The Best Early-Summer Flowering Shrubs

List of the Best Bushes for June, July

Rose garden with a mountain in the background.
Craig Tuttle/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

Spring is such a great time of year in the landscape that it is easy to suffer a letdown after it is over. That's why it's important to stock your yard with early summer flowering shrubs. Their follow-up act will take some of the sting out of losing the blooms on those splendid flowering shrubs of late spring. Below are listed the top ten choices for Northern landscaping (USDA planting zone 5). Use them as a guide in your plant selection. By choosing wisely, you can avoid having everything bloom at once in your yard, followed by periods where you have very little landscape color. 

  • 01 of 10

    Neon Flash Spirea

    Neon Flash spirea (image) has flashy flowers. The foliage offers little interest.
    David Beaulieu

    Three kinds of flowering shrubs are widely grown and among your best allies for early summer color: spireas, roses and hydrangeas. Examples of each are given on this list, beginning with spirea (Spiraea).

    'Neon Flash' spirea begins blooming in early June in zone 5, and it will carry some of that early-summer color into late June and early July. It's also a reblooming bush. So one could just as easily have slotted it into a late summer flowering shrubs list, because it will bloom again for you in August and/or September.

    Not all spireas are necessarily most valued for the beauty of their blooms. Many gardeners grow 'Goldflame' for its foliage. The gold in the leaves of 'Gold Mound' is even brighter than Goldflame's.

  • 02 of 10

    Roses

    roses in a garden
    Richgreentea/ Moment Open/ Getty Images

    Many gardeners shy away from planting roses (Rosa), feeling that these early summer flowering shrubs are too difficult to grow and care for. That's too bad, because not all kinds of roses require a green thumb

  • 03 of 10

    Invincibelle Spirit Hydrangeas

    Invincibelle Spirit hydrangea starts out almost red, then fades to a light pink. Here's a picture.
    David Beaulieu

    Americans will sometimes observe the 4th of July holiday season by growing red, white and blue flowers in their flower borders. It's easiest to get such a color combination using bedding plants, but, occasionally, people go the extra mile and try to work perennials and/or shrubs into the color scheme. Invincibelle Spirit hydrangea comes close to filling the need for something red when it first blooms (the flowers later fade to pink). To continue the theme, below let's look at examples of white-flowered and blue-flowered hydrangeas (Hydrangea).

  • 04 of 10

    Incrediball Hydrangeas

    Incrediball hydrangea (photo) is so called due to its massive flower head. It's incredible!
    David Beaulieu

    The white hydrangea in this red-white-blue trio has the most impressive flower head, by far, unless you're dead set against the color, white. What it lacks in colorfulness it makes up for in size. One warning, though: As with some other large flowers, such as those on peony plants, they can fill up with rainwater and flop over under all that extra weight.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Nikko Blue Hydrangeas

    My image shows 'Nikko Blue' hydrangea. This bush has blue flowers.
    David Beaulieu

    Grown in acidic soils, Hydrangea macrophylla 'Nikko Blue' will produce blue hydrangea flowers. This cultivar can be classified in either of two ways, depending on which plant part you're focusing on: in terms of foliage, it's a bigleaf hydrangea but in terms of flowers, it's a mophead hydrangea.

  • 06 of 10

    Lavender Plants

    English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) blooming and massed together.
    Shelly Chapman/Moment/Getty Images

    Lavender (Lavandula) is the smallest plant on the list. In fact, many of you probably think of it as an herb rather than as a shrub. But, technically, a shrub it is. Provide it with sharp-draining soil and you'll have a reliable early summer bloomer for years, with little maintenance. In addition to its blooms, it is valued as one of the plants with silvery leaves.

  • 07 of 10

    Miss Kim and Bloomerang Lilacs

    Image of Miss Kim lilac.
    Miss Kim lilac shrub flowers into June in zone 5. David Beaulieu

    Miss Kim is a type of lilac shrub that blooms a bit later than the better-known lilacs (that is, Syringa vulgaris). That is not the only way in which the two differ, as is explained in this article. While many gardeners still prefer Syringa vulgaris, there is a place in one's landscaping for Miss Kim. This is especially true if you're seeking early-summer color from a shrub.

    Bloomerang is another good choice in lilacs when you are looking for a shrub with a later blooming period. When your Syringa vulgaris is done flowering, you will still have some flowers on your Miss Kim and Bloomerang bushes. Bloomerang will even rebloom (thus its name), giving you even later color. Both of these compact lilacs provide a bridge from May to June in zone 5, offering flowers after your May stars have retired.

  • 08 of 10

    Blue Chip Butterfly Bush: Non-Invasive Buddleia

    'Blue Chip' Buddleia (picture) is a non-invasive type. Draws butterflies, not your wrath.
    David Beaulieu

    Lovers of butterflies naturally want to draw them to their yards by growing plants to attract butterflies. Thus the popularity of butterfly bush (Buddleia), which gained such a name with good reason. There's just one problem: The traditional Buddleia grown in gardens is among the worst invasive plants in some regions of North America. Enter 'Blue Chip,' a non-invasive improvement on your grandparents' butterfly bush.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Oakleaf Hydrangeas

    White flower head of the oakleaf hydrangea shrub in bloom.
    David Beaulieu

    We will end the list with two bushes that display multiple talents in the landscape, across various seasons. Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) is an especially good choice in this regard, offering four-season landscaping interest. So don't get caught up on when its flowers bloom and what they look like: The bush has so much more to offer than that.

    For the record, the flowers bloom in early summer and look like typical hydrangea flowers. But let's talk about what else it offers. It would be worth growing for its fall foliage, alone. The shrub also has peeling bark on its branches that is pleasing to look at. All in all, it is a mush-have shrub in the Northern landscape

  • 10 of 10

    Virginia Sweetspire

    Virginia sweetspire flowers in an artistic photo.
    Fotosearch/Getty images

    It's appropriate that Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica) and oakleaf hydrangea appear last on this list of early summer flowering shrubs. From the point of view of many, they're shrubs for fall color, first and foremost. They just happen also to bloom in early summer. This is particularly true of Virginia sweetspire. It's spiky white flowers, if enough of them are present, are moderately attractive. But what sells most gardeners on this bush is the fall color of its leaves. The June blooms are just a nice bonus. 

This article was designed to establish sequence of bloom. The exact calendar date on which a bush will bloom depends on a variety of factors, including weather, growing conditions, and where you live. The beginning of summer is treated loosely as the start of June (not June 21). But a shrub that flowers June 1 in zone 5 will have already bloomed in May in a warmer zone. Still, the information provided will help you with your plant selection, so that you will be able to stagger the times that you can enjoy shrubs in full bloom in your yard, regardless of where you live.