9 Favorite Flowering Shrubs for Spring and Summer

Gorgeous spring- and summer-blooming shrubs deliver color, fragrance and pollinators to your garden

Flowering shrubs offer the full package: garden structure, attractive foliage, beautiful blooms and often sweet fragrances, without needing a lot of maintenance in return. There’s a flowering shrub for every spot in the garden, from low-growing ground covers to tall hedge plants and stand-alone specimens. Here are nine choices with outstanding spring and summer blooms.

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Bliss Garden Design, original photo on Houzz

1. Ceanothus
(Ceanothus spp.)

If you’ve seen swaths of cobalt blue blanketing the hillsides of coastal California, you’ve most likely seen ceanothus. These drought-tolerant North American natives make great additions to low-water and seaside gardens, thriving in quick-draining soil and with little summer water. The honey-scented flowers range in color from deep blue to lavender and white, and they attract bees and butterflies. 

Plants range from upright shrub-trees to low-growing ground covers. Hybrids of West Coast native Ceanothus are the most commonly available in nurseries; ‘Dark Star’, with small leaves and deep violet flowers, and ‘Celestial Blue’, with blooms in a medium blue, are particular standouts. Hybrids of less commonly available East Coast native New Jersey tea (C. americanus) are well-adapted to climates in the Northeast.

Bloom season: Early spring to midspring
Where it will grow: Varies by species, with most are hardy to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 12.2 degrees Celsius (USDA zones 8 to 10; find your zone)
Origin: Native to North America, with most species hailing from California
Water requirement: Moderate, low once established; light summer water
Light requirement: Partial to full sun
Mature size: 1 foot to 25 feet tall and wide, depending on species

2. Common Lilac 
(Syringa vulgaris)

With a delicious, heady fragrance that attracts birds and butterflies, and abundant panicles of white or purple flowers, lilacs are one of the most popular flowering shrubs for good reason. Size varies by variety, but most are upright-growing to at least 10 feet tall by 6 feet wide.

Plant as a fragrant screen along a driveway or at the back of the garden. Choosing a mix of early-, mid- and late-blooming varieties will give you flowers from late April through early June.

Bloom season: Intense, if short, in May; early- and late-blooming species can extend it
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 40 degrees Celsius (zones 3 to 8)
Origin: Native to Eastern Europe; most were first imported to North America from France
Water requirement: Moderate to high in extreme heat
Light requirement: Full sun but will tolerate partial shade
Mature size: 5 to 20 feet tall and wide

Monrovia, original photo on Houzz

3. Flowering Quince 
(Chaenomeles spp.)

Flowering quince is often the first shrub to bloom in early spring, with its apple-blossom-like flowers that attract hummingbirds standing out among bare branches like a beacon of the season. Flower colors range from snowy white to all shades of pink, hot coral and red. The branch structure is often twiggy and irregular; it’s best to tuck quince at the back of the bed or keep it regularly pruned. C. japonica ‘Toyo-Nishiki’ has large apple-blossom-like flowers that open in coral-pink and white on a single plant. C. speciosa ‘Pink Storm’ has dramatic hot-coral blooms with a pleasant fragrance.

Bloom season: Early spring to late spring, depending on variety
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 26.1 degrees Celsius (zones 5 to 9)
Origin: Native to China, Korea and Japan
Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Partial shade
Mature size: Varies by variety, but many grow to about 6 feet tall and wide

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4. Garden Roses 
(Rosa spp.)

It’s no wonder that these prickly shrubs, with their stunning and often wonderfully fragrant blooms, have been favored by gardeners for centuries. These days, there’s a rose for every area in the garden, from compact bushes to plant by pathways, to ramblers to train over an arbor, to large specimens that form the tallest tier of a mixed-shrub border. Consider planting intensely fragrant varieties by the front door. Some top choices for outstanding fragrance include wine-red ‘Mister Lincoln’, butterscotch ‘Golden Celebration’, medium-pink ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ and snowy-white ‘Madame Plantier’.

Bloom season: Early spring to fall, depending on variety
Where it will grow: Hardiness varies by species; many are hardy to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 26.1 degrees Celsius (zones 5 to 10)
Origin: Most are native to Asia, with fewer originating in North America and Europe; many are garden hybrids 
Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Full sun; some tolerate partial shade
Mature size: Varies by species


GardenArt, original photo on Houzz

5. Korean Spice Viburnum 
(Viburnum carlesii)

Korean spice viburnum grows into large branching shrubs covered in attractive gray-green leaves with a spectacular spring bloom. In April and May, flower clusters form charming nosegays with an intensely fresh fragrance that attracts butterflies. Plant at the back of the border, around outdoor seating areas or beneath windows to enjoy the fragrance.

Bloom season: Early spring to midspring
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 31.7 degrees Celsius (zones 4 to 8)
Origin: Native to Korea and Japan
Water requirement: Moderate
Light requirement: Partial to full sun
Mature size: 4 to 8 feet tall and wide

6. Oakleaf Hydrangea 
(Hydrangea quercifolia)

With subtler blooms than their flouncy mophead cousins (H. macrophylla), oakleaf hydrangeas make beautiful foundation plants and additions to woodland gardens. The 8-inch-long clusters of blooms emerge in late spring as pale green buds, opening to show star-shaped white or pink flowers. Oakleaf hydrangeas are more drought-tolerant than other species and can thrive with moderately low water once roots are established. Most plants reach 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide, while dwarf varieties like ‘Munchkin’, which reaches 3 feet tall and wide, stay much smaller.

Bloom season: Late spring to early summer, with blooms clinging to plants for months
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 26.1 degrees Celsius (zones 5 to 9)
Origin: Native to the southeastern U.S.
Water requirement: Moderate, lower once established
Light requirement: Partial sun
Mature size: 4 to 8 feet high and 10 to 12 feet wide, depending on variety 


The Collins Group/JDP Design, original photo on Houzz

7. Rhododendron, including Azalea 
(Rhododendron spp.)

Rhododendrons and azaleas can be difficult to tell apart. Both fall under the Rhododendron genus, but azaleas tend to have slightly smaller flowers and fewer stamens — five for azaleas and 10 for rhododendrons — and bloom earlier in the season. Both species are gorgeous when planted in mixed borders and beneath tree canopies. The plants thrive in rich, well-draining acidic soil in areas that receive filtered light. Select for size, which varies widely, and bloom color, which ranges from white, yellow and peachy orange to all shades of pink, red, magenta and purple. 

Caution: All parts of Rhododendron plants are toxic if eaten.

Bloom season: Early varieties bloom in March and early April, midseason kinds from late April to May, and some late-season cultivars will even bloom into fall 
Where it will grow: Varies by species; many hardy to minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 31.7 degrees Celsius (zones 4 to 8; some up to Zone 9)
Origin: Varies by species
Water requirement: High to moderate; keep soil moist
Light requirement: Partial shade
Mature size: Ranges from ground covers 1 to 2 feet tall and wide to shrub trees that can reach 25 feet tall and wide

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8. Weigela 
(Weigela florida)

Weigela offers outstanding foliage and beautiful blooms that work well in cottage gardens and mixed borders. Choose from among varieties with green leaves streaked with creamy yellow or white (W. florida ‘Magical Fantasy), or those with foliage in green (W. florida ‘Plangen’) or deep burgundy (W. florida ‘Alexandra’ or ‘Wine and Roses’). Trumpet-shaped white, pale pink or magenta flowers cover the shrub in May and often continue after the first flush with sporadic blooms through late summer. The flowers are a hummingbird favorite. 

Bloom season: Largest flush of flowers in May, followed by less-frequent flowering through summer
Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 15 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 26.1 degrees Celsius (zones 5 to 8)
Origin: Native to east Asia
Water requirement: Moderate to high
Light requirement: Partial to full sun
Mature size: Varies by variety, from 3 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 12 feet wide


Traditional Landscape, original photo on Houzz

9. Winter Daphne 
(Daphne odora)

With an exquisite fragrance — almost like tuberose mixed with citrus — and glossy oblong leaves, winter daphne makes a beautiful addition to gardens. Daphne can be notoriously tricky to grow, often giving up for no apparent reason after a few seasons. In our book, it’s worth a try given the beautiful blooms, compact garden-friendly form and alluring fragrance. For your best chance of success, plant winter daphne in quick-draining, porous soil with plenty of air circulation around the roots. Also, plant winter daphne in dappled shade in a spot sheltered from hot midday sun. 

D. odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is a particulalry popular variety, with pale pink flowers and dark leaves edged with cream. D. odora ‘Sakiwaka’ is a top choice among white-flowering varieties.

Caution: All parts of Daphne plants are toxic if eaten.

Bloom season: Midwinter to late winter and early spring
Where it will grow: Hardy to 5 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 15 degrees Celsius (zones 7 to 9)
Origin: Native to China and Japan
Water requirement: Moderate, with light summer water
Light requirement: Partial shade
Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, and larger


Categories: Gardening & Landscape

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