The goal for many gardeners is to have plants blooming in every season. Spring plants finish, then we move on to summer. Some gardeners rely heavily on annuals and perennials for color in the summer. But plenty of shrubs can provide pops of color, and they come back year after year.
When we consider blooming plants, length of flowering is important. Think of the azaleas that grace our gardens in the spring, but only for three to four weeks. While some summer bloomers are not long-blooming, many are. Consider abelia, althea and buddleia. They bloom from late May or early June, even through frost in some cases.
Glossy abelia is an evergreen plant with small white or pink bell-shaped blooms. Plenty of new varieties with a wealth of variegated foliage have been introduced. Mature size can vary from 3 to 6 feet or more. These tough plants do well in full sun to partial shade. Bees and butterflies love them.
Althea or Rose of Sharon, is a member of the hibiscus family and blooms all summer. Flowers range from singles
to doubles in shades of pink, purple, white and salmon. There are bi-colors as well. Full sun to partial shade is required for good flowering. They are deciduous plants which can be pruned to desired height before growth begins in the spring. They can be grown as one trunk or multi-trunked small trees. They are quite drought-tolerant and thrive on neglect.
Buddleia, or butterfly bush, is another deciduous shrub with long-blooming capability. Full sun is best. Plants range from 1-foot tall in the dwarfs to 8 feet or taller in the standards. Hard pruning in late winter keeps the plants more vigorous, with better flowering. Traditionally, they come in shades of purple, pink and white, but yellow and orange flowering forms are also available.
Gardenias are a Southern favorite in the garden, and their sweet fragrance can permeate the entire yard.
Morning sun and afternoon shade is best for the older varieties, while the newer Jubilation variety grows well in full sun or partial shade. Some of the single varieties, like Daisy, last only a few weeks, while many of the newer
ones bloom and then repeat later in the summer.
Hydrangeas have never been more popular, and there are so many choices these days. The bigleaf hydrangeas bloom in shades of pink or blue, while the oakleaf, smooth and panicle hydrangeas are mainly white. While most prefer an eastern or northern location with some protection from the hot afternoon sun, the newer panicle forms thrive in full sun. Bigleaf and oakleaf hydrangeas set their
flowers in the fall before they go dormant and bloom on old wood. They should only be pruned after they flower. The smooth and panicle forms bloom on the new growth and can be pruned as needed before growth begins.
When you think of spireas, most think of the white spring-blooming bridalwreath forms, but I adore the summer-
blooming forms. There are many new varieties with flowers in pink, white, purple and now red, with green, yellow or orange foliage. From the older Anthony Waterer to Japanese spirea to hybrids, there are plenty of choices. Pest-free, they grow well in full sun to partial shade and are drought-tolerant once they are established. They are deciduous and not overly attractive in the winter, but they shine all summer. When they finish blooming, give them a “haircut;” they’ll bounce back and bloom again.
A native summer-blooming shrub is clethra, with pink or white spikes of fragrant blooms. This shade-loving
deciduous shrub comes in dwarf and standard forms and is another favorite of bees and butterflies. Blooms stand upright on these plants, and the seed heads — which look like clusters of pepper-corns — are food for birds in the winter.
While we typically think of crape myrtles as trees, dwarf crape myrtles, ranging in height from 1 foot to 5 feet, can serve as all-summer blooming shrubs. Vitex or chaste trees also can be pruned into bush form and produce purple or pink blooms for weeks in the summer heat.
Summer flowers add joy to any garden. You can get blooms in a number of forms, from shrubs and trees to annuals, perennials and tropicals. If your garden needs more color, consider your options.