With careful planning, you can have shrubs flowering in your yard almost all year long. Blooming shrubs are perfect as foundation plants, for screening, or as focal points in the landscape. Some set fruit after flowering, providing a food source for birds, and can be visually appealing on their own. The flowers on most shrubs, such as weigela, drop cleanly after they're done blooming, while dried blooms of hydrangeas can continue to add beauty through fall and winter.
Start the season with a beautiful display of spring-flowering shrubs.
Azalea (Rhododendron spp.)
Azaleas give you a wide array of choices to landscape with: These flowering shrubs appear in nearly any color, can be evergreen or deciduous, and are available in a wide range of sizes. Most azaleas bloom best with partial sun, plenty of moisture, and rich, well-drained, acidic soil. Zones 4-10, depending on type.
Bridal wreath spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia 'Plena')
When the tiny bunches of white blooms drip profusely from bridal wreath spiraea, it conjures up pleasant images of wedding finery. It typically blooms before or as it leafs out, welcoming the spring season. Bridal wreath spirea does best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. The easy-growing shrub grows up to 6 feet tall. Zones 5-9
Learn more about spirea.
Northerners often get a case of Zone envy when they see camellias' glossy, evergreen leaves and stunning roselike flowers in shades of pink, white, or red. Depending on the type of camellia chosen, it may bloom in spring, fall, or late winter. Size varies, depending on variety, up to 20 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9
Learn more about camellias.
Tiny but powerful white or pink blossoms light up the spring. This lesser-known shrub reaches 2-10 feet tall, depending on the variety. You'll plant it for spring blooms, but will be thrilled by its red fall color. For extra show, look for the variety 'Duncan' (Chardonnay Pearls), which features chartreuse foliage all spring and summer. Zones 5-8
Learn more about deutzia.
Like spotting the first robin, seeing bright yellow or gold forsythia flowers is a sure sign of spring. After blooming, this sun-loving shrub that reaches up to 15 feet tall seems to blend into the background until the leaves shift to a purple fall color. Zones 4-9
Learn more about forsythia.
Easy-going fothergilla charms in spring with tiny white bottlebrush blooms but amazes in fall, too, with its brilliant red foliage. This tough North American native grows in a variety of sizes from 3 to 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-9
Learn more about fothergilla.
Lilac (Syringa selections)
If spring is a scent, it smells of lilac, at least in the North. Long-lived lilacs come in white, pink, blue, purple, and almost red. With many species and cultivars on the market, there's a size available from 3 to 30 feet tall. Zones 2-9
Learn more about lilacs.
Ninebark (Physocarpus selections)
If you don't know ninebark, check it out. This easy-to-grow North American native offers white spring or early summer flowers, but you'll want to grow one of the newer cultivars sporting burgundy-, golden-, or copper-color foliage. Left unchecked, it can grow 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Zones 3-7
Learn more about ninebark.
For a knock-your-socks-off sweet scent and a super-easy-to-grow habit, try one of the many types of viburnum. Most offer fall color in the cool climates and the berries attract wildlife. Best garden varieties grow 4-15 feet tall, depending on type. Zones 2-9
Learn more about viburnum.
This old-fashioned shrub has attracted new fans in recent years with recent breeding of unusual leaf colors or variegation. Trumpet-shape spring blooms, usually in some shade of pink, white, or red, just add to the excitement. Shrubs reach 6-9 feet tall. Zones 4-9
Learn more about weigela.
Add shrubs to your summer color show as a backdrop to perennials and annuals.
Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus)
Carolina allspice is all about fragrance. Its dark red flowers have been described as containing overtones of pineapple, strawberry, and banana, and the leaves, which offer yellow fall color, smell like cloves. It reaches up to 8 feet tall. Zones 5-9
Learn more about Carolina allspice.
There are so many kinds of hydrangeas, you'll want them all. The bigleaf (H. macrophylla) types grow with the big pink, white, or blue mopheads in partial shade. The smooth types (H. arborescens, also generically called 'Annabelle' types after its most famous member) grow vigorously in almost any condition. The cold-hardiest of them all, panicle hydrangeas (H. paniculata) prefer full sun. All produce sets of blooms that dry beautifully on the stem or in a vase for winter enjoyment. Sizes and hardiness vary by type and cultivar.
Learn more about hydrangea.
Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
The ruffled, papery, cup-shape blooms of rose of Sharon decorate a woody type of 8- to 10-foot-tall hibiscus shrub from summer into fall. Luscious colors of blue, pink, red, lavender, purple, and white give a summery touch to the end of the season. Zones 4-9
Learn more about rose of Sharon.
Smoke tree (Cotinus coggygria)
This satisfying plant grows either as a multistem shrub or a single-stem tree. Burgundy, green, or gold foliage lights up with fall color, and the effervescent pink bloom clusters turn a smoky tan in fall. It grows 15 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-8
Learn more about smoke tree.
Virginia sweetspire (Itea selections)
This is one of those shrubs that offers white flowers in summer, but you'll grow it mostly for its luscious red-purple fall color. The dainty stature, up to 4 feet, fits well into most gardens, but keep an eye on its spreading habit. Zones 6-9
Learn more about Virginia sweetspire.
Actual flowering slows down in shrubs during summer, but many flash brilliant fall colors to make up for any lack of flowering.
Bluebeard (Caryopteris selections)
Add bluebeard (sometimes called blue mist spirea) wherever you want a refreshing punch of blue color in the late summer to early fall landscape. You can find varieties with variegated, golden, or chartreuse foliage, or pink flowers, too. Most grow 3 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8
Learn more about bluebeard.
Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia)
With a name like this, you know the flower is going to smell good. Pink or white blooms appear in late summer, and the fall foliage show in oranges, reds, and yellows is outstanding. Summersweet grows up to 8 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-9
Learn more about summersweet.
Few shrubs add winter color from blooms (though many can be depended on for bright berries). Here are two of the best.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis)
Witch hazel bridges winter and spring with bright yellow to orange fragrant flowers. It's such a welcome sight that you forgive its fleeting nature, especially when it produces yellow fall foliage. Shrubs grow up to 12 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-9
Learn more about witch hazel.