There are shrubs that grow well and look good all year round, and need little in the way of care as they don’t attract pests and diseases and are not fussy about soil, pruning or feeding.
These are the plants of choice for the bones of any garden. Here are my top 10 easy shrubs for Sydney gardens. All tolerate mild frost and are drought tolerant once established.
1. Dwarf bottlebrush (Callistemon ‘Great Balls of Fire’)
All bottlebrush are foolproof but this compact selection looks good year round with dark green leaves, flushes of colourful new growth and occasional small, dark red bottlebrush flowers. A top choice for a low hedge. Size (hxw): 1.5mx1.5m. Sun to part shade.
2. Dwarf murraya (Murraya ‘Min-a-Min’)
Murrayas are excellent tall-growing evergreen shrubs with masses of fragrant cream flowers in the warmer months. ‘Min-a-Min’ doesn’t flower as prolifically as other varieties, but is compact and grows slowly as a small rounded mound. It contrasts well with strappy-leafed clumping plants such as lomandra. Also good for a pot or low hedge. Prune in late spring to shape, if desired. Size (hxw): 1mx1m. Sun to part shade.
3. Diosma (Coleonema pulchellum)
Diosma is at its prettiest in early spring smothered in tiny pink flowers. It is a soft, mounding, bright green shrub the rest of the year that fits into any planting scheme. It is long lived in well-draining soil. Compact and gold varieties available. Prune after flowering to shape. Size (hxw): 1mx1m. Sun.
4. Fairy rose (Rosa ‘The Fairy’)
Roses are not usually included in a foolproof plant list but this low-growing Floribunda rarely needs attention if grown in a full sun position. It has glossy green disease-resistant leaves and sprays of tiny pink double flowers from spring to autumn. Use as a feature plant, an informal hedge or in a pot. Prune in winter. Size (hxw): 1mx1m. Sun.
One of the most popular garden shrubs in Australia, this evergreen native is rarely without a flower. Use as a low hedge or specimen plant. The pinkish-red, toothbrush-shaped flowers are attractive to nectar-feeding birds. Prune to keep compact after a flush of flowers. Size (hxw): 1.5mx1.5m. Sun.
All hydrangeas are surprisingly low-fuss plants but ‘Endless Summer’ is a pretty, long-flowering variety for shaded gardens or potted displays. It flowers from summer to autumn. Hydrangeas are deciduous in winter when they are pruned. Water well in summer. Size (hxw): 1mx1m. Part shade.
7. Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata ‘Royal Cape’)
Another soft sprawling evergreen shrub for a low-care garden or as an informal hedge or border. The species spreads by suckering and can also climb but ‘Royal Cape’ doesn’t sucker. It has clusters of deep blue flowers for much of the year. In summer and autumn they are massed with tiny blue butterflies. Prune hard any time. Size (hxw): 2mx2m. Sun.
8. Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyerianus)
Grow this handsome evergreen shrub in a sunny to lightly shaded spot with frost protection. It has handsome metallic purple leaves and sprays of lavender blue flowers in spring and summer. Size (hxw): 1mx1m. Sun to part shade.
This long-flowering shrub is a star in gardens with varieties offering a range of sizes, shapes and flower colours including pink and white. Plants bloom from late summer to early winter and are grown as hedges, background shrubs or in large containers. Prune after flowering if desired. Size (hxw): 1-3mx1-1.5m. Sun to shade.
10. Euphorbia ‘Hip Hop’
This looks like a delicate plant but in reality is tough. It has sprays of small white flowers throughout the year that soften the look of other plantings. It is also a top container plant. Prune if necessary. A similar variety is 'Diamond Frost'. Size (hxw): 50cmx50cm. Sun to part shade.