Have you thought much about your shrubs lately?

Probably not. They’re the quiet, hardworking plants in your commercial landscaping, never complaining or demanding much.

But if you ignore them, your landscaping will suffer. They need more attention than you might think. 

How long do shrubs live? How do you keep shrubs healthy?

Let’s pretend it’s Shrub Appreciation Day and give them some love.

How Long Do Shrubs Live?

A lot of people think once a shrub is planted, it's there forever. But if you get 10 to 15 years out of your shrub, you’ve gotten your money’s worth.

We know what you’re thinking: It still has all its leaves! It’s been here forever and I’m sort of attached to it! Why do I need a new one?

shrubs near walkway at commercial building

There’s a difference between being alive and looking good enough to add aesthetic value to your property. An old juniper could still be alive after 30 years but if you take a really good look, you’ll realize it doesn’t look great. 

It’s probably overgrown. Maybe it has bare spots. 

Take a deep breath. It’s time to let it go.

Old Shrubs Can Date Your Property

Some shrubs just look outdated, making your commercial property look tired and outdated, too.

In the 1980s everybody planted juniper. Now, nobody does. 

shrubs near paver walkway

Those old junipers are often scraggly and overgrown, encroaching on windows and entrances. 

Today, shrubs like Dwarf Crape Myrtles are in style. Plants go in and out of fashion, just like clothes. It may be time to update your property’s wardrobe to keep up with the more stylish competition.

Your Shrubs Go Through A Lot Out There

It’s probably a good thing your shrubs can’t talk. You might get an earful. Life can be stressful for shrubs.
What’s life like for a commercial property shrub?

A Lot of Stress

Shrub health on commercial properties can be a challenge. Shrubs planted in parking lot islands and along walkways and roadways endure a lot:

  • Lack of irrigation. It’s dry out there.
  • Foot traffic. People walk all over parking lot islands and overstep walkways, so shrubs have to be tough.
  • Car exhaust can scorch shrubs.
  • Salt and snow pile up during the winter, taxing shrubs.


Photinia are susceptible to photinia blight. Knock-out roses are hit hard by rose rosacea. 

landscape expert inspects shrubs

When a plant gets popular, diseases and pests often attack, because there’s suddenly so many of them.

Oops — Planting Errors Take a Toll

Sometimes a shrub that loves shade gets planted in the sun, stressing it from the very beginning. Or maybe a sun-loving plant was planted in the sun — but over time, surrounding trees grew, shading it. Shrubs need the right conditions to thrive.


Snow, ice, bitter wind, scorching sun, drought — all wear down a shrub over time.

How to Keep Shrubs Healthy

Proper, proactive care will increase the lifespan of shrubs, keeping them happy and healthy for as long as possible.

What kind of commercial shrub care do they need?

Proper, Proactive Pruning

Most shrubs don’t like being sheared into tight boxes or spheres. They prefer a looser, more natural pruning. 

A lot of people think tightly clipped shrubs makes for good landscaping. But the best pruning isn’t really noticeable. Your shrub will just look really good all the time.

Rejuvenation pruning is the removal of old, overgrown limbs so that your shrubs can grow new, vigorous branches in their place. 

landscape maintenance crew prunes shrubs

Timing and technique are everything here.

Winter is a great time to prune for shrub health on commercial properties, when your shrubs are dormant. When we head out with the pruning shears and chainsaws to shape and thin, we won’t do as much damage as we would by pruning in their prime growing months.

Expert, timely pruning can increase the lifespan of shrubs and boost your commercial property’s curb appeal. It’s a safety issue, too. 

Shrubs that get too overgrown and gangly can snag pedestrians, obscure your signage, and block your lighting.

Why Your Shrubs Need Mulch 

How to keep shrubs healthy? Bring on the mulch. Mulch helps the soil around your shrubs retain moisture, so you won't have to water as much. It keeps pesky weeds at bay by blocking the sunlight they need to sprout. It prevents rain from washing away your landscape soil.

In the winter, a few inches of mulch spread around the base of your shrubs adds a layer of toasty insulation. (More on winter commercial shrub care in a minute.)

Mulch helps the soil stay frozen, to prevent heaving during freeze and thaw cycles. It insulates roots from the cold. And it holds in vital moisture. 

Plus, a nice bed of rich brown mulch makes your pretty shrubs look even better, highlighting their green leaves and vibrant flowers.

aerial photo of plantings in landscape with mulch

Mulch made from organic material like bark or wood chips decays over time, crumbling into nutritious bits that actually feed the soil. Your shrubs love that. 

But mulch fades and breaks down over time, so you’ll need to replace it every spring as part of your commercial shrub care.

Fertilizing When Needed

Different shrubs have different fertilizer needs. Azaleas and roses really love fertilizer, for instance, but evergreens need very little.  

But they all need to eat. Increase the lifespan of shrubs by making sure they get the nutrients they need to thrive.

Integrated Pest Management

Nothing can ruin shrub health on commercial properties like an infestation of destructive insects. Bugs can really feast on your shrubs, causing significant damage fast.

Most pests attack at certain times of the year. Make sure you have a vigilant landscaping company that keeps a proactive eye on shrubs so they spot any potential problems in time to pounce on them early, before damage is done.

How to Keep Shrubs Healthy in Winter

Your shrubs might look tucked in and cozy under that white blanket of snow, but they could use some help to make it through the winter.

What do shrubs need headed into the coldest season of the year?

Don’t Bury Shrubs Under Snow

That snow looks light and fluffy coming down, but once it’s piled up, the weight can cause winter damage to shrubs.

Be sure you plan with your snow removal company to pile snow away from bushes that could break from the weight of the snow.

How to Keep Shrubs Healthy? Bring on the Brine

Does your commercial landscaping company make great use of brine? It’s much less damaging to your shrubs than traditional rock salt. 

Brine is a liquid mixture of water and salt sprayed on roads, parking lots and walkways, usually before a snow or ice storm, to prevent snow and ice from sticking.

brine on road

Traditional salt can burn surrounding landscaping, but brine is gentler on plant material. 

Brine uses one quarter of the amount of salt as traditional rock salt, so it’s gentler to the environment.

Dormant Oil for Commercial Shrub Care Protection

If your property includes evergreen shrubs, a coating of horticultural oil coats the leaves and protects them from drying winter winds.

This oily spray, also called dormant oil, battles bugs, too. Your azaleas and roses plagued by mites, aphids or lace bugs can use a coating of oil. Instead of poisoning the bugs, you’re basically smothering them with the oil. The oil kills any lingering insects as well as their eggs, so they won’t hatch in the spring.

Shrubs We Love

Some shrubs are especially great, adding real value to your commercial landscaping. 

You can’t go wrong with these beauties:

Korean Boxwood

More disease resistant than its English or American counterpart, this small mounded shrub has glossy light green leaves and is great for short hedges, as it doesn’t get too big.

Korean Boxwood


Hardy and easy to care for, spring-blooming spirea has cascading clusters of white flowers on graceful, arching branches. The summer-blooming spirea offers pretty pink, white or red flowers atop upright branches.

japanese spirea


An old-fashioned favorite, this shrub has interesting foliage, showy flowers and comes in a wide range of colors.


Dwarf Crape Myrtle

Gorgeous flowers, pretty foliage and interesting bark have made the Crape Myrtle a landscape favorite, and the dwarf variety packs all this into just four feet. In the fall, its green leaves turn yellow, orange, or red.

Semi Dwarf Crape Myrtle Tree

Encore Azalea

These beauties come in dozens of colors and varieties and they re-bloom in late summer and fall.

Encore Azalea

How to Keep Shrubs Healthy? Trust Level Green in Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia

Shrub Appreciation Day should be every day, right? 

Let us help you keep your shrubs happy and healthy for as long as possible. Timely, proactive commercial shrub care is a crucial part of commercial landscape maintenance services in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

And when you need new ones, we’ll help you pick the perfect varieties for your property. 

If you’re not already a Level Green Landscaping client, we’d love to add you to our growing list of happy customers. Our focus is on commercial properties like offices, mixed-use sites, HOAs, municipalities and institutions in Maryland, Washington DC and parts of Virginia.

Contact us at 202-544-0968. You can also request a free consultation online to meet with us one-on-one.

We’d love to hear from you.

Request a Consultation

Image Source: Azalea, Dwarf Crape Myrtle, Abelia, Spirea, Korean Boxwood