Many short cypress shrubs in pots
(Image credit: ChamilleWhite)

Ornamental shrubs serve many purposes in the garden and can bring color, texture, form, flowers, and fruits to the landscape. With so many choices, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The list below shows some of the best shrubs for Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Shrubs can be divided into two groups – deciduous and evergreen. Deciduous plants drop their leaves at the same time each year and remain without foliage for a while (dormancy). Evergreen plants drop a few leaves during the year but are never barren for any length of time. The list below includes flowering deciduous shrubs as well as evergreen shrubs.

Southern bushes can be exposed to many environmental challenges such as heat, drought, and humidity. Given the proper care and correct site for its size, hardiness, and light needs, these shrubs should fare well.

Best Southern Shrubs for Yards and Gardens

There are many more shrubs to choose from that do well in southern climates. Contact your local extension service for more choices. Texas is divided into six different regions, but Texas shrubs represented in the list below are adaptable to all regions.

Flowering Shrubs

  • Althea (Hibiscus syriacas) – Blooms prolifically during summer in a myriad of color choices.
  • American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana L.) – Lavender flowers in spring are followed by magenta berries (white cultivars available) in late summer that are relished by birds. Yellow fall color.
  • Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) – Showy flowers in red, pink, white, or lavender with a variety of height choices; blooms for long periods in summer. Exfoliating bark.
  • Chaste tree (Vitex spp.) – Large shrub or small tree. Long lavender, blue, white, or pink spikes cover the tree sporadically from summer to frost.
  • Hydrangea (Hydrangea spp.) – Native oakleaf hydrangea has white cone-shaped flowers that fade to dusty rose, then tan. Panicle hydrangeas have large, white, cone-shaped flowers that fade to pink. Macrophylla hydrangea has the familiar ball shaped flowers in blue, pink, red or shades of purple.
  • Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) – Native shrub in standard or dwarf forms with pink or white flower spikes in summer.
  • Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) – Fragrant white blooms in winter when little else is blooming.
  • Witch-alder (Fothergilla major) – Native plant with fragrant, white bottlebrush flowers in spring; red or orange autumn color.

Evergreen shrubs

  • Aucuba (Aucuba japonica 'Variegata') – Dark green and yellow variegated leaves.
  • Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) – Many color choices that bloom prolifically in spring. Newer cultivars that bloom sporadically all season are available.
  • Holly (Ilex spp.) – Hollies need male and female plants to fruit. Yaupon, Inkberry, Japanese, Chinese, possum haw, American.
  • Indian Hawthorn (Raphiolepis indica) – White or pink flowers in April; blue fruit in fall.
  • Japanese boxwood (Buxus microphylla japonica) – Tolerates heat and humidity.
  • Juniper (Juniperus spp.) – Many varieties and growth patterns are available of this tough shrub. Needs well-draining soil.
  • Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) – White, lavender, pink, or red flowers in spring.
  • Southern waxmyrtle (Myrica cerifer) – Native to moist sites but tolerates drought. Fruits in fall attract wildlife.

For more information on shrubs for Oklahoma visit the Oklahoma Proven program on the Oklahoma State University extension website. The program began in 1999 and a team of researchers evaluate and market the best plants for Oklahoma gardens.

Susan Albert

After graduating from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English, Susan pursued a career in communications. In addition, she wrote garden articles for magazines and authored a newspaper gardening column for many years. She contributed South-Central regional gardening columns for four years to While living in Oklahoma, she served as a master gardener for 17 years.