Five Best Flowering Shrubs
Nothing says "WOW" in the garden like flowering trees and shrubs. I love using flowering shrubs in the landscape because they generally grow and flower fairly quickly, plus they take up a lot of space for the money you spent on them. Flowering shrubs also are fairly low maintenance and if you purchase the correct variety for your location, there is very little pruning or maintenance involved. Here are my five favorite flowering shrubs.
- Hydrangea - One of my all time favorite shrubs, hydrangeas grow best in partial-sun to partial-shade in zones 3-10. They generally start to bloom in early-mid summer and continue blooming until frost. There are three types of hydrangeas: ones that bloom on new wood, old wood and a combination of new and old wood. With so many varieties available, you are sure to find one that will grow in your landscape. Hydrangeas that are most hardy in colder climates are generally white and bloom on new wood, meaning, they can die back to the ground and still produce blooms on that seasons growth. However, many of the newer varieties of Hydrangea change color as the season progresses making it feel like two plants. I personally grow Annabelle, an old fashioned variety that gets huge round flower heads on 4'-5' tall stems as well as some newer varieties called 'Limelight', 'Lady in Red' and 'Endless Summer'. 'Endless Summer' does not bloom reliably for me in my zone 5 garden. It needs more winter protection than I have been giving it, so I am thinking about moving it to a more protected area away from harsh winter winds and will wrap it's branches in burlap to help protect the stems from freezing. Hydrangeas do best with regular water and don't require a lot of fertilizer. In fact, I don't even fertilize mine at all and they are loaded with blooms every year.
- Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius - Another one of my all time favorite shrubs, Ninebark grow best in full sun to partial sun, in slightly acidic soil, in zones 2-8. Once established they are drought tolerant and require very little maintenance. Many varieties of Ninebark have darker red, copper or purple colored foliage that can change color into the autumn season adding another dimension of color to the garden. Tight round clusters of white flowers bloom along the stems in late spring to early summer which are replaced by bright red berries once the flowers die off. Ninebark are very attractive to birds, bees and butterflies and are an excellent way to attract pollinators to your garden beds. Pruning once in early spring may be required to help shape the shrub, but I only ever have to prune mine about every 2-3 years removing the oldest stems at ground level or removing stems that might be in the way of the lawn mower.
- Spirea - The great thing about Spirea is that they can be severely pruned and still come back to live and bloom again. Spirea seem to grow best when lightly pruned in early spring and can sometimes re-bloom if pruned right after the first flush of blooms in late spring to early summer. Growing best in full sun in zones 3-9 (depending on variety), Sprirea can tolerate poor sandy or clay soils as long as they drain well. Once established Spirea can also tolerate drought conditions for a moderate amount of time, but I generally try and give my Spirea bushes at least an inch of water a week when it's not raining. Top dressing the soil around the shrub with compost yearly is all the fertilizer they need. Though Spirea prefer full sun, the yellow leafed varieties can tolerate a little more shade and still bloom well. Blooms range in color from white to pink and even the foliage can change color in the fall depending on variety. Many varieties grow naturally in a round shape, which is preferable to many gardeners. The 'Bridal Wreath' Spirea (pictured above) blooms in more of a cascading fashion on bare stems before the leaves have had time to mature. Truly a wonderful plant when given adequate room to grow and cascade.
- Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus - This late season bloomer can give your garden a much needed pop of color when many of the other perennials in the garden have stopped blooming. Hardy in zones 5-9, Rose of Sharon come in shades of purple, pink and white. My Rose of Sharon in late summer is a hummingbird magnet with it's cone shaped flowers. Another shrub that adapts to many kinds of soil, Rose of Sharon can thrive quite well in poor, sandy soils as well as clay filled soils as long as they drain well. Grow your Rose of Sharon in full sun for best flowering. Rose of Sharon is also a good choice for colder climates because they leaf out very late in the season (late May to beginning of June) therefore protecting it from late Spring frosts. Rose of Sharon can reseed pretty readily, but the seedlings are very easy to pull out when necessary. Mulch the area around the shrubs well to help discourage reseeding.
- Mockorange Philadelphus - Mockorange have the most sweetly scented flowers of any summer blooming shrub that I know of, which for me is enough to grow it. Foliage is generally light green and can come in variegated forms as well. Single and double blooming varieties can grow in zones 3-8 making it a must have for cold area gardeners. Grown best in full sun and well draining soil, Mockorange can bloom for several weeks. I was a little hesitant to recommend Mockorange at first because they can take several years (up to 7 years) to bloom, but once they bloom it is worth it. Mockorange have few pest problems and can benefit greatly from pruning out the oldest stems in late winter, early spring. This will encourage the shrub to put up new grow from the base of the plant and allow more air circulation in the interior of the shrub.