Flowering shrubs can grace your garden, adding color, interest and sometimes fragrance to the home landscape. For the biggest, showiest flowers, you’ll also need to take into account the sun exposure of the garden site. But never fear, there are flowering shrubs for landscaping that like sun and others that like shade.
Everyone will have their own list of best flowering shrubs. Here are some we love that you might like to consider.
Best Flowering Shrubs for Big Blooms
1. Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
Many shrubs that seem to have huge flowers actually have large clusters of small flowers instead. The popular panicle hydrangea is one of these, with pointed panicles of creamy blossoms. They are extremely showy from the moment they flower, but continue to delight throughout the season. As they mature, the white blooms turn pink, then bronze, and they can hang onto the branches long into the winter. They thrive in USDA zones 3-8.
2. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)
Buddleia or butterfly bush can’t be beat for ornamental blooms. It grows rapidly to 6 feet (1.8 m) or taller and, during the summer/fall season, is covered with masses of indigo blue, fragrant panicles. It is so independent and easy to grow that the flowering shrub has the reputation of becoming invasive. Alternatively, select a hybrid that’s more compact, has more blossoms, and doesn't self-seed. Buddleia are among the best flowering bushes for attracting butterflies as well, as the common name suggests.
3. Crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
Crepe myrtle is known as the flowering shrub of the American South, with enormous, papery clusters of bright red and rose flowers some 6-10 inches (15-25 cm) long. Modern cultivars are hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 6 and offer additional flower shades including white, lavender and purple. It is possible to find cultivars with fragrant blooms.
4. Shrub roses (Rosa spp.)
Roses are such popular types of flowering bushes that they have been called the quintessential garden shrubs. The gorgeous, fragrant blooms appear in summer and can be single or double. You can find cultivars flowering in pink, white, red, coral, yellow, and cream. Shrub roses are generally winter hardy to zone 4.
Best Flowering Shrubs for Sun
5. Shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
Cinquefoil is a very popular and pretty flowering bush, valued for its long bloom time. It is very hardy, thriving in USDA zones 2-8. It is also tolerant of drought, air pollution, and salt air. The blooms are shaped like saucers and are single, double, or semi-double, in white, yellow, pink, orange or red. The leaves are also attractive, finely textured and bright green. Flowers provide food for butterflies and pollinating insects.
6. Forsythia (Forsythia spp.)
These types of flowering bushes are among the first to bloom in spring. Forsythias are filled with brilliant yellow blossoms before the branches leaf out. They are hardy in zones 5 - 8.
7. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Rose of Sharon is a flowering shrub with beautiful hibiscus-like flowers up to 4 inches (10 cm) across. There are lots of cultivars with both single and double flowers, usually in white, pink or red shades. They should be sited in full sun and are hardy in zones 5 to 8.
Best Flowering Shrubs for Shade
8. Mophead Hydrangeas (Hydrangeas macrophylla)
Mophead hydrangeas have more than foliage that is oversized. These flowering shrubs are also called snowball hydrangeas. They are known for their round flower clusters (actually sterile bracts) that are larger than a grapefruit and sometimes the size of a cantaloupe. These are the flowering shrubs that bloom in red or blue depending on the acidity of the soil and can flower for months on end. Easy to grow, they do well in lowlight areas and require a location that gets good shade in the afternoon. They thrive in USDA zones 6-9.
9. Azalea (Rhododendron spp.)
Azaleas are shade-loving flowering shrubs, some evergreen, others deciduous that grow to 10 feet (3 m) in both directions. An azalea will produce vast amounts of funnel-shaped blooms, lighting up the garden in spring with white, purple, yellow, or red flowers. While they can take some sun, in zones 6-8 they do best in a shady area that only gets a bit of morning sun.
10. Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis)
Hardy begonia cultivars thrive in USDA zones 6 to 9. These are shade-loving flowering shrubs with green wing-shaped leaves that are red beneath. The plants also have flower clusters dangling on the end of pinkish-red stems. Cold-hardy begonias grow up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall and wide. They include Begonia grandis ‘Alba’ with white blossoms and Begonia grandis ‘Torsa’ with large, broad leaves and clusters of pink flowers.
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Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.
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