Shrubs for Summer Color
Many gardeners assume that the brightest flowers are only seen in spring, but there are many stunning shrubs that have great color all through the summer. Some feature outstanding blooms while others have equally showy foliage and can brighten up any yard. But which will look best in your yard?
Top Summer Color Shrubs
There are a number of tried-and-true summer-flowering shrubs that never fail to be impressive. Consider these favorites to enhance your landscape all summer long.
This very popular mounding shrub is an old-fashioned favorite, but it doesn’t have to be just your grandmother’s shrub – there are hydrangeas for every situation and taste. Flowers appear in early summer and can last for several weeks. Choose from pink, blue (use an acidic fertilizer to maintain this unusual color) or white blooms. Large flower heads great for drying or make outstanding arrangements and bouquets when cut. These shrubs do best in light shade or sun. One of the easiest hydrangeas to grow is the native American oak-leafed hydrangea has lobed leaves with fragrant, conical-shaped flower heads.
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
This dramatic shrub is truly a butterfly magnet, and hummingbirds love it as well. One of the most fragrant flowering shrubs, butterfly bush blooms from early summer to autumn frost, and different varieties can thrive in a wide range of growing zones. The flowers can be pink, purple, blue, yellow or white, and often feature elegant spiked panicles, arching branches and interesting foliage. These shrubs do best in full sun and come in different sizes to suit different landscaping areas.
A generally low-maintenance choice, this shrub features golden yellow to lime-colored foliage all summer with pink or lavender blooms in late spring through summer. Goldmound, Gold Flame and Anthony Waterer are all great cultivars and easy care shrubs growing to about 2-4’ by 3-5’. This truly is the perfect shrub to use anywhere in the landscape, and it can tolerate sun to part shade growing conditions.
- Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus)
This is one of the showiest plants of the summer, and Rose of Sharon is also one of the easiest to grow. Dense growing and upright when young these shrubs will spread with age, so take care to plant them in appropriate spaces to avoid overcrowding. The dark green foliage contrasts nicely with large, showy flowers that can be up to 4” across. Flowers open in July and will continue blooming through late summer and into fall. Flowers are sterile, eliminating seed problems. This shrub is ideal to plant as a screen, hedge or focal point in full sun.
- Blue Mist Spirea (Caryopteris)
This shrub is a great plant for late summer color with bursts of purple-blue flowers just when many other plants are growing dull. Its low-growing, mounding habit reaches 2-3’ wide by 2-3’ tall. Blue Mist Spirea is easy to grow and can tolerate some neglect. It should be planted in full sun, and will bloom from summer to fall.
With any of these shrubs in your yard, your summer landscape can be just as colorful and eye-catching as any spring flowers or autumn foliage.
If your digging arm ran out of steam after planting the first bag of fifty tulips last fall, your spring flower show may not be as lush as you wanted it to be. Interplant your large bulbs, like tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, with cold hardy annuals. The resulting look will resemble a gardening magazine spread or public garden display you have admired.
The careful digging that allows you to install a nursery six-pack of hardy annual transplants won’t disturb large bulbs, which should be planted… 4-8 inches deep. Plant the annuals as soon as they are offered in your nursery, as you should already see green foliage tips emerging from the bulbs. Try these four planting partners this spring:
- Tulips and primroses
- Hyacinths and pansies
- Daffodils and scented stock
- Dutch iris and sweet alyssum
When creating a flowering landscape, follow the garden design principle of starting with trees, then shrubs, then plants. Shrubs not only give the garden texture and dimension, many offer reliable spring flowers for sunny or shady situations. Azaleas herald the arrival of spring in many southern gardens, and forsythia does the same in temperate climates. If the thought of a plain green shrub amidst your flowers doesn’t thrill you, choose a shrub that displays bright berries after its flowers… fall, like viburnum. You can also look for newer cultivars of old favorites that have variegated foliage, like daphne ‘Marginata’ in warm climates or elderberry ‘Madonna’ in cold climates.
When you include flowering containers in your spring garden, you can get earlier blooms in your garden than when you plant in the ground. You can bring small hanging baskets into a shed or garage when temperatures plummet at night, and even large containers can move to a sheltered area if you employ planters on casters. Some of the most beloved container plants thrive in cool spring temperatures, including snapdragons, petunias, and annual lobelia. These cool season annuals are at their… flowering peak when daytime temperatures are in the 70s. Other container flowers, like viola and nasturtium, can tolerate early spring frosts.
Planting bulbs under a lawn doesn’t take any special skill; the most important care tip for naturalizing flower bulbs in a lawn is to delay mowing until the bulb foliage matures. Therefore, choose the earliest blooming bulbs to plant, unless you don’t mind letting your grass grow as long as strappy bulb foliage. Crocus bulbs are the most commonly grown flowers in a lawn, but you can also try snowdrops or iris reticulata. Slice your sod with a sharp spade, and plant groups of bulbs at least three… inches below the soil surface.
The colder the climate, the more anxious gardeners are for signs of spring in the landscape. Planting very early bloomers can make you feel like you’ve cheated part of winter, because these hardy bulbs may begin to bloom when the holiday decorations are just coming down. These petite flowers don’t make much of a statement when planted in groups of a dozen or less, but the low price of the so-called minor bulbs makes a planting of a hundred or more affordable.
The common snowdrop, Galanthus… nivalis, sports dainty white bell-shaped flowers on six-inch stalks. They bloom as early as January, and naturalize easily in an undisturbed spot. If white flowers are lost in your snowy garden, consider the winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, which produce bright yellow flowers atop a ruffled collar of green foliage. Finally, glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa luciliae, produces masses of blue, pink, or white star-shaped flowers to satisfy your pastel flower cravings.