Perennial Flowering Shrubs
Perennial flowering shrubs are a way to add seasonal color to your yard and to minimize on your yard work, too. Once established, shrubs will give you many years of pleasure and not as much maintenance as a perennial garden would involve. This could be a perfect solution for someone who loves flowers, but isn’t able or willing to grub in the dirt daily.
Some things to consider when investing in perennial flowering shrubs are the time and length of flowering, are fruits involved later in the season, the height and width of mature bushes, cold hardiness, rate of growth, and disease resistance. Newer varieties of most bushes address some or all of these issues and a capable nursery person could answer any questions you might have about a particular variety that catches your fancy.
Beginner gardeners and those that truly need low maintenance plants should try to stick to the tried and true and those are the perennial flowering bushes I’m going to focus on. There are hundreds of bushes available and of course your planting zone will determine which ones to choose. The ones that I will mention all thrive in zone 5. They are also common and hardy in several other zones.
Perennial flowering bushes can do more for your landscape than just add color. They can provide privacy, a wind break, edible fruit for native birds, erosion control, and a back drop for other shorter plants.
Perennial bushes can also cut down on the amount of summer watering that you might have to do. Because their roots reach further into the earth than other perennial plants, they obviously have a larger source of underground water available to them.
With a little planning you could landscape your entire property with perennial flowering bushes and have color all season long from early spring through late fall. Evergreens could easily fill in the gaps between times when nothing else is blooming and your yard constantly looks well maintained, manicured, and a paradise for flower lovers, too!
Some common (to zone 5) perennial flowering bushes include: forsythia, lilac, white spirea (Bridal Wreath), purple spirea, flowering dogwood, wegelia, hydrangea, Rose of Sharon and viburnum. In slightly warmer climates you can add rhodededron and in zones 10 and 11 you could add magnolias, and camellias to this short list.
Non-flowering, but still providing brilliant leaf color, are golden current bushes, smoke bush, blue green junipers, evergreens, blue holly, and burning bush.
The spring begins with the brilliant yellow of forsythia. These bushes look great in mixed borders because they bloom first in the season. Depending on the variety they can be sloppy, erratic growers so it’s nice that by the time they are all green they’ve faded into the background of your border.
The benefits of forsythia (besides their spectacular spring color) are many. They are not susceptible to disease and they are not bothered by insects or animals. It’s easy to cut a few branches in early spring and force them to bloom inside if you wish-great for Easter decorating and once established are drought tolerant.
Forsythia blooms on old wood but unfortunately the buds and flowers are not as hardy as the bush itself. It is possible that occasionally a late season frost will kill the flowers before they’ve had a chance to bloom. So be sure to choose the hardiest variety for your growing area.
One of my personal favorites of all the flowering perennial shrubs is the lilac bush (Syringa). Lilacs come in many colors ranging from white to lavender to dark purple. They make excellent tall hedges and if you have the old fashioned ones-smell spectacular. They can be used as cut flowers and have a pleasant shape when they are not blooming.
Lilacs are great for cool climates because they actually need cold winters to do their best. They are easy to grow, live a long time, and look good both as specimen plants and as part of a hedge. They prefer full sun and do need a little water in especially dry summers.
Next to bloom, is white spirea (Bridal Wreath). They are very hardy, disease resistant and spectacular when blooming. They grow well in a wide variety of soils and are not susceptible to insects either.
Spireas come in a variety of sizes so it’s easy to find one to fit your landscape. They look good in informal hedges and the bigger ones make great specimen bushes. I think their weeping shape gives a landscape year round interest.
What I call purple spirea is probably more accurately called bumald spirea or Japanese spirea. These bushes are generally small and come in a large range of colors from white to dark pink. They are sometimes overused in landscaping designs but with good reason. They are easy to maintain, grow easily, and are reliable summer bloomers.
Dogwood blooms profusely in the spring, but what’s even neater about these perennial flowering bushes is their twigs. Depending on the variety they have red or yellow twigs and the color deepens as the season progresses. They provide great winter interest in an otherwise snow covered environment.
Like the other shrubs I’ve mentioned they are easy to grow and pretty much disease and insect free. My experience is that they do need a little more water than some other bushes during especially dry summers, but if you have a wetter spot in your yard, they’ll grow well when others won’t.
Wegelia bushes are great specimen shrubs. They have a similar shape to the bridal wreath, but without the lacy look of the leaves. They range in color from white to brilliant red and bloom near the middle of summer. They range in size from 2 to 8 feet tall and wide, but are easy to prune if needed occasionally.
Hydranga is an old fashioned popular perennial flowering bush. It has long been used as foundation plants in front of Victorian homes. Newer varieties come in smaller compact sizes, but they are all prized for their big globular flowers that look good both fresh and also in dried flower arrangements. Hydrangas bloom from mid-summer through Fall and the blossoms remain good looking for long periods of time.
Viburnums (also known as highbush cranberry, arrowwood, nannyberry, and wayfaringtree) are very popular flowering shrubs and with good reason. They come in dozens of varieties and are all fairly easy to grow. They not only have flowers, they also have great looking leaves and produce pretty fall fruit that is edible to wildlife and sometimes persists into winter depending on the variety.
Rose of Sharon bushes are actually in the hibiscus family and have hibiscus like flowers that bloom in late summer through mid autumn. These bushes can grow to about ten feet tall and come in a wide variety of colors from white to dark red. They’re great specimen bushes and like all the others I’ve listed easy to grow and maintain. They do like moist soil though and struggle in drought seasons.
So there you have it: a beautiful flowering garden comprised completely of perennial flowering shrubs that will keep your garden blooming from early spring until late fall and planted with some junipers and evergreens you’ll have a gorgeous landscape even during a snowy winter.
So even if you can’t or don’t want to play in the dirt you can still have an easy to maintain flowering landscape. Thanks as always for gardening with Julie!
Spring Photo Gallery
Starting a Garden
Color Scheme Gardens
Fall Blooming Perennials
Dividing Perennial Plants
Cutting Flower Garden
Perennial Gardening Ideas
Grasses and Ferns
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