Shrubs for Sun: the 10 Best Bloomers

List of Best Flowering Bushes for Sunny Locations

The shrubs for sun chosen for this list are grown mainly for their flowers. These are deciduous bushes that bloom (collectively) from early spring right into autumn. The selection process was based on cold-hardiness (all are hardy to at least growing zone 5) and the impressiveness of their floral display. Moreover, in hopes of helping you plan the sequence of bloom in your landscaping, I intentionally picked examples that bloom at disparate times. Therefore, guided by this list, you can have...MORE something at its peak in both early and late spring, as well as early and late summer.

  • 01 of 10
    Do you let forsythia shrubs grow naturally or shear them (image) into formal hedges?
    Many people allow forsythia shrubs to assume their natural shape, but others, as in this picture, shear them for use in formal hedges. David Beaulieu

    For many Northern gardeners, forsythia is the first shrub that blooms in their yards each spring. I would never wish to diminish the value of forsythia (the beauty of its yellow flowers guaranteed it a spot on my list), but I do want newbies to be aware that a couple of flowering shrubs for sun bloom even earlier than does forsythia:

    As for all of the shrubs on my list, you can research forsythia further by clicking on the link near its image.

  • 02 of 10
    Old flowering quince shrub that has been pruned a lot. Beautiful early-spring bloomer.
    This old flowering quince shrub has obviously received a lot of pruning attention over the years. Enough to please Michael Dirr?. David Beaulieu

    My flowering quinces usually bloom early enough to be in flower while my forsythia still has blossoms. This is a handy fact to know in case you should want to grow these two shrubs for sun next to each other: juxtaposing two different bushes with such brightly colored flowers (yellow and orange) would create an eye-popping display. Flowering quince does, however, come in colors other than the orange shown in the photo (which is my favorite), as I detail in my full article.

    So far I've been...MORE talking about early spring flowering shrubs. The next four picks on my list start blooming later in spring here in New England.

  • 03 of 10
    Mock orange picture. The flowers of mock orange bear a citrusy smell.
    Mock orange picture. David Beaulieu

    I like to include at least one white-flowered specimen in any list of top picks that I present, because white flowers are desirable for those seeking to create moon gardens.  But you don't have to be a "Moonie" to admire mock orange.

    Many grow this shrub because it bears fragrant flowers. That's overly simplifying matters a bit, though. There are aromatic blossoms that are merely sweet-smelling, and then there are others that bear really interesting fragrances. Mock orange falls...MORE into the latter camp.

  • 04 of 10
    Picture of a weigela with lime-colored foliage.
    Picture of a weigela with lime-colored foliage. David Beaulieu
    Weigela florida is an old-fashioned favorite, but don't misinterpret that designation to indicate a paucity of choices. The highly popular Wine & Roses excites people with its dark leaves -- against which the rosy-pink flowers stand out sharply. Other types have variegated foliage. In my image I show a kind with golden leaves. Then there's the traditional standby. That's what I call variety!
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10
    Mariesii doublefile viburnum's blooms line up in double-file, as shown in my photo.
    Picture: Mariesii doublefile viburnum flowers. David Beaulieu

    This kind of viburnum is so packed with flowers that they form two lines along the branches, rather than proceeding single file -- thus the common name. This fast-growing shrub can also grow to be rather large; I give mine a healthy pruning back after flowering is over each spring. Fall foliage and berries can be nice bonuses with this bush, although my own has underperformed in this regard.

  • 06 of 10
    Lilacs (image) are big, beautiful, fragrant. The purple flowers bloom in May.
    Big, beautiful, fragrant -- what more could you ask of lilacs?. David Beaulieu

    Perhaps not everyone will appreciate the subtleties of mock orange's aroma. If you prefer in-your-face fragrance, then lilacs may be a better choice for you. Besides, their flower heads are drop-dead gorgeous. They come in other colors, as well (white lilacs and lavender lilacs are frequently encountered), but my own favorite is the purple one pictured here on the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris). There are also other kinds of lilacs, such as 'Miss Kim.'  But for a heavenly smell,...MORE it's hard to beat Syringa vulgaris.

  • 07 of 10
    Picture: Candy Oh! Vivid red rose flowers, in closeup.
    The flower towards the bottom left-hand corner is older than the rest on this Candy Oh! Vivid red rose plant; you can see that it has lost the pretty yellow center that the newer blooms around it have. David Beaulieu

    Candy Oh! (image) is a type of landscape rose, a rose group known for being low-maintenance. This trait makes it recommended for beginners who may have been scared away from growing roses heretofore by the myth about "how hard roses are to grow" (I debunk the myth in my article on growing roses). Candy Oh! doesn't exude the kind of perfume for which many roses are famous. But what it lacks in the smell department it more than makes up for visually. This prolific bloomer begins...MORE flowering for me in late spring and continues on into fall.

  • 08 of 10
    'Blue Chip' Buddleia (picture) is a non-invasive type. Draws butterflies, not your wrath.
    'Blue Chip' Buddleia is marketed as being non-invasive. David Beaulieu

    The traditional butterfly bush is both famous and infamous. It's famous for drawing butterflies to your landscaping, but it's infamous for being invasive in some regions. Enter the new cultivar pictured at left, 'Blue Chip,' which is supposed to be non-invasive.

    Not sold on that non-invasive label? One alternative would be Russian sage, although this plant provides more diffuse color than butterfly bush. Russian sage is also sometimes substituted for lavender; both are good full-su...MOREn plants.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    Red dinner-plate hibiscus flower (image) is huge. The bush is hardy.
    Isn't this red "dinner-plate" hibiscus breathtaking?. David Beaulieu

    The plant shown in the image (Hibiscus moscheutos) goes by various common names, one of which pays tribute to the impressive size of its flowers (they can measure 10 inches across): "dinner-plate hibiscus." Another nickname acknowledges its cold-hardiness: "hardy hibiscus" (as opposed to the various kinds of tropical hibiscus with which you may be familiar). Both traits will be appreciated in the Northern garden, as will another fact about this shrub for sun: it blooms in late...MORE summer, thereby helping you plug a gap in your sequence of bloom between the floral abundance of early summer and the onset of the fall foliage season.

    Another type of hibiscus that tolerates cold and blooms in late summer is rose of sharon.

  • 10 of 10
    Bluebeard bush (image) is a colorful shrub with a name to match. It tolerates dry ground.
    Bluebeard lives up to its colorful name. David Beaulieu

    Like the two kinds of hibiscus discussed just above, bluebeard (Caryopteris) is a late-summer bloomer; it continues flowering into autumn. Moreover, it is valued for its blue flowers (browse my pictures of blue flowers if you're looking for more examples of flowers that come in this much sought-after color). Not all shrubs for sun tolerate dry soil well, but bluebeard is one that does.

    If you're just as interested in a plant's non-floral attributes (foliage, berries, etc.) as in its...MORE flowers, read my companion article on shrubs for sun.