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Many flowering shrubs attract birds with their berries and provide brilliant fall foliage. But they are perhaps at their best when blooming, during which time they can stand alone as specimens and serve as focal points in a landscape design. It is the splendor of their blooms that is the focus of these pictures of flowering shrubs. The bushes chosen for this list range from early-spring bloomers to those that flower in late summer.
The blooms of Andromeda shrubs (Pieris japonica) are... strong-smelling. Some would say they are fragrant. But not everyone enjoys their strong aroma. What most people do agree on, however, is that the white flowers on this spring-blooming shrub are a welcome sight after a long winter. Indeed, they are among the earliest-blooming spring flowers. The flowers grow in clusters and are bell-shaped (which inspired the alternate common name of "lily-of-the-valley shrub").
In fact, Andromeda shrubs can cheer up the winter-weary even before spring arrives. Not only are they evergreens (the broadleaf type, specifically), but their flower buds tend to give visual interest during the winter, offering a reddish hue.
These plants of China and Japan can be grown in planting zones 5-7. Andromeda shrubs can reach 6-8 feet tall and achieve a similar spread. Grow them in a moist, well-drained, acidic soil. They prefer partial shade but will tolerate more shade (although flowering may be reduced). These bushes are deer-resistant shrubs.
Cultivars have been developed that have more to offer than the original species plant. For example, two cultivars known for bearing new growth that is a fiery reddish color are:
- 'Red Mill'
- 'Mountain Fire'
We owe thanks to Linnaeus, father of plant taxonomy, for the fanciful name. Linnaeus used it to refer to a plant he had come across growing out in a marsh in Lapland "on a little tuft" surrounded by "evil toads and frogs." [Source: The Compleat Naturalist: a Life of Linnaeus, Wilfrid Blunt, p.51.] It reminded him of a Greek myth. Linnaeus imagined the tuft to be the rock to which the princess in the myth, Andromeda was bound. The toads and frogs, in turn, reminded him of the sea monster in the myth, from which the hero, Perseus, saved the princess.
The name was later applied to a genus of plants that included the shrub discussed here. But the genus name of Andromeda was later changed to Pieris.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Rose of Sharon
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) comes in various colors.
In the photo above, you see a rose of Sharon with pink flowers. Rose of Sharon blooms in the latter half of the summer.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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Considered sub-shrubs but often thought of as perennials, bluebeard shrubs (Caryopteris) are deciduous and provide landscape color for the late summer. Along with butterflies, they attract bees; for that reason, they're not good for swimming pool landscaping.
Bluebeard shrubs are full-sun plants that like a well-drained soil. As with similar plants that like lots of sun and a sharp-draining soil, they can be considered drought-tolerant shrubs once established. Growers frustrated by deer... attacks will be glad to hear that they are also deer-resistant shrubs.
Different cultivars are available. Many gardeners grow 'Longwood Blue.' While some cultivars have fragrant flowers, this is not the case with 'Longwood Blue.' But its gray-green leaves do smell of mint. Newer leaves have a yellow-green color.
Bluebeard shrubs may reach a mature height of 3-4 feet, which is slightly greater than their eventual width. The bush is listed for planting zones 5-9, but at the northern end of this range some report above-ground die-back from the winter cold. Happily, new growth will emerge in spring. So die-back is not a problem, since buds appear on new wood (the bush may simply not become as large as it would in a warmer climate). Pruning time is late winter or early spring.
The flower clusters are airy, thus the alternate common name, "blue mist spirea." But as is often the case with the common names of plants, that's a deceptive name, so don't be fooled. Bluebeard shrubs are not true spireas. This nickname comes from the fact that the shape of their leaves is like those on spirea.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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Flowering quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) blooms in April before it puts out any leaves.
Flowering quince is easily recognized (while in bloom) once you've identified the shrub. The blooms of most of the flowering quince shrubs that you will see are a brilliant pinkish-red or orange. After their flowers drop, however, these bushes do not have much value to offer to your yard.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) gives you a lot of flowers over several weeks in spring (later than forsythia).
Japanese kerria's stems grow 3–6 feet in height (the shrub grows to a width that's also about 3-6 feet). These stems are bright green in color and remain so during the winter. Yellow "button" flowers dot the stems on the types with double flowers. Blossoms are single, though, on other kinds.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Because of the tropical hibiscus carried by some florist shops, many people don't associate large-flowered hibiscus varieties with Northern landscapes.
But hardy varieties with large hibiscus flowers, such as Hibiscus moscheutos, do exist. The blossoms are so large that they're sometimes referred to as "dinner plates."
Although they have woody stems like shrubs, the stems do die back to the ground in winter, making them "perennials," technically. These hibiscus plants can... be hardy to planting zone 4. The plants blossom in mid-summer to late summer in a zone-5 landscape.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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There are great plants that you may not know about, and then there are great plants that are a secret to hardly anybody. Rhododendrons fall into the latter category. The wonderful "rhodie" is so popular that even folks who don't know their plants very well can usually identify it.
Like Andromeda, rhododendron shrubs (Rhododendron genus) are in the heath family. There are many colors to choose from, but lavender, white, pink, and lavender-pink are the most common colors.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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In eastern North America, the white or light pink blossoms of mountain laurels light up the woods in late spring to early summer.
A cultivated type that gives you a nice option if you want a small evergreen shrub is "Minuet." Lovers of acidic soil, laurels are another heath family member (like azaleas, rhododendrons, and Andromeda).Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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If forsythia tells you that spring is here, then common lilac shrubs (Syringa vulgaris) let you know that summer is coming.
Not only are the blooms on common lilacs beautiful to look at, but they are also among the landscape's most fragrant flowers. No moon garden in the North would be complete without the white-flowered version of these tall shrubs.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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Like rhododendrons, azaleas are very popular choices for spring-blooming shrubs.
They also hold much more in common with rhododendrons than just that fact: Azaleas belong to the Rhododendron genus. This is why, if you look at the name tag on an azalea shrub at the nursery, you will see it referred to as a Rhododendron. But for all of the traits that they share, there is a difference between "azalea" and "rhododendron".Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Vanhoutte spirea (Spiraea x Vanhouttei) is still a popular shrub, but it used to be even more popular.
This shrub flowers in May in USDA plant hardiness zone 5. It puts out dome-shaped masses of little white flowers. But there are many types of spireas, and they come in different colors. 'Neon Flash' spirea, for example, has pink flowers, while 'Gold Mound' spirea is valued particularly for its golden leaves.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Folks are fascinated with the idea of changing the color of hydrangea shrubs (to pink, purple, or blue) by changing soil pH. But do not forget the types of hydrangeas that reliably give you white flowers every year (regardless of soil pH). For a hydrangea with white flowers and interesting foliage, try oakleaf hydrangea.Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Korean Spice Viburnum
The flowers of Korean spice (also spelled "Koreanspice") viburnum give you a spicy fragrance to enjoy in spring, thus the common name.