Shrubs vs. Bushes – What’s the Difference?

5 Aug 19

This is a shrub, that is a bush. Have you ever been left scratching your head over the proper title for the plant that is sitting in your flowerbed? I think we’ve all been there. So let’s get a final verdict on what can cause an entry-level gardeners headache — what’s the difference between a shrub and a bush?

Well, actually nothing. The two terms are essentially synonyms. Let’s quickly turn to the dictionary for some clarity on the great plant debacle. Merriam-Webster defines –

Bush: A low densely branched shrub.

  • A close thicket of shrubs suggesting a single plant

Shrub: A low usually several-stemmed woody plant.

So if you take it at face value, a shrub and bush are interchangeable terms for a low lying woody plant with multiple stems. But let’s dig a little deeper into that definition, and what characterizes these plants.

So What are Shrubs and Bushes Then?

A shrub or bush is generally viewed as a woody plant that presents several perennial stems and does not eclipse 13 feet in height, with stems that are not greater than three inches in diameter.

Shrubs or bushes differ from trees in the aspect that besides being shorter in size, they have multiple root systems growing in the ground versus a single trunk. Shrubs also typically feature a rounded shape to them.

So now you may be thinking you’ve got the difference between shrubs and trees down, but what about hedges? Good question.

Hedges, which are normally used for aesthetic landscape design or to provide homeowner privacy, is just a tightly planted cluster of hedges or bushes.

View of a hedge hedge of a flower jasmine

(Tall shrubs planted closely together form a “hedge,” and help provide shade and privacy.)

Popular Shrubs and Bushes Planted in Missouri

As one of the most versatile plants that you can introduce to your garden, shrubs provide a multitude of benefits to both homeowners and the environment, making them a popular choice in Missouri. By placing a few strategically planted bushes on your property can produce:

  • Energy savings – Planting on the east or west side of your home, shrubs can block sun rays from further warming your home, and then allow the sun to hit the home in the fall months when the leaves have fallen off.
  • Improved Air Quality – Shrubs better air quality by being a natural filter to dust and pollutants within the environment.
  • Ecosystem Support – By fighting erosion and providing food and shade to animals and insects, shrubs help sustain a healthy ecosystem.
  • Reliable – Shrubs are sturdy and easy to grow. Homeowners love them because of the little maintenance they require to keep healthy.

Popular choices of shrubs within the state of Missouri include:

  • Japanese Boxwood – A simple, yet vibrant green shrub, the Japanese Boxwood is a common choice for low lying hedgerows (only reaching 3 feet tall) or playing as accent plants within your landscape.
  • Inkberry – A species of the evergreen holly, the inkberry shrubs are slow-growing and reach a total height between 5 to 8 feet tall. They require little attention and are a favorite choice of bees who pollinate the shrub. From the inkberry flowers, bees produce a  sweet form of honey called gallberry honey, which is popular in the south.
  • Girard’s Rose – Girard’s Rose is a subspecies of evergreen azaleas and an eye-catching bush by any standard. With many flowering rounded blooms that feature a pink-red tone, these short standing shrubs (2 feet tall)  make great centerpieces in any garden.
  • Worcester Gold – Getting its name from the gold, lance-shaped leaves it grows, this bush is resistant to most serious insect and disease problems. A reliable bush, the Worcester Gold is beloved for its lavender flowers that bloom in late summer and fall.
  • Diana – More commonly known as the “rose of Sharon”, this shrub can provide homeowners with plenty of shade and privacy as the bush reaches heights of 12 feet tall. Producing wide flowing white flowers, the Diana requires little maintenance and is known for being a favorite hangout for butterflies.

Need Shrubs for Your Home?

Whether you are needing old ugly shrubs and bushes removed, or are looking to find the perfect plants to fill your garden, Voss can help with our nursery services! Plant the perfect shrub (or bush) today. Contact us to get started on your next project!