In alpine environments facilitator species buffer environmental extremes while building up soil resources above that of open areas. These modulating effects are critical for the persistence of species out of their optimal range and contribute to increase community-level plant species richness and phylogenetic diversity. We analyzed the effects of seven potential facilitator species with contrasting morphologies on subordinate plant species along a crossed environmental gradient, linking such effects to canopy effects. We also used these patches consisting of multiple shrub species to evaluate the effects of the whole shrub community on species richness and phylogenetic diversity, and whether such shrub community effects differed along the gradient. We used ecological and phylogenetic data of alpine plant communities along two altitudinal gradients on opposing aspects of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (Spain). As expected, shrubs buffered harsh abiotic conditions by decreasing mean temperatures and increasing relative humidity with regard to open areas. Composition of subordinate plant communities differed among shrubs and among sites, and correlated with relative humidity along the gradient pointing to the dependence of subordinate species on micro-environments created by shrubs. There were a variety of shrub effects on overall plant abundance and richness depending on shrub identity. In the most extreme sites we recorded generally positive effects of the shrub community, which promoted whole-community species richness and phylogenetic diversity despite species-specific effects ranging from clearly negative to positive. Our data therefore show that the effect of different shrub species on plant community richness and phylogenetic diversity is not redundant, as every shrub species may host unique communities, thereby affecting the structure and composition of the whole community.