What Is the Difference Between Bushes and Shrubs?

Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by Derek

Distinguish bush vs shrub
How to tell if it’s a bush or a shrub?

There are differences between bushes and shrubs. Some people say that the two terms are interchangeable. However, there are slight differences to tell the two apart.

Key takeaways – shrub vs bush

Key Takeaways:

  • A shrub is not the same as a bush
  • A shrub has denser foliage
  • A bush may not need pruning
  • Bushes and shrubs have a big tap-root with branching roots
  • Grass has many fibrous roots
  • Shrubs and bushes are shorter than trees
  • Trees have one main trunk, shrubs have several
Video roundup – what’s the difference between shrubs vs bushes?

Is a Bush the Same as a Shrub?

Shrubs are low woody plants with many perennial stems, while a bush is a low woody plant, similar to a shrub but with dense branches. There are more features for distinguishing between the two, such as foliage, growing regions, etc. 

What’s the Difference Between a Bush and a Plant?  

A bush is a woody perennial with multiple stems and is small to medium in size. It is different from herbaceous plants. A bush has persistent hard stems growing above the ground, unlike a regular plant with one main stem. While plants can be grown and tendered in the garden, a bush grows naturally in the wild. 

Video – What is the difference between trees, and shrubs vs bushes?

Discussion . trees, shrubs and bushes compared

What Is Different Between Shrubs?

Suppose you are looking for a shrub to transform your garden; it would be best to identify a low-maintenance variety that you can take care of with ease.

There are many different types of shrubs, some are naturally growing in the wilderness to others are perfect for landscaping purposes. These shrub varieties range from tiny forms to enormous tree-like shrubs. Here are some different types of shrubs.

USDA – Shrubs and Bushes


Hydrangea blossoms
Types of shrubs – Hydrangea

It is a popular deciduous shrub native to China and Japan, and it flaunts lovely showy blooms of various shades from mid-summer to fall. It is a low-maintenance shrub with average water needs.

  • It thrives in moist, well-drained clay, sand, or loam with alkaline, neutral, or acidic pH and is rich in organic matter
  • It appreciates partial to full sun exposure
  • Its mature size is 240 cm to 6 m in height and 180 cm to 240 cm in width
  • It is ideal for hedges and screens, beds and borders, patio and containers
  • It is also a perfect backdrop for your best perennials
Hydrangea Shrub
Common Name Botanical Name Soil pH Range Soil Type Sunshine Growing Zones
Hydrangea Hydrangea macrophylla 5.0 – 6.0 Moist, well-draining Partial shade to full sun 3-9

Wintercreeper Vines (Euonymus fortunei)

Wintercreeper vine shrub
Wintercreeper can grow as a vine or a shrub

It is an evergreen, low-maintenance, and fast-growing shrub. It can grow as a low shrub, a woody, or clinging vine. When growing as a clinging vine, it climbs with the support of aerial roots 12m to 21 m. The shrub can be invasive in some regions, so they need careful handling.

Facts about wintercreeper vines:

  • It can grow up to 2 to 10 feet in height and width
  • Its favorable soil is moist, well-drained clay, chalk, loam, or loam with a neutral, alkaline, or acidic pH. It can withstand boggy soil
  • It appreciates partial to full sun exposure for maximum blooming
  • It blossoms throughout spring, summer, fall, and winter with showy greenish flowers
  • It is excellent for banks and slopes, beds and borders, hedges and screens, and a perfect ground cover
Wintercreeper Vines
Common Name Botanical Name Soil pH Range Soil Type Sunshine Growing Zones
Wintercreeper Vines Euonymus fortunei 6.0 – 7.5 Well-draining Full sun to full shade 5-9

Box Plant (Buxus)

3 mature Box Plants (Buxus)
Box plants are easy to grow

It is an evergreen shrub of hardiness zones 6 to 9 and produces tiny ivory-white blossoms with a sweet vanilla fragrance. The blooms are half-hidden within the glossy, somehow rippled dark green foliage. The flowers develop into gleaming red fruits that turn black when they mature. 

The following are some interesting facts about the box shrub plant

  • It grows in moist, well-drained acidic, neutral, or alkaline chalk, clay, loam, or sand that is rich in humus
  • It flourishes in partial to full shade
  • It requires low maintenance and moderate watering
  • Its mature size is 90 cm to 150 cm in height and width
  • It is showy and resistant to deer and rabbits
  • Box plant is perfect for beds and borders, hedges, and screens. You can also grow it in containers or as ground cover with blue flowers
Box Shrub
Common Name Botanical Name Soil pH Range Soil Type Sunshine Growing Zones
Boxwood Buxus sempervirens 6.0 – 7.5 Well-draining, loamy Partial to full sun 5-8

Infographic – Shrubs vs Bushes Compared

Sometimes hard to tell a bush vs shrub
Shrubs are usually much shorter than trees

Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)

Japanese Aralia shrub leaves
Lush glossy leaves of Japanese Aralia shrub

It is an evergreen shrub that flaunts magnificent foliage and clusters of white blooms. The palmate leaves are dark green with numerous white speckles, and the flowers form into beautiful blackberries. It is ornamental and showy.

  • It grows best in moist, well-drained sand, chalk, clay, or loam with a neutral, acidic, or alkaline pH
  • Set it in partial sun to full shade for best results
  • It attains a mature size of 120 cm to 150 cm in height and 90 cm to 120 cm in width
  • It requires low maintenance and average watering
  • It blossoms in spring, summer, fall, and winter
  • It is ideal for patio and containers, beds, and borders
Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)
Common Name Botanical Name Soil pH Range Soil Type Sunshine Growing Zones
Japanese Aralia Fatsia japonica 5.5 – 7.5 Well-draining, moist Partial to full shade 7-10

Japanese Laurel (Aucuba japonica)

Japanese Laurel bush growing near a tree
Japanese Laurel loves shady spots

It is also called spotted laurel, and it is perfect for shady gardens. It bears tiny purple flowers with creamy white anthers that appear from the leaf axils of the female plant or the terminal panicles in a male plant. 

Here are care requirements and amazing facts about Japanese laurel.

  • It needs moist, well-drained loam, clay, or sand with a neutral, alkaline, or acidic pH and appreciates partial sun to full shade. It can also tolerate clay soil
  • It matures at about 180 cm to 3 meters in height and 150 cm to 270 cm in width
  • It is showy and evergreen
  • It blossoms in spring, summer, fall, and winter
Japanese Laurel (Aucuba japonica)
Common Name Botanical Name Soil pH Range Soil Type Sunshine Growing Zones
Japanese Laurel Aucuba japonica 6.0 – 6.5 Moist, well-draining Partial to full shade 7-10

Differences – Bush vs Shrub vs Hedge

There are slight differences between a bush, a shrub, and a hedge though sometimes it can be hard to tell the three apart. At times people use these terms interchangeably. While some similarities exist, they are different, and each requires special care to thrive. 

Here are some of their distinguishing facts and features.

Bush Shrub Hedge 
A bush is shorter than a shrubA shrub has a mature height of less than 15 feetA hedge can be made of trees and is taller than a shrub
They do not need any pruning but grow in their natural stateThey need pruning once a year according to the type of the shrubThey need regular trimming and shaping to maintain their attractive appearance
The foliage is not as thick as that of a shrub It has denser foliage than a bush A hedge consists of more than one shrub, so the foliage is thicker than a bush or a shrub
Almost all bushes grow in the wild untenderedA shrub is grown in gardens or for landscape purposes Hedges are grown and maintained on the fence or border to act as a home screen to provide shade and privacy
A bush has a heavy undergrowth and many leaves and branches touching the groundA shrub may not have undergrowth, and the longer branches are cut to retain shape A hedge, like a shrub, does not have any undergrowth as it is well catered for 
Shrubs and bushes are not the same – here are some differences

University of Minnesota

What Is the Difference Between shrubs and Grass?

There are several distinctions between a shrub and Grass. A shrub has a big taproot or stronger branching roots, while Grass has fibrous roots. The leaves of a shrub are broader and shorter than those of grass. They also have net-like veins. Unlike grass, shrubs bear colorful flowers during different seasons. 

What Is the Difference Between Shrub and Tree?

One of the main distinguishing features between a shrub and a tree is the size. A shrub is shorter than a tree, usually about 15 feet in maximum height. A tree has one central trunk, while a shrub has several main stems growing from the ground. Branches of a tree are far above the ground, while those of a shrub spread in all directions, and the leaves may touch the ground if not pruned. 

Towards Shrubs Definition and Examples

A shrub is a perennial plant with several hard stems that are non-dominant and not more than 3 meters in height. The stems are thin but strong. There are some tree-like shrubs that can grow as tall as 6 meters. The branches of a shrub usually grow near the base and can touch the ground if not trimmed. 

Examples of shrubs include lemon, marigold, rose, and highbush blueberry.

Examples of Shrubs Plants

Shrubs resemble trees in that both have woody stems and branches, and most of them grow all year round. The size, shape, and mode of growing can help you identify a shrub from a tree. Here are some examples of shrub plants.

  • Witch hazel 
  • Japanese Maple
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Hibiscus
  • Pomegranate
  • Heena
  • Croton 

10 Shrubs Names

Most shrubs are perfect for growing in gardens or adorning your landscape with beauty. So, if you are researching shrub varieties, here are 10 of them. 

  • American beautyberry
  • Banana shrub
  • Blue beard ‘Longwood blue.’
  • Bridal wreath shrub
  • Carolina Allspice
  • Chinese fringe flower
  • Coast rosemary
  • Common barberry
  • Common boxwood
  • Common elderberry

Evergreen Shrubs

Evergreen shrubs adorn the land with beauty in various shades, from deep emerald to sunny green throughout the year. Check out some of the evergreen shrubs. 

  • Dwarf Mugo pine
  • Skip cherry laurel
  • Inkberry holly
  • Globe Arborvitae
  • Siberian Cypress
  • Creeping Juniper
  • Dwarf Balsam Fir
  • Globe blue spruce
  • Red tip photinia
  • Dwarf hinoki Cypress

FAQ relating to differences between shrubs and bushes

What are bushes and shrubs?

Both bushes and shrubs are woody plants with multiple stems, but they have some differences in their growth patterns and sizes.

How do bushes differ from shrubs?

Bushes are usually smaller than shrubs and have a more rounded, compact shape. They often grow in clusters and may have a single stem or several stems emerging from the ground. Bushes also tend to have smaller leaves and flowers than shrubs.

What are some common examples of bushes?

Examples of bushes include lavender, boxwood, and holly.

How do shrubs differ from bushes?

Shrubs are usually larger than bushes and have a more sprawling or upright growth habit. They typically have multiple stems emerging from the ground and can grow quite tall. Shrubs also tend to have larger leaves and flowers than bushes.

What are some common examples of shrubs?

Examples of shrubs include lilac, azalea, and hydrangea.

Can a plant be both a bush and a shrub?

Yes, some plants can be classified as both bushes and shrubs, depending on their growth patterns and size.

How can I tell if a plant is a bush or a shrub?

The best way to determine whether a plant is a bush or a shrub is to look at its size and growth habit. If it is small and compact with a rounded shape, it is likely a bush. If it is larger with multiple stems and a more sprawling growth habit, it is likely a shrub.

Other resources relating to shrubs and bushes differences

Shrubs vs. Bushes – What’s the Difference? | Voss Land & Tree

What Is the Difference between Bushes and Shrubs?

The Difference Between a Shrub & a Bush – Garden Guides

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