Flowering shrubs are the most versatile inhabitants of the garden, providing color and structure in a compact form adaptable to almost any purpose or location, from groundcovers and hedge plants to eye-catching focal points. With a bit of planning, you can fill your yard with shrubs that bloom from early spring through late fall and even into winter, providing interest all season long. Some shrubs are at their peak bloom for only a few weeks, while others continue putting on a display for months. As a bonus, the dried blooms of certain shrubs, such as hydrangeas, will even endure through fall and winter. In addition to their floral beauty, many flowering shrubs perfume the air with their own signature fragrance, announcing their glorious re-emergence. Here’s our guide to the best flowering shrubs for year-round appeal.

FORSYTHIA
(Forsythia spp.)

Zones: 3-8
Mature size: Up to 10 feet depending on the cultivar and species
Bloom time: Early to mid April

Why we love it: The vibrant canary-yellow flowers of the forsythia are like the first ray of sunshine after the dark days of winter, covering each arching branch with a profusion of blooms lasting one to two weeks. The welcome explosion of yellow flowers makes this shrub well worth planting, despite the short bloom time.

Where to plant it: Forsythia are best suited for borders or as background accent plants where their relaxed, arching branches won’t look untidy. For small spaces, dwarf varieties such as Gold Tide (Forsythia 'Courtasol') grow to only 20 inches tall and maintain a compact, spreading shape.

Growing tips: To encourage new growth, prune forsythia branches immediately after the flowers fade. The next spring, blooms will appear on one-year or older wood. Plant in an area that receives at least six hours of sun each day to ensure prolific flowering.

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KOREANSPICE VIBURNUM
(Viburnum carlesii)

Zones: 4-7
Mature size: 4 to 6 feet tall and wide
Bloom time: April

Why we love it: This showy shrub produces clusters of pastel-pink buds in late March that open to domed clusters of white or pink-flushed flowers. However, it’s the heady fragrance, similar to spice cake, that makes this exceptional species a delightful addition to the garden. Broad, serrate dark-green leaves in the summer turn an attractive shade of deep red to burgundy in the fall.

Where to plant it: Plant in groups as a border or foundation plant or use as a hedge. Place near entryways or along garden pathways where the irresistible fragrance can be fully enjoyed.

Growing tips: Grows best in full sun or part shade. Prune immediately after flowering to allow buds to form in summer for the following season.

RHODODENDRON

Zones: 5-9
Mature size: 1 to 2 feet to over 15 feet, depending on the cultivar
Bloom time: April through June

Why we love it: The rhododendron is prized for its spectacular spring flowers, which range in color from white and pastel pink to lavender and bright red, depending on the variety. Their size and shape also vary, from low-growing groundcovers to tall shrubs. Although the flowering season of rhododendrons is only a few weeks, the attractive spirally-arranged foliage of most varieties is evergreen and can be enjoyed year-round. Learn more about this shrub’s special virtues: Rhodies Go Wild.

Where to plant it: Rhododendrons can be used as specimen plants or incorporated into a bed or border with other shrubs and plants. Taller rhododendrons can be used as screening plants while low-growing varieties are useful as showy groundcovers or foundation plantings. Because they prefer partial shade, they make colorful additions to woodland gardens.

Growing tips: A common misconception is that rhododendrons should be planted in deep shade, but this often results in fewer flowers. Light stimulates flower bud development, so grow rhododendrons where they receive sufficient light but not full sun, which can scorch the leaves. For more growing tips, visit The American Rhododendron Society.

WEIGELA
(Weigela florida)

Zones: 5-8
Mature size: 6 to 10 feet tall and up to 12 feet wide
Bloom time: May to June

Why we love it: Gardeners love this popular shrub not only for its abundance of magenta-pink flowers on arching branches, but also for its unflappable nature and reliable performance. The trumpet-shaped flowers are a favorite of bees and hummingbirds, and often continue to bloom in scattered fashion from mid to late summer. The weigela’s medium-green leaves have a simple oval shape, but some varieties have variegated leaves with cream-colored or lime-green borders (shown here).

Where to plant it: Weigela is unfussy and will thrive in almost any location. It prefers well-drained soil and full sun, but will tolerate just about any condition except dense shade. Like forsythia, which is a close botanical relative, weigela has an open, arching habit and should be located where it has room to spread.

Growing tips: Weigelas bloom on wood that is a year old, so they should be pruned in late spring immediately after flowering to promote repeat bloom the following season.

LILAC
(Syringa vulgaris)

Zones: 3-7
Mature size: 5 to 15 feet depending on the variety
Bloom time: Late April to May

Why we love it: Throw open your windows on a warm day in May, and you’re apt to be greeted by the intoxicating, unmistakable fragrance of spring-blooming lilacs. The scent perfumes the air like sweet-smelling sachet, emanating from large panicles of delicate lavender flowers. Early-, mid- and late-season cultivars extend the bloom time for at least 6 weeks.

Where to plant it: Most lilac varieties will thrive best in areas with cool summer climates. They can be used as specimen plants or in borders and hedges, and are an attractive addition to informal cottage-style gardens. The blooms also make excellent cut flowers.

Growing tips: Although lilacs will tolerate light shade, they bloom best when planted in a site that receives at least 6 hours of sun daily. They should also be planted in areas with good air circulation to reduce problems with powdery mildew. Lilacs bloom on old wood, so prune in spring immediately after flowering to maintain the desired height and shape.

SHRUB ROSE
(Rosa spp.)

Zones: 5-9
Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide
Bloom time: Early summer through fall

Why we love it: Shrub roses are quickly becoming the go-to darlings of the rose world, taking the best traits of the hardiest rose species and combining them with attributes of repeat blooming and minimal maintenance. One of the most popular easy-care shrub roses is the Knock Out (Rosa 'Radrazz'), which produces an abundance of cherry-red blooms that continue from early summer through fall. Knock Out varieties with double blooms and rose-pink and blush shades are also available. Although not as fragrant as hybrid tea roses, this care-free cultivar offers the advantages of needing no deadheading or pruning and being resistant to black spot and mildew.

Where to plant it: There is a shrub rose suited for just about any spot in your garden, as long as there is adequate sunlight. Because of their relatively short stature, they have the greatest impact when planted in groupings or as specimen plants among annuals and perennials. See: Ideas for Planning a Rose Garden.

Growing tips: To maintain their shape and size, shrub roses need only light pruning, which is best done in late winter or early spring when they are dormant. Although they are drought-tolerant once established, keeping them mulched will help maintain moisture during dry periods.

CINQUEFOIL
(Potentilla fruticosa)

Zones: 3-7
Mature size: 2 to 4 feet tall with an equal spread
Bloom time: June to September

Why we love it: If you mourn the loss of the forsythia’s cheery-yellow spring flowers, the perky blooms of the cinquefoil will continue to brighten your garden with small yellow flowers that emerge in late spring and continue through autumn. Cinquefoil is also one of the easiest shrubs to grow, featuring good drought tolerance, excellent winter hardiness, and little need for aggressive pruning. Besides yellow, dozens of cultivars of cinquefoil are available in other hues, including white, pink, and tangerine.

Where to plant it: Use cinquefoils in mass plantings and shrub borders. The wide-spreading dark-green foliage also makes this plant an excellent groundcover. Cinquefoils grow best in cool summer climates. In warmer regions, plant them where they will receive afternoon shade.

Growing tips: Prune after blooming, if needed, to remove damaged and older branches. To keep plants compact and maintain a rounded habit, you can cut them down to the ground in late winter.

ANTHONY WATERER SPIREA
(Spiraea japonica 'Anthony Waterer')

Zones: 4 to 8
Mature size: 2 to 3 feet
Bloom time: June to August

Why we love it: Summer-blooming Japanese spirea are a favorite of many gardeners because of their large clusters of long-lasting summer flowers and good fall leaf color. 'Anthony Waterer' is a popular, easy-care cultivar that produces showy fuchsia-colored bloom clusters 6 inches wide that continue from late spring to mid-summer. The foliage is also colorful, emerging with reddish purple accents in spring, maturing to blue-green in summer, and displaying burgundy overtones in fall.

Where to plant it: This low-growing mounding shrub fits nicely in smaller gardens and can be used to form shrub borders or low hedges along paths and walkways. 'Anthony Waterer' is also an attractive addition to butterfly gardens and cottage gardens.

Growing tips: This low-maintenance shrub grows best in full sun and is very drought tolerant once established. Light shearing after the first flush of blooms encourages repeat blooming. If the shrub becomes overgrown, you can cut it back more dramatically immediately after flowering.

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LIMELIGHT HYDRANGEA
(Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight')

Zones: 3 to 8
Mature size: 6 to 10 feet
Bloom time: July through September

Why we love it: Hydrangeas are one of the few shrubs that produce spectacular flowers even in partial shade. One hydrangea that has become the superstar of the late-summer garden is 'Limelight'. This fast-growing, upright shrub produces large cone-shaped panicles in late July that change color as they mature, from lime-green to white and finally to a rosy pink. The long-lasting blooms are dazzling in floral arrangements, whether cut fresh or allowed to dry. They can also be left on the plant to provide winter interest. For more information on 'Limelight' and other hydrangea varieties, see Growing Hydrangeas: How to Plant and Care for Hydrangea Flowers.

Where to plant it: Use 'Limelight' as an accent plant or in groupings in gardens and borders. Plant in partial shade to full sun and in well-drained soil. Unlike most hydrangea varieties, the soil pH does not affect bloom color.

Growing tips: Prune back vigorously (up to one-half) in late fall or early spring before new growth appears. Because the blooms form on the current season’s growth, cutting back the plant will promote new growth and more vigorous flower production.

BUTTERFLY BUSH
(Buddleia davidii)

Zones: 5-9
Mature size: 6 to 10 feet with a spread of 4 to 15 feet
Bloom time: July through October

Why we love it: True to its name, butterfly bushes have honey-scented blooms that are irresistible to butterflies and bees, and many gardeners as well. The lilac-like blossoms come in an array of pretty pastel colors, ranging from pink to deep purple, and continue from mid-summer into autumn. Although the heavy bloom clusters, which measure a foot or longer, can weigh down the plant’s delicate branches, occasional pruning will restore an upright stature and encourage new blooms.

Where to plant it: To fully enjoy the intoxicating fragrance and the pageantry of butterflies these bushes attract, locate them near a garden pathway, patio, or entryway. Allow ample space between plants to give the flower-laden branches room to spread. Keep in mind that they agressively re-seed and can become invasive.

Growing tips: Plant in full sun and well-drained soil. Avoid overfertilizing, which will encourage leaf growth at the expense of flower production. Removing spent flower clusters will also promote new growth.

ROSE OF SHARON
(Hibiscus syriacus)

Zones: 5-9
Mature size: 8 to 12 feet with a 6- to 10-foot spread
Bloom time: Mid-summer through October

Why we love it: Despite its name, this old-fashioned shrub is not a rose at all but a member of the hibiscus family, producing luscious trumpet-shaped flowers from late summer through mid-autumn when few other shrubs are in bloom. The delicate flowers feature crepe-paper like petals in an array of soft pastel colors, displayed against a backdrop of matte green foliage.

Where to plant it: Makes an attractive, romantic privacy screen for lazy afternoons on the front porch. Can also be used as a specimen plant or pruned to create a single-trunked, small tree.

Growing tips: Rose of Sharon is adaptable to most soil types, but grows best in full sun to partial shade. Because it blooms on new wood, a heavy pruning in winter will increase flower production the following season.

© John Richmond / Alamy Stock Photo

SUMMERSWEET
(Clethra alnifolia)

Zones: 3-9
Mature size: 3 to 8 feet with a 4- to 6-foot spread
Bloom time: Late July to August

Why we love it: Summersweet is one of the rare flowering shrubs that will bloom in shady places, perfuming the air with a sweet-spicy fragrance attractive to butterflies and bees. The showy white flower spikes come in abundance for 4 to 6 weeks, set off by dark, glossy green leaves that turn attractive shades of yellow to golden brown in fall. Several cultivars are available that produce pink buds and flowers, such as ‘Ruby Spice’ and ‘Pink Spires’.

Where to plant it: A slow-growing compact habit makes summersweet a good choice for small gardens, especially in shady locations. Plant near a patio or pathway to enjoy the fragrant blooms.

Growing tips: Grows best in medium to wet soils in light, dappled sun or full shade. Soil should not be allowed to dry out. Prune if needed in late winter.

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GLOSSY ABELIA
(Abelia ×grandiflora)

Zones: 5-9
Mature size: 3 to 6 feet with an equal spread
Bloom time: Late summer through fall

Why we love it: The abelia is the perfect choice for gardeners who want an easy-care, somewhat shade-tolerant plant that provides late-season fragrance. From summer through fall, it produces a profusion of rose-tinged white flowers on graceful, arching branches. The trumpet-shaped blooms have a jasmine-like scent that are a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds. In late fall, the glossy, dark green leaves turn an attractive bronze-red.

Where to plant it: Plant in shrub borders or as a hedge plant near patios or porches or anywhere its scent and lovely flowers can be enjoyed. Also a good choice for butterfly gardens and informal cottage gardens.

Growing tips: Plant in well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Abelias bloom on new wood, so prune to shape in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

CAMELLIA
(Camellia japonica)

Zones: 7-10
Mature size: 7 to 12 feet
Bloom time: November through April

Why we love it: The camellia is the standout of the winter garden, bearing showy rose-like blooms in shades of white, pink, or red when other shrubs are dormant. The glossy, green foliage of this broadleafed evergreen is also attractive year-round. The bloom season is long and by staggering plantings of early-, mid- and late-season varieties, you can have flowers from November through April or May. (See Growing Camellias in Your Garden.)

Where to plant it: The downside of camellias is that they are not cold-tolerant and can only be grown in the mild climates of the southern U.S. and certain coastal areas. They do best in part shade in a spot that’s protected from direct sun and strong winds. They need ample space to accommodate their spreading habit and should be kept cool in the fall and winter to promote flowering.

Growing tips: Camellias can be temperamental, so avoid changes in temperature and irregular watering, which can cause buds to drop. The buds of camellias appear in clusters. If you want to increase flower size, remove all but one bud per cluster.

Related: Summer Flowering Plants
Flowering Trees
Evergreen Shrubs
Deer-Proof Plants

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