Summer flowering shrubs offer a burst of color when many other spring plants have finished displaying their beauty. Flowering shrubs can be used as accent plants, screens, or hedges depending on need and the variety chosen. Select native shrubs when possible and always follow planting and care instructions carefully for best performance.
Bottlebrush Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)
This handsome bush is a popular landscaping shrub for specimen or mass plantings, especially on difficult slopes. Mounding foliage produces beautiful white summer blooms up to a foot long. Fall foliage is yellow to light orange. Disease resistant, it grows well in full sun or light shade. Zones: 4 through 9
Hardy Beauty Berry (Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’)
This is simply one of the most graceful, carefree shrubs. Covered in late summer with dense cymes of charming pink flowers, it is followed by masses of iridescent violet-purple berries that last through the winter, if you can keep the cardinals and mockingbirds away. It is easy to grow and take care of. For bountiful Beauty Berry flowers and fruits to produce on new growth, cut it to the ground in early spring. Plant in sun or light shade. Shrubs can grow to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones: 5 through 9.
Hardy Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
This is a carefree native American shrub that no garden should be without due to its colorful blooms and sweet fragrance. With aromatic summer blooms of pink, white, or deep-rose to enhance the visual beauty of any garden, Summersweet is pest-free and disease-free. Beautiful when planted in mass or as a foundation plant. It prefers slightly acid, sandy soil and full sun, but tolerates clay and dense shade. It has a late summer/early fall bloom and grows to a height of 4 to 6 feet. Zones: 3 through 9.
Mophead Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Known as Lacecap, Bigleaf, or French hydrangea, this Japanese transplant is popular and easy to grow. With its huge, leathery leaves and abundance of showy flowers, the big leaf hydrangea is a remarkable sight in summer. From early blooming "Forever Pink," to unbelievably hardy (to zone 4) "Endless Summer," the blooms of this breathtaking shrub produce throughout the summer. Hydrangeas love acidic, moist, loamy soil, which will produce deep blue flowers; however, the Mophead will also grow well in alkaline soil, producing pink flowers. White blooms remain white, no matter the soil pH. There are also new cultivars, such as "Lemon Daddy," which sports leaves of bright chartreuse, and "Little Honey" has radiant gold leaves in summer, which turn scarlet in fall. Hydrangea macrophylla comes in a variety of sizes from 3 feet, for the little garden, to 6 feet for the larger garden. Disease-free, the flowers like partial shade in the South, to full sun in the far North. Zones: 4 through 9.
Oak-Leaf Hydrangea (H. quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’)
The Oak-Leaf Hydrangea's dark green leathery leaves and huge 12 to 15-inch panicles of snow-white blooms begin to appear when the summer garden is beginning to look spent. A vigorous grower to 10 feet high, it is highly pest and disease resistant and thrives in full sun or deep shade. In the fall, the foliage turns a deep rich burgundy. In winter, the exposed bark and dried flower heads are eye-catching. For the smaller garden, consider H. quercifolia ("Pee Wee"), which grows to approximately 4 feet high and 3 feet wide. Plant in mass, about 4 feet apart. Zones: 5 through 9.
Kerria Japonica: (K. Japonica)
If you have a wooded lot with dense shade, this is the summer shrub for you. This tough, disease-free, small woody plant bursts into a mass of golden blooms in early summer, continues intermittently all season, then explodes again in the fall. A real show-stopper, the Kerria Japonica provides years of visual pleasure, as it slowly grows to around 5 feet high. Kerria Japonica remains evergreen all year, in all but the most northern gardens. Zones: 5 through 8
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
Often called the "summer lilac" Buddleia's honey-scented, long bloom panicles are a source of enjoyment for the vase, or simply for the never-ending show of hummingbirds and butterflies, which find this shrub irresistible. From the new "Strawberry Lemonade" (to zone 4), with its variegated foliage and deep, strawberry-shaded blooms, to the much loved "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 trim after bloom to retain weeping shape) even in zone 5 gardens, 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. Untouched by disease and extremely pest resistance, the Butterfly Bush has something for everyone, and it should not be overlooked for the summer garden. Cut back to the ground in late winter for a flush of healthy foliage that will shoot out from the roots, giving more lush blooms year after year. It needs full sun. Zones: 4 through 9.
Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris)
This small, aromatic, deciduous (dropping leaves in winter) shrub is perfect for low hedges or the sunny edge of the woodland garden. The breathtaking varieties of the blue mist shrub include "Summer Sorbet," with variegated foliage, "Sunshine Blue," with a deeper blue bloom and golden foliage, and the pastel-colored "Pink Chablis." Blue mist shrub is heat and drought tolerant, once established, and it blooms from summer through fall in full sun to part shade. Not fussy about soil, this shrub is a magnet to butterflies. It reaches a height of 2 to 3 feet, with late summer to fall blooms. Zones: 4 through 8
Royal Purple Smoke Bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple')
This fast-growing, disease-free shrub stands tall against any competition. Its foliage is unsurpassed for its early burgundy color that warms to a deep purple in summer and ends with a blazing orange in fall. In midsummer, "Royal Purple" Smoke Bush bursts forth with feathery purple blooms that eclipse the leaves and hang on for weeks. Planted en masse, it is a lovely sight to see. The most disease-resistant of all the Smoke shrubs, this unusual plant does well in poor, gravelly soil and resists mildew. Zones: 4 through 8
Hardy Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica)
For the hummingbird and butterfly lover, this hardy shrub should not be overlooked. A relative of the tropical fuchsia, the summer blooming Hardy Fuchsia has tear-drop shaped blooms of pink, purple, and white that envelop the bush all summer long. Hardy Fuchsia is evergreen in the South and deciduous in Northern gardens, but it rises from the ground year after year growing to heights of 6 feet. Prefers sun or light shade and requires mulch in colder climates. Zones: 3 through 10.