THE BEST FLOWERING SHRUBS FOR SPRING AND SUMMER

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What makes a good flowering shrub? That depends largely on your needs and desires from the plant. You may be looking for a nice foundation plant to complement your home. Or perhaps you’d like privacy from the next door neighbor, or long-lasting color throughout the season.

Below, we’ve chosen a few species to consider as you start your search for the perfect shrubs for your property. Bloom times, heights, and color vary, but all are low-maintenance and moderately to highly drought tolerant. All make beautiful additions to the landscape.

Cornelian Cherry

Are you the kind of person who just can’t wait for spring? Then you’ll love Cornelian cherry. It’s one of the few shrubs that beats Forsythia to the punch, often erupting into golden bloom even before the snow has left the ground. Cornelian cherry isn’t a true cherry. It’s actually a member of the dogwood family, but it will reward you with bright red, edible, sour cherry-like fruit in late summer. Children and wildlife appreciate the fruit, which also make fine jams and pies. This native of Eastern Europe likes full sun, and is tolerant of many soil types and conditions. It attracts relatively few pests, and can withstand moderate drought when mulched. Some varieties of Cornelian cherry will grow into a small tree, which some people prefer, but the plant is easy to keep under control with moderate pruning and makes a lovely edible hedge or border. Cornelian cherry grows well in USDA Zones 5-8a.

Lilac

An old-fashioned standby that never loses its charm, the lilac is beloved for its showy, fragrant panicles of purple or lavender, four-petaled flowers. White and pink cultivars are also available, and some lilac cultivars have double blooms. Lilac flowers last for about two weeks, but you can extend the season to about six weeks by planting a mix of early, mid- and late blooming types. Depending on variety, lilacs will grow from eight-20 feet tall. Lilacs are hardy to Zone 3, easy to care for, pest resistant, and tolerant of a wide variety of soil conditions. They make great hedges and are wonderful screening and privacy plants.

Sweetshrub

Native to the eastern United States, sweetshrub is an incredible landscape addition for its amazingly fragrant, dark red, white, or yellow-green blooms. Sweetshrub blossoms make wonderful cut flowers, and the foliage is lovely, too. Sweetshrub leaves are broadly oval and may be solid green or variegated purple. Most cultivars turn a striking golden yellow in the fall. Sweetshrub prefers full sun to part shade and moist, loamy soil. However, it is considered a highly drought tolerant plant and is incredibly pest and disease resistant. This three-nine foot tall shrub spreads via suckers, so it makes a fine hedge, but can also be used as a specimen plant if the suckers are removed. The fruit of the Sweetshrub is mildly toxic but dry and unappealing to children and pets. Sweetshrub grows well in Zones 5-8, and blooms in April to July depending on location and cultivar.

Potentilla

If you’re looking for a short, hardy shrub that cheerfully blooms its heart out all summer long, Potentilla is for you. Thriving in Zones 3-7 (with some varieties hardy to zone 2), Potentilla starts its parade of blooms in late spring and doesn’t let up until late autumn. The five-petaled single flowers resemble wild roses, and indeed it is a member of the rose family. However it is much more carefree than roses. Native to western North America, Potentilla is virtually disease and pest free and even resistant to deer and drought. The original species version is a sunny yellow, but you’ll find cultivars in virtually any color you like from white to pink to orange to deep red, some with double flowers. 

Smokebush

Reliably hardy in Zones 5-8 (although many people grow them successfully in Zone 4), Smokebush is a stunning addition to the landscape as a specimen or en masse. The flowers are inconspicuous things appearing in late spring, but after the petals drop the flower panicles develop into attractive, long-lasting feathery plumes that appear in mid-summer and lend an ethereal appearance to the landscape. Easy to care for and tolerant of drought and poor soil, this North American native can be grown as a small tree or kept down to 10-15 foot shrub height with light pruning. Smoketrees make wonderful screening plants at the edge of a property. They can also be coppiced and used as a hedge by cutting them down to the ground each fall. If you do this you will forego the flowers, but you might not mind because the foliage itself is spectacular. Depending on the variety, the rounded leaves can be green, purple, or variegated, and explode into a carnival of wild purples, reds, and yellows in the fall.

Of course, this is only a small sampling of the dozens of species and varieties of beautiful, carefree shrubs available. For more ideas, contact your local landscape professional. He or she will be happy to suggest ones that are especially suited to your area and your particular landscape needs.