A misconception among gardeners is that once the spring has ended there are only a few flowering shrubs to chose from. While there are fewer shrubs in bloom during summer the ones which do flower provide stunning (hydrangea), fragrant (mockorange) flowers. The following are some popular, easy to grow choices.
Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) is an attractive shrubs and ideal for both specimen and mass plantings. This great shrub produces stunning white 8-12” long flowers in early July. Its foliage turns yellow and light orange in the fall. Grows well in shade and sun and prefers an organic soil.
Sweet Mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius), is quite fragrant and as the name suggests, fills the air with the sweet scent of orange blossoms in early summer. They are all sun-loving, easy to grow shrubs as they are heat and poor infertile soils. Bouquet blanc virginal mockorange (Philadelphus x virginalis ‘Bouquet Blanc’) is an excellent hardy, dense grower. It reaches 6’ in height and produces single or semi-double white flowers. The golden mockorange (Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’) is clothed in lemon yellow foliage and is a knock-out planted next to other contrasting green-foliaged plants.
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is wonderful, fragrant, low maintenance shrub which blooms in late summer. A native to America, summersweet (or sweet pepper bush) blooms provides blooms of pink, white, or deep-rose stating in late summer. Summersweet is also easy to care for as it is pest resistant and disease free. Summersweet is perfect for naturalizing the landscape. Its also wonderful in shade gardens or planted among the traditional shrub border. Summersweet prefers slightly acid, sandy soil and full sun, but tolerates clay and dense shade.
Zone: 3-9. Height: 4-6 feet.
Mophead Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla): Long favorite of the gardener, due to their stunning flowers and relative low maintenance, are the Lacecap and nikkoblue hydrangeas. Both are great as specimen shrubs or mixed among other shrubs in the border planting. Planting in groups, hydrangeas are perhaps most effective. Minimal pruning is recommended for most prolific flowering. Flowers are easily air dried and long lasting. This easy to grow and readily available shrub boasts large, dark, luxuriant foliage with round ball shaped or lace-capped flowers. Hydrangeas grown in acid, moist, loamy soil will flourish and produce deep blue flowers. They are, however, tolerant of alkaline soil, in which they will produce pink flowers. Hydrangea macrophylla comes in a variety of sizes from 3 feet, for the little garden, all the way up to 6 feet for the larger garden. Part shade in the south, to full sun in the far north.
Oak-Leaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’) has a much different appearance than the macrophylla hydrangeas. Its foliage resembles that of the American oak. Its white blooms fade to pink in fall. Oakleaf hydrangeas grow to about 6’ and can tolerate more shade than other hydrangeas. It does, like the marcophylla hydragea, have large stuuning blooms. Its produces 12 to 15 inch panicles of snow-white blooms towards mid to late summer. In fall, foliage turns a deep rich burgundy, and in winter, the exposed bark and dried flower heads are eye-catching. Plant in masses, about 4 feet apart.
Kerria Japonica (Kerria Japonica) is ideal for the woodland garden or for the shady border as it can tolerate dense shade. This tough, disease free, small woody plant bursts into a mass of golden blooms in early summer, continues intermittently all summer, then explodes again in fall. Some varieties have new growth which begins as a fire red. A real show-stopper, the Kerria Japonica will give you years of pleasure, as it slowly grows to a mere 5 feet. Kerria Japonica is evergreen all year, in all but the most northern gardens.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) is a great mid-summer bloomer which, as the name suggests, attracts butterflies (as well as hummingbirds) to the garden. Its white, pink or purple flowers are quite frangant. Butterfly bush is well suited to the informal garden as they can become a bit unruly. However, if properly placed they work well in all gardens, provided there is sun. ‘Black Knight,’ with its foot-long, blue-black, heavenly scented panicles, no garden should be without at least one Butterfly Bush. B. alternifolia ‘Fountain,’ a weeping variety is so hardy, it does not die back to the ground (merely trimmed after bloom to retain weeping shape), even in the zone 5 garden, and it blooms as early as late spring. B. ‘Peacock’ is compact enough for the smaller garden, and it can even be grown in containers, with heavy blooms all summer. Both disease and pest resistant, the Butterfly Bush is easy to grow and can pruning in late winter for a flush of healthy foliage that will shoot out from the roots. Full sun.
Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris clandonensis) is a low growing, fragrant shrub which is ideal for low hedges, the sunny shrub border or for incorporating into the perennial garden. Great for the butterfly garden. Visually stunning when planted in large groups. Varieties include ‘Summer Sorbet’ with variegated foliage and ‘Sunshine Blue’ with a deeper blue bloom and golden foliage. Blue mist shrub is heat and drought tolerant once established, and it blooms from summer through fall in full sun to part-shade. Tolerant of poor soil is easy to grow and maintenance free. Height 2-3 feet with late summer to fall blooms.
Zone varies: 4-8
Royal Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’) is treasured for it’s colorful foliage huge flowers. A great specimen shrub, the smokebush can also be mixed with other species within a shrub border. The purple-leaved varieties can be used to form a dramatic dark backdrop for summer’s bright flowers and bright green foliage. Then, as the flowers fade in the fall, the smokebush will take over and light up the landscape with brilliant fall color. Its cotton like flowers are unique in the garden and unlike any other flowering shrub. It’s foliage is unsurpassed for its early burgundy color that warms to a deep purple in summer and ends a blazing orange in fall.
Rose-of-Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) provides the garden with colorful and plentiful blooms during mid to late summer. Although wonderful in shrub border, it’s large, dramatic flowers make rose-of-sharon fully capable of holding its own as a specimen. Easily pruned and shaped during its first two seasons, this multi stemmed shrub is ideal for hedging. It can, however, also be trained and pruned to a single trunk. Rose of sharon not only blooms late, but also leafs so be patient. Rose-of-sharon prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
Each is forgiving of the inexperienced gardener and will make your yard bloom for many weeks, with some blooming until heavy frost. It does not take a master gardener to have a gorgeous yard. All it takes is a little faith and some courage, and these shrubs will do the rest. Leave plants in place for three years, no matter what. In the third year, you will be the envy of the neighborhood.