11 Great Trees and Shrubs With White Flowers

Clusters of dainty white flowers are formed on the American elderberry
Image by F.D. Richards under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
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    11 Wonderful White-Flowering Shrubs and Trees

    One of the most glorious sights you can behold is a tree or shrub that has burst into a profusion of white flowers. It brightens up the landscape and signals that spring has finally arrived.

    Each of these 11 trees and shrubs has at least one cultivar that will bear white flowers each year. One hint that a cultivar may have white flowers is when the botanical or common names include words like alba, snow, or snowball.

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  • 02 of 12

    American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

    Clusters of dainty white flowers are formed on the American elderberry
    Image by F.D. Richards under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

    The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a large shrub that is native across much of eastern North America. It prefers boggy, wet soil and is ideal for large rain gardens. It is a sprawling shrub that spreads by suckering, and it will require pruning to keep it in control. Lemon-scented white flowers appear in clusters in June and July, which are very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Because of its tendency to spread, American elderberry is best planted where clustering is desired. 

    • Latin name: Sambucus canadensis
    • Family: Adoxaceae
    • Other common names: Pie elder, black elderberry, American elder, elder-blow, sweet elder or simply elderberry
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA zones: 3 to 10
    • Size: 10 to 15 feet tall and wide
    • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
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  • 03 of 12

    White Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia spp)

    Angel's trumpet blossoms hang down beautifully from the tree.
    Image by Arria Belli under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

    Angel's trumpet (Brugsmania candida, Brugmansia suaveolens, and other species) are a group of small- to medium-sized shrubs with multiple stems and large, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. They are tropical plants that must be grown in containers and brought indoors in cold climates. It usually blooms from mid-summer to fall, with large, sweet-smelling flowers up to 12 inches long. Angel's trumpet can be used as an accent shrub in warm climates, or as a container plant for decks and patios north of zone 9. 

    • Latin name: Brugmansia spp.
    • Family: Solanaceae
    • Other common names: Angel star, brugmansia, and tree datura
    • Native to: South America
    • USDA zones: 9 to 11
    • Size: 6 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide
    • Exposure: Full sun is best with some afternoon shade in the hotter regions
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    Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

    Lovely white flowers on a black chokeberry
    Image by FritzFlohrReynolds under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

    Native to eastern North America,  black chokeberry is a smallish, suckering shrub that produces clusters of white, small-petaled flowers in May, followed by berries that ripen to black in fall. Leaves turn an attractive purple/red in fall. It is most often used in group or mass plantings, where its suckering tendency is not a problem. This shrub has a good tolerance for wet conditions. 

     

    • Latin name: Aronia melanocarpa
    • Family: Rosaceae
    • Other common names: Aronia, aroniaberry, chokeberry
    • Native to: Eastern North America
    • USDA zones: 3 to 8
    • Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, can be 10 feet wide
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
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  • 05 of 12

    Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia)

    Bridal wreath spirea has a wispy growth habit, with branches that fill with masses of small, double flowers in early spring just before the leaves sprout. It is ideal as a foundation plant or for border plantings. Many varieties turn an attractive shade of yellow, orange, or gold in fall. 

    • Latin name: Spiraea prunifolia
    • Family: Rosaceae
    • Other common names: Bridal wreath spirea, popcorn spirea, bridalwreath spirea, shoe button spirea or just bridalwreath
    • Native to: China, Korea, and Taiwan
    • USDA zones: 5 to 9
    • Size: 4 to 8 feet tall and wide
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
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    Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

    Picture of buttonbush
    Image by Manjith Kainickara via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license

    Buttonbush, native across much of North America, is a medium- to large-sized shrub with an open, rounded growth habit. It produces unusual pin-cushion flowers in June that are attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. It has a good tolerance for moist and wet soils, making it a good choice for rain gardens and around water features. It is also popular for naturalizing in woodland garden settings. 

    • Latin name: Cephalanthus occidentalis
    • Family: Rubiaceae
    • Other common names: Jazmin, pinball, crouperbrush, crane willow, river-brush, rosa de Juan, Spanish pincushion, swampwood, an, little snowball, pond-dogwood, button-willow, button-wood, common button-bush, riverbush, globeflowers, honey-bells and common buttonbush
    • Native to: North America
    • USDA zones: 5 to 10
    • Size: 3 to 20 feet tall and 4 to 14 feet wide
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
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  • 07 of 12

    Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina)

    Picture of Carolina silverbell
    Image by homeredwardprice via Flickr used under a Creative Commons Attribution license
    Native to the southeast U.S., the Carolina silverbell is a small- to medium-sized landscape tree that produces small bell-shaped white flowers in April, just before or simultaneously with the leaves sprouting. Fall foliage is an attractive yellowish-green but drops early. Azaleas and rhododendrons grow well beneath a Carolina silverbell.  
    • Latin name: Halesia carolina
    • Family: Styracaceae
    • Other common names: Silver bell, little silverbells, snowdrop-tree, opossum-wood, common silverbell and mountain silverbell
    • Native to: Southeastern United States
    • USDA zones: 4 to 8
    • Height: 15 to 60 feet tall, more commonly to 35 feet 
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
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  • 08 of 12

    Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)

    Old Man's Beard tree
    Morgan Trimble / Getty Images

    Fringe tree is a shrub or small tree native to the eastern U.S. It produces 4- to 6-inch-long clusters of creamy white flowers with fringe-like petals in May and June. The flowers give way to bluish-black fruits in mid-summer, which attract birds. The spear-shaped leaves turn yellow in fall. Fringe tree prefers moist soils, but tolerates most soil types. This is a low-maintenance tree that has a good tolerance for air pollution and urban environments. Fringe tree is often grown in small groups, or as an individual specimen tree in the lawn. 

    • Latin name: Chionanthus virginicus
    • Family: Oleaceae
    • Other common names: White fringe tree, old man's beard, and Grancy Greybeard 
    • Native to: Eastern United States
    • USDA zones: 3 to 9
    • Size: 12 to 20 feet tall and wide
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

     

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  • 09 of 12

    Giant Dogwood (Cornus controversa)

    dogwood trees in front of a brick house
    Mark Turner / Getty Images

    Giant dogwood, as the name suggests, is one of the larger Cornus species. Native to Japan and China, it produced flattened clusters of creamy-white flowers in May and June, giving way to bluish-black fruit that ripens in late summer. The fall foliage is not notable. Giant dogwood is normally used as a lawn tree. 

    • Latin name: Cornus controversa
    • Family: Cornaceae
    • Other common names: Wedding cake tree
    • Native to: China, the Himalayas, Japan and Taiwan
    • USDA zones: 5 to 8
    • Size: 20 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Growing profile for the giant dogwood
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    Kobus Magnolia (Magnolia kobus)

    KobusMagnoliaFlickrTANAKA-Juuyoh.jpg
    For an early flower show, choose the Kobus magnolia. Image by TANAKA Juuyoh (田中十洋) under a Flickr Creative Commons Attribution License

    Kobus magnolia is a small tree (or large shrub) that produces its 4-inch cup-shaped white flowers in March, well before the leaves appear. This is a slow-growing plant that is pyramidal in shape when young but grows gradually to a spreading, rounded form. Seed pods open in fall, and birds are attracted to the seeds as food. The fall foliage is unremarkable. Kobus magnolia is most often grown as a small specimen tree in the lawn, but because it grows slowly, plants are sometimes grouped in screen hedges on large properties. 

    • Latin name: Magnolia kobus
    • Family: Magnoliaceae
    • Other common names: Kobushi magnolia and northern Japanese magnolia 
    • Native to: Japan
    • USDA zones: 5 to 8
    • Size: 25 to 30 feet tall (occasionally 40 feet)
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
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    Natal Plum (Carissa macrocarpa)

    A close-up of the five-petal white flower on the natal plum bush, also known as Carissa macrocarpa.
    Andriy Prokopenko / Getty Images

    Natal plum, a warm-climate plant, is the rare flowering shrub that can provide flowers during most of the growing season. The main bloom season is summer, but flowers and fruit are continually produced. The 2-inch star-like flowers are followed by red plum-shaped fruit that taste like cranberries and can be used in jellies and jams. Dwarf varieties of natal plum are sometimes grown in large pots on decks and patios; larger varieties are used as screens or specimen plants in the landscape. They are favorite plants for seaside areas since natal plums tolerate wind and salty conditions. 

    • Latin name: Carissa macrocarpa
    • Family: Apocynaceae
    • Other common names: Grootnoem-noem, Amatungulu and big num-num
    • Native to: Natal, South Africa
    • USDA zones: 9 to 11
    • Size: 2 to 8 feet tall on average, can be 20 + feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade
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    Orange Jasmine (Murraya paniculata)

    Orange jasmine smells like orange blossoms
    Orange jasmine smells like orange blossoms. Photo © Flickr user Stryker W@SP

    Orange jasmine is a warm climate-shrub that is also popular as a container plant in cooler climates. It has glossy evergreen leaves and produces fragrant white flowers about 1 inch across several times throughout the year. Small, attractive fruits follow the flowers. In climates where it is hardy, orange jasmine is planted as a hedge or screen. Elsewhere, it is planted in large pots and brought indoors during the cold months. Orange jasmine tolerates pruning and can be easily shaped into hedges or trimmed to remain manageable pots. 

    • Latin name: Murraya paniculata
    • Family: Rutaceae
    • Other common names: Chalcas and orange jessamine
    • Native to: China, southern Asia, and Australasia
    • USDA zones: 9 to 11
    • Size: 8 to 12 feet tall
    • Exposure: Full sun to light shade