5 shrubs homeowners can count on for a showy summer

nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com May 17, 2013 

  • Tips for success

    Pay attention to mature size information on the plant tag. Give the plant space to grow that big. Remember the width is as important as the height. Keep it watered. If you plant now – just ahead of summer heat – the shrub will require serious attention to watering through the summer.

    Get the light right. Some shrubs require open sun for six to 10 hours a day. Others will prosper in the sunlight that filters through trees.

Making spring colorful with flowering shrubs is so easy. Just look around. Summer is different. We’ve kept it largely green with the pink and red of Knock Out roses and the soothing blues of hydrangeas to liven up the scene. But you can have more color – and a different look. Here are five flowering shrubs you can plant right now that grow well in the Piedmont and bloom in summer.

To the right is a photo of Carolina allspice. Photos of the other four plants are below the allspice.

Butterfly rose

The multicolored flowers change in color as they mature from pale yellow to orange to pink to deep pink. The five petals on each bloom open in a fashion that reminds people of colorful butterflies. This is a low-maintenance, long-blooming rose that works well as a tall hedge or against a tall wall. It grows at least 3 feet talland can reach 6 feet, with a width of 2 to 5 feet. Grow and train it as a large shrub or a tall climber. Given full sun, the bloom show continues into autumn. It is easier to manage than the popular (and enormous) Lady Banks rose, a nice alternative in the landscape to the Knock Outs and very interesting to watch as the flowers change color and become more vivid.

Butterfly bush

New varieties have expanded the palette into vivid purples and reds and pretty pinks and blues. This deciduous shrub – yes, butterflies love it – loses its leaves in the winter. But correct pruning in late winter produces a shrub filled with new growth that bears flowers in summer. Some are as short as 4 to 5 feet; others soar to 10 or higher. Size will govern placement near the front of a shrub bed or as an anchor in the back. They look best in a bed, mixed with other shrubs that offer color at other times of the year.

Carolina allspice

This native shrub bears flowers of a very unusual shape with an even more unusual color. The flowers, a frilly assembly of strap-shaped petals, emerge red in late spring to early summer as reddish maroon, then become brownish around mid-summer. The brown, urn-shaped fruit that follows is also interesting and persists until fall. This plant, often on lists of old-fashioned shrubs, requires space and looks best standing alone to allow the loose and airy shape to be revealed. It grows 6 to 10 feet high and wide, will tolerate the shade of filtered sunlight and has the bonus of good yellow color when the foliage turns in autumn.

Summer sweet

While gardenias get the most attention as perfumer of the landscape, summer sweet is even better because it blooms longer, often through June, July and August. It makes a roundish shrub. A named variety called Hummingbird grows 3 to 4 feet tall and a bit wider. This compact size and shape makes it suited for smaller landscapes and mixing with other flowering shrubs. Summer sweet is one of the few good shrubs that will tolerate wet soil. The fragrant blooms are made up of little florets arranged in an attractive elongated cone shape. It also comes in varieties with pink and rosy-pink flowers such as Ruby Spice and Rosea.

Hardy hibiscus

The hardy hibiscus shrubs have been eclipsed in recent years by the bolder, more vivid tropical hibiscus plants sold widely as potted plants in late spring. But new colors revived interest in the old-fashioned rose of Sharon, which makes a quick-growing, summer-flowering hedge that can reach 10 feet. Better pinks, glowing whites and vivid blues offer interesting and better choices to the washed-out pinks and blues of another day. And if you wish to go really vivid, there are the bright reds of Hibiscus moscheutos, named Lord Baltimore, which blooms midsummer to autumn and can reach 7 feet. Its good companion is Lady Baltimore, which bears pink flowers but is shorter, growing 4 to 5 feet tall. All require full sun and grow rapidly.

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