5 Best Shrubs and Bushes for Curb Appeal in Minnesota

Improving the front yard landscaping and curb appeal is often the first request from our landscape design clients. Here are some recommendations from our owner and lead designer Kent Gliadon.

5) “Champlain” Roses


“Champlain” Roses

Roses? Yes, Roses! “Champlain” roses are hardy enough to survive the brutal Minnesota weather and re-bloom continuously throughout the summer and into fall, providing constant interest. These roses perform best in full sun and reach about 3’ tall. Surprisingly these roses require very little maintenance, only needing to be cut back once in the fall or early spring while still in dormancy in order to keep a nice compact shape and encourage lots of blooming. No need to cover over winter! Check out our gallery of photos to see some examples of roses in front yard plantings.

4)  “Arctic Fire” Dogwood


“Arctic Fire” Dogwood

Dogwoods are also Minnesota tough and offer height, shade tolerance, and winter interest all in one plant. These new dogwoods are much more compact than a traditional red twigged dogwood. Where traditional red twigged dogwoods reach 10’ tall by 10’ wide, the “arctic fire” variety has been bred to stay in the 5-6’ tall by 3-4’ wide range, which is much more desirable and manageable for most homeowners. The “firedance” dogwood is a similar variety that also performs well, but stays a touch smaller, usually remaining in the 4-5’ tall by 4-5’ wide range.

Once your dogwoods have reached a desirable height and width, we recommend a light trimming twice a year, once in June/July and again in the fall to maintain a nice shape. If you’re only going to trim them once a year, than fall is the best time since a fall trimming ensures they come out of dormancy in the right shape and won’t require spring trimming that would cut off the flower buds. If your front yard is in very heavy shade, try “Isanti” dogwoods, which seem to perform a little better in the shadiest of conditions.

3) “Blue Shadow” Fothergilla


“Blue Shadow” Fothergilla

These shrubs maintain a unique blue foliage throughout the year before turning a brilliant yellow-orange in the fall. This combination of unique blue foliage and great fall color make them a great choice for front yard curb appeal landscaping. They also maintain an ideal size, staying in the 3-4’ tall by 3-4’ wide range when mature. “Mount Airy” is another great fothergilla variety that gives you a bit larger size, staying in the 5’ tall by 4’ wide range, although its foliage stays green instead of blue. Don’t worry about either variety growing out of control anytime soon. They can be a bit slow growing in comparison to many shrubs, so ante up and buy the larger pot size if you’re planting these in the front yard and looking for height against the foundation.

Forthergilla do great in full sun and light shade. Both varieties have nice-looking early blooming white flowers in the spring as well. However, if the rabbits in your neighborhood get too hungry, they will get after these in the winter. I use chicken wire to protect my fothergilla in the winter since I have a family of rabbits living under my shed, and my dog doesn’t know he’s supposed to be in charge of chasing them off! Rabbits prefer the taste of a burning bush, though, which is one of the reasons I like fothergilla for strong fall color better than the burning bush. You can find out more about our curb appeal design principles on our front yard landscaping page.

2) Hydrangeas


“Bloomstruck” Hydrangea

If you’re looking for long-blooming shrubs with huge white, blue, or purple flowers to plant against the house, hydrangeas are your best choice. There are so many varieties available, but after over ten years of planting many different kinds, there are a few in particular I now like best. Most of the non-mentioned varieties are not listed because they are just too big to use as a foundation plant. The varieties I’ll mention are smaller, in the 4’ tall by 4’ wide range, making them ideal for foundation plants that offer curb appeal.

The “bloomstruck” variety is my favorite, because of the large rich purple-blue flowers and red stems that make them very unique. In my experience, they flower more vigorously than the original “endless summer” variety from which they were developed. I’ve had the best luck with these in shady areas, so I will now only plant them in part to full shade and never in the sun. They can also be a little needy in terms of water. They will be the first plants to look sad and wilty if they’re not getting enough water, but bounce back quickly as long as you don’t make them wait too long. For a hardier option, I like the “little quickfire,” which can be planted in full sun to part shade and keeps a nice shade, which makes is a good standalone option. If you’re looking for white hydrangeas, I like the “incrediball” variety best. These can handle anything from full sun to full shade, but I think they do best in partial shade. They can also tend to flop over a bit under the weight of their HUGE white flowers after a heavy rain, so I stake mine to protect again flagging, although it’s usually not needed.


“Little Quickfire” Hydrangea


“Incrediball” Hydrangea

1 ) Boxwoods


Boxwoods hedge in front of hydrangeas

Boxwoods are the unsung hero of beautiful front yard landscaping. They don’t even flower and they are still number one on my list for best curb appeal shrubs for Minnesota. These are very Minnesota-hardy and the only deciduous landscaping plants that remain green all winter long. When all of the beautiful flowering shrubs we love are leafless for five months during our cold winters, boxwoods provide the evergreen interest we so desperately need during the white of winter.

There are many varieties available, but I like the “Chicagoland” and “green velvet” varieties the best. Both varieties can get to 2-3’ tall by 2-3’ wide, but I maintain mine much smaller, around 18” tall, in little round balls as I wait for them to form a short hedge. Don’t buy anything smaller than a pot size #5, because they are very slow growing. #7s and #10s are even better if you can swing the cost.

Boxwoods are great for the front row (street side) of a multi-layer foundation planting, forming a strong, formal-looking border, and they are the perfect plant to achieve both the cottage style and formal landscaping looks we love. They work great as short hedges or shaped into individual round balls when used as border plants. Boxwoods will  look great in front of all of the flowering shrubs mentioned above and all kinds of perennials as well. Boxwoods are extremely on trend and will be for many years to come.


Boxwoods as a short hedge

If you’re looking for front yard landscaping help, be sure to contact us at KG Landscape. We have been improving curb appeal all over the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for over 13 years. Our eye for design and experienced installation crews will turn your house into a welcoming home.