Special Gift Offer
URL:
http://www.gardengatemagazine.com/articles/flowers-plants/all/small-flowering-shrubs/
Share:

Small Flowering Shrubs with Big Impact

By: Susan Martin
Small flowering shrubs do the job of their larger relatives for small-scale gardens.

Scale down with small flowering shrubs

There is a time in life for big gardens, when we’re possessed with boundless energy to maintain billowing perennial gardens and a quarter-acre vegetable plot that produces enough food for the whole neighborhood. But if you are just starting out and you’re gardening on a balcony three floors up, or if you’ve downsized to a smaller home, you can still create a beautiful outdoor living space using dwarf shrubs.

Small done right

When designed thoughtfully, a small-space garden can be just as visually appealing and emotionally gratifying as an expansive yard. There is no need to sacrifice your favorite shrubs, like roses and lilacs. You just need to choose the right-sized varieties to fit the scale of the space. A short hedge or even an urn of flowering shrubs might be just what you need to make your patio feel more like “home.”

Garden Tools You Might Also Like:
Metal Garden Hose
Small Wheeled Garden Cart
Hand Pruner/Shears

Make every inch count

A key to getting the most out of any space — but especially a small one — is to choose plants with a dual purpose. Peach Sorbet blueberries produce delicious fruit but can also double as a border hedge or a patio plant with stunning fall color. Seaside Serenade hydrangeas are delightful garden specimens but will also provide you with long-lasting bouquets.

You Might Also Like:
Prune Spring Flowering Shrubs for More Flowers
Deer-Resistant Shrubs
A Cozy, Small-Space Garden

Small flowering shrubs for your garden

It is perfectly fine to be selective when curating a plant palette for a small space. If the large shrubs you’ve seen at local nurseries seem overwhelming for your garden, look for the varieties you see here.

Cape Cod bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Blue hydrangeas are a dream come true for many of us, and thanks to Seaside Serenade® Cape Cod’s neat, mounded form, it’s easy to find just the right spot to showcase it in a landscape with acid soil. The flowers are pink when the soil is neutral to alkaline.

Sturdy, thick stems carry large, mophead blossoms in early summer with additional blooms continuing through the remainder of the season. Thick, waxy, dark green leaves help it hold up well in warm, humid climates where other bigleaf hydrangeas may languish. And pruning is easy: Simply cut out the dead wood in early spring.

Type Shrub Blooms Blue mophead flowers from early summer to fall; flowers will be pink in alkaline soil Light Full sun to part shade in the North, part shade in the South Soil Fertile, moist, well-drained, acid Size: 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Magical Gold forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)

Forsythias are the harbingers of spring, ushering in the new season with their golden yellow blossoms that encrust the upright branches. Magical® Gold packs a ton of flower power onto a smaller plant and is the first forsythia to bloom on both old and new growth.

If you’ve ever pruned forsythia in fall, you know that doing so typically eliminates next spring’s flowers whose buds had already been set. Magical Gold forsythia takes the guesswork out of when to prune, since no matter when or if you do, the plant will flower prolifically. Prune it right after it is finished blooming in spring and it will flower the next spring along the entire length of the branch. Prune it in fall, and it will bloom on the new growth in early summer.

Type Shrub Blooms Golden yellow flowers in midspring or early summer Light Full sun to light shade Soil Average, well-drained Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

‘Orchid Annie’ butterfly bush (Buddleja hybrid)

Once you grow a butterfly bush you will know exactly how it got its name. This shrub possesses a magnetism so strong that butterflies will find it wherever it is blooming — whether in a pot on your deck or in a garden bed. Pollinating bees and hummingbirds are also frequent visitors.

Part of the Humdinger® series, ‘Orchid Annie’ is a fully rounded shrub that blooms from top to bottom with 8-inch-long, orchid-purple panicles. Its sweetly fragrant flowers appear a few weeks earlier than many other cultivars; secondary shoots keep the color coming until fall.

Type Shrub Blooms Orchid-purple flowers from mid-summer to early fall Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall, 42 to 48 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10

Little Lime panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

‘Limelight’ is one of the most widely planted panicle hydrangeas in the world, but it grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide, making it too large for most small gardens. You’ll get a similar look with its dwarf cousin, Little Lime®, which matures to half the size. That makes it perfect for tucking under windowsills or growing as a short hedge around your deck.

For the most compact habit, trim all of its stems down every year in early spring by one-third. You won’t risk eliminating any flower buds since they are not set until early summer on the new growth.

Type Shrub Blooms Pale green to creamy white flowers blush to rose pink from midsummer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Average to fertile, well-drained Size 3 to 5 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

Peach Sorbet Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

You don’t need acres of land to grow your own blueberries. A simple 16-inch patio pot or 2 square feet of garden space will do when you plant this petite, self-pollinating variety. Peach Sorbet® has interesting foliage, too. Pretty blue-green leaves take on notes of peach, pink and orange in spring followed by deep eggplant purple and scarlet tones from fall into winter.

Blueberry plants require a cold winter resting period to be able to produce fruit the following season. Peach Sorbet will need 300 hours (about 12 days) of temperatures at or below 45 degrees F. Expect a three-year-old plant to yield about 3 pounds of fruit.

Type Shrub Blooms Tiny white flowers in late spring followed by blue fruits in midsummer Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, acid, moist Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10

‘Brew Ha Ha’ crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia hybrid)

There’s no reason you need to give up the summer-blooming crape myrtles you love because you don’t have enough room. You’ll find it in both shrub and tree forms ranging from knee high to 40 feet. This variety from the pint-sized Barista® series is covered in masses of vibrant bubble-gum-pink flowers that pop open from pearl-shaped, rosy red buds.

It’s disease resistant and requires little care to thrive. Expect ‘Brew Ha Ha’ to die back to the ground where winter temps drop to 0 degrees F or lower. It’ll return and bloom the following year. Where it does not die back in winter, prune to shape in spring as needed.

Type Shrub Blooms Bubblegum pink flowers from late summer through early fall Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, acid, well-drained Size 24 to 30 in. tall and wide; taller in climates where it does not die back in winter Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9

Autumn Coral azalea (Rhododendron hybrid)

Do you remember when azaleas were a one-hit wonder? Their flashy blooms adorned our gardens for a few glorious weeks in spring and then we waited 11 months for them to repeat the show. But in the early 1980s, breeder Robert “Buddy” Lee of Independence, Louisiana, started developing the Encore® reblooming azalea series.

Autumn Coral® is a densely branched plant whose hot coral pink flowers appear first in spring. And it tolerates more sun than typical azaleas. It is known for its heavy rebloom from summer into fall on new wood. This azalea works beautifully as a foundation plant or short hedge. Though it doesn’t usually need pruning, it can be pruned lightly to shape after the first round of blooms in spring.

Type Shrub Blooms Coral pink flowers in spring, summer and fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Average to moist, acid, well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10

Little Devil ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Have you ever noticed how a dark background can make all the colors in front of it really pop? A short hedge of Little Devil ninebark’s deep-purple foliage will do just that in your landscape when you pair it with colorful perennials. The more sun this shrub gets, the darker the color will be.

Ninebark is a powdery mildew-resistant, native shrub that holds its own in low-maintenance landscapes. Many cultivars grow quite large, but dwarf selections require little pruning to stay in bounds. Swap out your non-native barberry (Berberis thunbergii) for a similar look without the thorns.

Type Shrub Blooms Purple-white flowers in late spring followed by red seed heads Light Full sun Soil Adaptable to dry or moist soils Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

Bloomerang Dwarf Pink lilac (Syringa hybrid)

There are few floral scents as nostalgic as lilacs. Many of us remember them from our childhood homes where they grew in huge, towering masses and perfumed the whole yard in spring. You can recapture some of that magic in your current home, even if your garden is small or a sunny balcony is the only option.

Like Encore azaleas, Bloomerang® lilacs are strong rebloomers. They flower heavily in spring on old wood and produce another flush of blooms, though not quite as prolifically, from summer into fall on the new growth. Though pruning is not needed for the plant to flower again, if you prefer to do so, it can be done once the spring blossoms are spent — an easy task on such a small shrub.

Type Shrub Blooms Pure pink flowers in spring, summer and fall Light Full sun Soil Average to dry, well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

‘Shishi Gashira’ camellia (Camellia sasanqua)

Camellias dominate in Southern gardens, where they form an understory canopy in the shade of tall trees, much like rhododendrons do in the North. Though many of them grow far too large for small gardens, ‘Shishi Gashira’ is one of the exceptions. It finds its niche in the garden as a low-growing shrub that can spread twice as wide as it grows tall.

Its prolific semidouble hot pink blossoms are 2 to 3 inches wide and appear just when you need color in the garden the most, from fall into winter. They are gorgeous when picked for fresh bouquets. Expect this durable shrub to live for decades where it is happy.

Type Shrub Blooms Hot pink, semidouble, 2- to 3-in. flowers from midfall through midwinter Light Part shade Soil Fertile, acid, moist but well-drained Size 4 to 5 ft. tall, 6 to 8 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10

Petite Knock Out rose (Rosa hybrid)

Knock Out® roses are planted by the millions every year by landscape crews building out the gardens of newly constructed homes with sweeps of low-maintenance, long-lasting color. People everywhere have fallen in love with roses again because of this collection of hardy, disease-resistant varieties that never need spraying to stay healthy.

The first-ever miniature, Petite Knock Out®, joined the family this year. It stands only knee high when full grown, which makes it ideal for growing as a blanket of color in front of an evergreen hedge or along the path to your front entrance. Its small size and propensity to bloom all season without deadheading makes it a great addition to your container designs or as a colorful focal point like the pot above.

Type Shrub Blooms Nonfading, fire engine-red flowers from late spring to fall Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, well-drained Size 16 to 18 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10

Cape Cod bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Blue hydrangeas are a dream come true for many of us, and thanks to Seaside Serenade® Cape Cod’s neat, mounded form, it’s easy to find just the right spot to showcase it in a landscape with acid soil. The flowers are pink when the soil is neutral to alkaline.

Sturdy, thick stems carry large, mophead blossoms in early summer with additional blooms continuing through the remainder of the season. Thick, waxy, dark green leaves help it hold up well in warm, humid climates where other bigleaf hydrangeas may languish. And pruning is easy: Simply cut out the dead wood in early spring.

Type Shrub Blooms Blue mophead flowers from early summer to fall; flowers will be pink in alkaline soil Light Full sun to part shade in the North, part shade in the South Soil Fertile, moist, well-drained, acid Size: 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9

Autumn Coral azalea (Rhododendron hybrid)

Do you remember when azaleas were a one-hit wonder? Their flashy blooms adorned our gardens for a few glorious weeks in spring and then we waited 11 months for them to repeat the show. But in the early 1980s, breeder Robert “Buddy” Lee of Independence, Louisiana, started developing the Encore® reblooming azalea series.

Autumn Coral® is a densely branched plant whose hot coral pink flowers appear first in spring. And it tolerates more sun than typical azaleas. It is known for its heavy rebloom from summer into fall on new wood. This azalea works beautifully as a foundation plant or short hedge. Though it doesn’t usually need pruning, it can be pruned lightly to shape after the first round of blooms in spring.

Type Shrub Blooms Coral pink flowers in spring, summer and fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Average to moist, acid, well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10

Magical Gold forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)

Forsythias are the harbingers of spring, ushering in the new season with their golden yellow blossoms that encrust the upright branches. Magical® Gold packs a ton of flower power onto a smaller plant and is the first forsythia to bloom on both old and new growth.

If you’ve ever pruned forsythia in fall, you know that doing so typically eliminates next spring’s flowers whose buds had already been set. Magical Gold forsythia takes the guesswork out of when to prune, since no matter when or if you do, the plant will flower prolifically. Prune it right after it is finished blooming in spring and it will flower the next spring along the entire length of the branch. Prune it in fall, and it will bloom on the new growth in early summer.

Type Shrub Blooms Golden yellow flowers in midspring or early summer Light Full sun to light shade Soil Average, well-drained Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 8

Little Devil ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Have you ever noticed how a dark background can make all the colors in front of it really pop? A short hedge of Little Devil ninebark’s deep-purple foliage will do just that in your landscape when you pair it with colorful perennials. The more sun this shrub gets, the darker the color will be.

Ninebark is a powdery mildew-resistant, native shrub that holds its own in low-maintenance landscapes. Many cultivars grow quite large, but dwarf selections require little pruning to stay in bounds. Swap out your non-native barberry (Berberis thunbergii) for a similar look without the thorns.

Type Shrub Blooms Purple-white flowers in late spring followed by red seed heads Light Full sun Soil Adaptable to dry or moist soils Size 3 to 4 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

‘Orchid Annie’ butterfly bush (Buddleja hybrid)

Once you grow a butterfly bush you will know exactly how it got its name. This shrub possesses a magnetism so strong that butterflies will find it wherever it is blooming — whether in a pot on your deck or in a garden bed. Pollinating bees and hummingbirds are also frequent visitors.

Part of the Humdinger® series, ‘Orchid Annie’ is a fully rounded shrub that blooms from top to bottom with 8-inch-long, orchid-purple panicles. Its sweetly fragrant flowers appear a few weeks earlier than many other cultivars; secondary shoots keep the color coming until fall.

Type Shrub Blooms Orchid-purple flowers from mid-summer to early fall Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall, 42 to 48 in. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10

Bloomerang Dwarf Pink lilac (Syringa hybrid)

There are few floral scents as nostalgic as lilacs. Many of us remember them from our childhood homes where they grew in huge, towering masses and perfumed the whole yard in spring. You can recapture some of that magic in your current home, even if your garden is small or a sunny balcony is the only option.

Like Encore azaleas, Bloomerang® lilacs are strong rebloomers. They flower heavily in spring on old wood and produce another flush of blooms, though not quite as prolifically, from summer into fall on the new growth. Though pruning is not needed for the plant to flower again, if you prefer to do so, it can be done once the spring blossoms are spent — an easy task on such a small shrub.

Type Shrub Blooms Pure pink flowers in spring, summer and fall Light Full sun Soil Average to dry, well-drained Size 30 to 36 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7

Little Lime panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

‘Limelight’ is one of the most widely planted panicle hydrangeas in the world, but it grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide, making it too large for most small gardens. You’ll get a similar look with its dwarf cousin, Little Lime®, which matures to half the size. That makes it perfect for tucking under windowsills or growing as a short hedge around your deck.

For the most compact habit, trim all of its stems down every year in early spring by one-third. You won’t risk eliminating any flower buds since they are not set until early summer on the new growth.

Type Shrub Blooms Pale green to creamy white flowers blush to rose pink from midsummer to fall Light Full sun to part shade Soil Average to fertile, well-drained Size 3 to 5 ft. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 3 to 8

‘Shishi Gashira’ camellia (Camellia sasanqua)

Camellias dominate in Southern gardens, where they form an understory canopy in the shade of tall trees, much like rhododendrons do in the North. Though many of them grow far too large for small gardens, ‘Shishi Gashira’ is one of the exceptions. It finds its niche in the garden as a low-growing shrub that can spread twice as wide as it grows tall.

Its prolific semidouble hot pink blossoms are 2 to 3 inches wide and appear just when you need color in the garden the most, from fall into winter. They are gorgeous when picked for fresh bouquets. Expect this durable shrub to live for decades where it is happy.

Type Shrub Blooms Hot pink, semidouble, 2- to 3-in. flowers from midfall through midwinter Light Part shade Soil Fertile, acid, moist but well-drained Size 4 to 5 ft. tall, 6 to 8 ft. wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 7 to 10

Peach Sorbet Northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

You don’t need acres of land to grow your own blueberries. A simple 16-inch patio pot or 2 square feet of garden space will do when you plant this petite, self-pollinating variety. Peach Sorbet® has interesting foliage, too. Pretty blue-green leaves take on notes of peach, pink and orange in spring followed by deep eggplant purple and scarlet tones from fall into winter.

Blueberry plants require a cold winter resting period to be able to produce fruit the following season. Peach Sorbet will need 300 hours (about 12 days) of temperatures at or below 45 degrees F. Expect a three-year-old plant to yield about 3 pounds of fruit.

Type Shrub Blooms Tiny white flowers in late spring followed by blue fruits in midsummer Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, acid, moist Size 18 to 24 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10

Petite Knock Out rose (Rosa hybrid)

Knock Out® roses are planted by the millions every year by landscape crews building out the gardens of newly constructed homes with sweeps of low-maintenance, long-lasting color. People everywhere have fallen in love with roses again because of this collection of hardy, disease-resistant varieties that never need spraying to stay healthy.

The first-ever miniature, Petite Knock Out®, joined the family this year. It stands only knee high when full grown, which makes it ideal for growing as a blanket of color in front of an evergreen hedge or along the path to your front entrance. Its small size and propensity to bloom all season without deadheading makes it a great addition to your container designs or as a colorful focal point like the pot above.

Type Shrub Blooms Nonfading, fire engine-red flowers from late spring to fall Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, well-drained Size 16 to 18 in. tall and wide Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 5 to 10

‘Brew Ha Ha’ crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia hybrid)

There’s no reason you need to give up the summer-blooming crape myrtles you love because you don’t have enough room. You’ll find it in both shrub and tree forms ranging from knee high to 40 feet. This variety from the pint-sized Barista® series is covered in masses of vibrant bubble-gum-pink flowers that pop open from pearl-shaped, rosy red buds.

It’s disease resistant and requires little care to thrive. Expect ‘Brew Ha Ha’ to die back to the ground where winter temps drop to 0 degrees F or lower. It’ll return and bloom the following year. Where it does not die back in winter, prune to shape in spring as needed.

Type Shrub Blooms Bubblegum pink flowers from late summer through early fall Light Full sun Soil Average to fertile, acid, well-drained Size 24 to 30 in. tall and wide; taller in climates where it does not die back in winter Hardiness Cold hardy in USDA zones 6 to 9

Published: Sept. 10, 2021
Share:

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

GDT Ad_Summit 2021 zone 6

Related Tags

curb appeal shrubs spring

Related Articles


GDT Free Issues zone7and11 Mobile_Spring

You Might Also Like…

GDT Free Issue zone15 Spring