Best Flowering Shrubs for Hedges

Why fence with rust-prone metal, rot-ready wood, or plastic pickets when you can have lovely floral fretwork to enclose your yard and guide the way through your garden?

By Denny Schrock


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lilac
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Lilac

    Lilacs are renowned for their fragrant trusses of mauve, pink, white, or purple blooms in mid- to late-spring. The variety Bloomerang extends the season with repeat bloom in late summer to fall. Dwarf Korean lilac, 'Miss Kim' lilac, and 'George Eastman' lilac all remain under 10 feet tall. Some newer cultivars are less prone to powdery mildew, lilac's biggest imperfection.

    Name: Syringa spp.

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 3-30 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 2-9

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Bluebeard

    Also known as blue-mist spirea, bluebeard is a late-season bloomer with powder-puff blue, pink, or purple flowers on compact plants with gray-green foliage. Selections offering variegated or gold foliage are also available. It is deer- and drought resistant and attracts butterflies.

    Name: Caryopteris clandonensis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun with well-drained soil

    Size: 3-5 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 4-8

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Weigela

    Weigela's red or pink trumpet-shape blooms are popular with hummingbirds. Some varieties bear white flowers; others produce copper, burgundy, or variegated leaves. My Monet is a variegated selection that grows only 12-18 inches tall and wide.

    Name: Weigela florida

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; well-drained soil

    Size: 1-9 feet tall; 5-8 feet wide

    Zones: 4-8

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Dwarf Crape Myrtle

    Although many crape myrtles grow to be small- to medium-size trees, some varieties, such as the Filli series and Dazzle series, remain shrubby, producing full-size blooms on plants less than 5 feet tall.

    Name: Lagerstroemia selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 1-5 feet tall; 1-4 feet wide

    Zones: 5-9

    Test Garden Tip: In Zones 5 and 6, where crape myrtles die back most winters, treat the shrubs as perennials and cut them to the ground before growth begins in the spring.

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Shrub Rose

    Shrub roses combine hardiness with repeat blooming to make colorful landscape additions without the fuss of fancy hybrid tea varieties. Newer varieties, such as the Knockout and Easy Elegance series as disease resistant and easy to care for as any other shrub.

    Name: Rosa selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: To 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide

    Zones: 3-10

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Potentilla

    Potentilla has yellow, creamy-white, or orange flowers throughout the summer and forms mounds to 3 feet tall. Because the plant blooms on new wood, you can cut it back severely to maintain its shape in early spring without sacrificing its blossoms. It is extremely drought tolerant.

    Name: Potentilla fruticosa

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 1-3 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 3-7

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Limelight hydrangea

    Flowers of Limelight hydrangea vary from pastel green in cool climates to creamy white in the South, or as summer heat progresses. In autumn the trusses may turn pink. It makes a dense, deer-resistant screen and requires no special care.

    Name: Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; moist well-drained soil

    Size: To 8 feet tall; 4-6 feet wide

    Zones: 4-9

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Ninebark

    This native shrub requires little care to thrive. Grown primarily for its colorful foliage, which may be gold, coppery red, or deep purple in addition to medium green, ninebark stands up well to heat and drought. The burgundy foliage of Summer Wine ninebark, for example, contrasts beautifully with its delicate pink blooms.

    Name: Physocarpus selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; well-drained soil

    Size: 5-10 feet tall and 5-15 feet wide

    Zones: 3-7

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Beautybush

    Beautybush produces arching branches loaded with delicate pink bell-shape blooms in late spring. The plant is deer resistant and holds up well during drought conditions.

    Name: Kolkwitzia amabilis

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: 8-10 feet tall and 8-12 feet wide

    Zones: 5-9

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Butterfly Bush

    Butterfly bush blooms in purple, pink, or white with lightly fragrant flowers. Because it blooms on new wood, you can trim butterfly bush to the ground in late winter to keep plants more compact without sacrificing its display. As its name suggests, the flowers are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. 'Blue Chip' butterfly bush grows only 20 inches tall and wide and blooms continuously from early summer through autumn.

    Name: Buddleja davidii

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 2-15 feet tall; 2-15 feet wide

    Zones: 5-9

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Dwarf Fothergilla

    Dwarf fothergilla is a plant with an extended season of interest. In early spring it bears fragrant white bottlebrush blooms; in fall its leaves turn fiery red, orange, and yellow. It grows in full sun or light shade. Its bigger cousin, large fothergilla (F. major) is similar except it grows to 8 feet tall.

    Name: Fothergilla gardenii

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade

    Size: 3 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 5-9

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Viburnum

    There are a lot of viburnums on the market and many growing well as flowering hedges. Most produce clusters of white or delicate pink flowers in early spring. Look for types such as Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii), which offer fragrant flowers, or for varieties that develop red or black berries. Snowball viburnum (V. opulus 'Roseum'), pictured here, grows 8-10 feet tall. The variety 'Nanum' stays under 3 feet tall.

    Name: Viburnum spp.

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; moist, well-drained soil

    Size: 3-15 feet tall; 3-12 feet wide

    Zones: 2-9

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Chaste tree

    Chaste tree is a drought-tolerant shrub with elegant divided compound leaves and fragrant lilac, blue, or white flowers borne in long panicles in late summer to autumn. Gardeners in Zone 5 can treat it like a perennial because it dies to the ground each winter but resprouts from the roots.

    Name: Vitex agnus-castus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 6-25 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 6-9

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Hardy hibiscus

    Hardy hibiscus forms showstopping 8- to 12-inch-diameter flowers on plants 3-6 feet tall. The blooms appear in shades of red, white, salmon, or pink. Although it grows best in moist soil, it tolerates drought well. Here it teams with oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia and yew (Taxus spp.).

    Name: Hibiscus moscheutos

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and moist well-drained soil

    Size: 3-8 feet tall; 3-5 feet wide

    Zones: 5-10

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Azalea

    Azaleas flower in spring with trumpet-shape blooms in a broad spectrum of colors. Some, such as the Encore azalea pictured here, also bloom on new wood throughout summer and fall. Most azaleas are deciduous and have smaller leaves than rhododendrons. Although some azaleas grow quite large, many varieties are available that remain under 10 feet tall.

    Name: Rhododendron spp.

    Growing Conditions: Shade to part shade and moist, well-drained acidic soil

    Size: 3-25 feet tall; 3-25 feet wide

    Zones: 4-10

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Purple Beautyberry

    Purple beautyberry bears clusters of pink blooms along its stem in late summer. The flowers develop into iridescent purple berries in fall. In Zone 5, beautyberry may die back over winter, but will resprout from the base to produce a full crop of flowers and fruits. The shrub is quite drought tolerant.

    Name: Callicarpa dichotoma

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade; well-drained soil

    Size: 4-5 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 6-8

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Bridalwreath Spirea

    Bridalwreath spirea makes an elegant border and is widely adaptable, deer proof, drought tolerant, and easy to grow. An arching abundance of white flower clusters in mid-spring give the shrub a romantic air.

    Name: Spiraea vanhouttei

    Growing Conditions: Full sun with well-drained soil

    Size: To 6 feet tall and 5 feet wide

    Zones: 4-8

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Sunny Boulevard St. John's Wort

    Sunny Boulevard St. John's wort is a long-blooming shrub that starts producing its bright yellow flowers in midsummer and continues to early fall. The blue-green foliage makes a great foil for the cheery flowers.

    Name: Hypericum kalmianum 'Deppe'

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 2-4 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 4-8

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Forsythia

    The bright golden blooms of forsythia are practically synonymous with spring in much of the country. Northern gardeners should choose one of the cold-hardy selections, such as Meadowlark, which provides reliable bloom even after sub-zero winters.

    Name: Forsythia selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: 2-15 feet tall; 3-9 feet wide

    Zones: 4-8

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Deutzia

    Deutzia blooms in spring with pink or white flowers on cascading stems. Slender deutzia (D. gracilis) grows to about 3 feet tall; showy deutzia (D. x magnifica) may reach 10 feet tall.

    Name: Deutzia selections

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to part shade and well-drained soil

    Size: 2-10 feet tall; 2-5 feet wide

    Zones: 5-8

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Summersweet

    With a name like summersweet, you can guess that this shrub's pink or white flowers are fragrant. It's one of the few shrubs that bloom well in shade, although it also will grow in full sun in the north, provided it has adequate moisture.

    Name: Clethra alnifolia

    Growing Conditions: Full sun to shade and moist soil

    Size: 3-5 feet tall and wide

    Zones: 3-9

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Oleander

    Oleander is a drought-tolerant and deer-resistant shrub with colorful clusters of blooms through most of the growing season. Flower colors range from pink to white, red, orange, and yellow. All parts of the plant are poisonous.

    Name: Nerium oleander

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 6-20 feet tall; 3-10 feet wide

    Zones: 9-11

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Rose of Sharon

    Rose of Sharon is a member of the hibiscus family. Like other types of hibiscus, it appreciates moist soil but tolerates drought. In midsummer to early autumn, it is covered with tropical-looking blooms in pink, lavender, or white, often with deep red centers.

    Name: Hibiscus syriacus

    Growing Conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

    Size: 6-10 feet tall and 6 feet wide

    Zones: 5-9

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