Though cool weather held on for longer than some of us expected, long and steamy summer days are finally here to stay. And with them, there’s lots of blooming summer shrubs that gardeners can anticipate and enjoy. Blooming shrubs are a popular summer treat because they produce dozens of blooms and easily beautify both commercial and residential landscapes. Plus, most of them are easy to grow and maintain, and there’s hundreds of varieties—short and tall, wide and thin—that can be made to fit into almost any kind of landscape. Our landscapers love utilizing colorful, vibrant blooming shrubs when planning a landscape design, so we’d like to highlight some favorites that are particularly well-suited for Southwest Virginia summers.
Small Shrubs (Under 5ft)
Photo by Liz West.
Growing up, my parents had a smooth hydrangea bush in our backyard. Every summer, I looked forward to the pillowy, sweet-smelling white flowers clusters that would bloom and then attract various pollinators to our garden. There was no better place in the neighborhood to butterfly watch than right next to the hydrangea. Depending on variety, smooth hydrangeas produce small or large clusters of flat-topped flowers. The larger flower bundles tend to put pressure on the plant’s thin stems, so it can be helpful to prop up some hydrangea bushes with stakes. They are shade tolerant and generally bloom during June or July.
Perfect for Virginians, this shrub produces cone-shaped white flower bundles that bloom in early summer. It is shade tolerant and, though native to eastern wetlands, does well in average moisture conditions. The foliage is glossy and sturdy and turns a beautiful maroon color in the Fall.
Medium Shrubs (5-9ft)
Mountain Laurel grows wild across the Eastern United States, but when cultivated for landscaping purposes it is well-contained and rarely exceed 9ft in height. Laurel’s bloom on old wood and produce delicate, silky flowers that are famous for their beauty. However, mountain laurel is not the easiest plant to cultivate. It needs well-drained soil high in organic matter, and it requires partial shade during afternoons, especially in winter. Well-seasoned landscapers should be able to handle its quirks, but amateurs might struggle.
Glossy abelia is a particularly popular flowering shrub, and for good reason. It produces beautiful, sturdy 1” white flowers from June until first frost that turn a pinkish color in late summer/early fall. The foliage is glossy (as one would figure) and evergreen in zones 7+. As a whole, the shrub is very hardy and resistant to both shade and drought, and it is the perfect plant for new gardeners looking who want something both easy and gorgeous.
Large Shrubs (9ft and Over)
Crapemyrtle, perhaps the showiest of all flowering shrubs, is famous among southerners. They produce large flower clusters up to 8” long, and their blooms come in a variety of colors, from bright pink to white. In warm climates, crapemyrtles bloom for most of the summer, and they are incredibly heat and drought resistant. Whenever I drive down South, I always take note of the great variety of crapemyrtles that can be seen from the road, in varying heights and colors. There are some 200 varieties of crapemyrtle, and each has different attributes. Talk to a landscaping professional to figure out which variety will be most suited to your landscape.
If you live around gardens, you’ve likely seen Forsythia. It produces stunning, bright-yellow flowers for about two weeks during mid-spring (or whenever the weather warms up). This brief color-show is enough to convince many gardeners to plant this hardy, reliable shrub, but its fast growing schedule and lack of fussiness help too.
All the information in this post comes from our friends at Virginia Tech. Check out their extension publication to learn more about flowering shrubs!