enriched Garden Mix to the hole and mix in well.
  3. Add fertiliser such as Daltons Premium Planter Tabs or Daltons Landscape Planter Tabs into the planting hole.
  4. Improve drainage by creating a mound of soil at the bottom of the hole in the middle where the rootball will sit.
  5. Place the plant in the hole and replace the soil around the rootball and pat it to make it compact and firm. 
  6. When the tree or shrub is placed in the ground, the base of its trunk/stem should sit slightly above the surrounding soil level to improve drainage. This also avoids water from pooling around the trunk/stem, which can cause rots.
  7. Apply a generous layer of Daltons Premium Mulch and Grow around the top but not touching the trunk of your tree.
  8. Water thoroughly. Note: Water regularly if no rain is forecast or during dry periods while the plant is getting established.

Growing in Containers

There are a wide range of shrubs and some trees that are suitable for growing in containers – these include Beaucarnea recurvata (Ponytail Palm), Laurus nobilis (Bay Leaf / Bay Laurel), Ligustrum japonicum "Rotundifolia", Philodendron ‘Xanadu’, Phoenix roebelenii (Dwarf Date Palm) and Xeronema callistemon (Poor Knights Lily).

Factors to Consider when Growing in Containers:

  • Size of the container.
  • Position of container (exposure to sun, wind etc). 
  • Adequate drainage holes in the container.
  • Using a good quality container mix – Daltons Premium Outdoor Container Mix.
  • Good watering regime especially in dry periods.
  • Top dressing with fertiliser during the growing season.

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