Because the Great Lakes state of Wisconsin spreads over 6 U.S. Hardiness Zones--3A to 5B--its gardeners must be careful about choosing shrubs for their landscapes. Shrubs that thrive along Lake Superior in 5B Sheboygan (minimum temperature of -20 degrees F) may die at -40 F in the Zone 3A areas of Douglas County. Many of the state's native shrubs, however, are hardy across all six zones. They provide every Wisconsin gardener with reliable performance.
Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) is a tall shrub or small tree with horizontal green-to-purple upturned branches. Growing up to 35 feet, pagoda dogwood produce fragrant clusters of creamy-white flat flowers in May and June. The flowers attract butterflies. Clusters of bitter reddish purple berries, a food source for wildlife and birds, appear in late summer. Pagoda dogwood's maroon autumn leaves provide a third season of garden appeal.
Pagoda dogwood grows wild in Wisconsin's woods. Plant it in a partly shady to shady spot with acidic, moist, well-drained soil. It's not fussy about soil type, and seldom suffers from disease or pests.
Another large shrub or small tree, common serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea) belongs to the rose family. Plants have showy drooping clusters of fragrant white flowers blooming in April or May before their dark green leaves appear. Serviceberry, reaching from 15 to 25 feet, has interesting reddish-gray bark that pairs well with its purple berries and wine-colored autumn foliage. Birds thrive on the sweet berries.
Plant serviceberry in sun to shade and moist, acidic well-drained soil. While this shrub is susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, it rarely suffers severe damage. Young plants, says the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, are a favorite food for rabbits.
Dwarf-Bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonerica), says the Missouri Botanical Garden, is a slowly growing, heavily branched shrub. Reaching between 2 and 3 feet high, dwarf-bush honeysuckle has fragrant 1-inch yellow tubular blossoms in late spring and early summer. Its dark green leaves become an attractive orange-red in autumn.
This shrub spreads by root suckers, making it a good choice for slopes where erosion is a problem. Plant it in sun to part shade and moist well-trained soil. Shape by pruning immediately after it flowers.
Another shrub for small areas, cheerful bush cinquefoil (Potentilla fructicosa) stands up to 4 feet high and 5 feet wide. This tough, winter-hardy perennial is at its best in Wisconsin's cool summers. Between June and frost, its dense branches are covered with bright yellow, saucer-like five-petaled blooms up to 1.5 inches in diameter. Bush cinquefoil tolerates poor soil and part shade but performs best in average, moist well-drained soil and full sun. Prune as necessary in late winter.