Flowering shrubs make great additions to gardens with their beautiful flowers and use as foundation plantings. The shrubs also work well to create hedges or borders. A large variety of flowering shrubs provide gardeners with plenty of choices to fit their space and garden design.
Shrubs run the gamut from shade-loving plants such as rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias to plants that thrive in full sun including roses, butterfly bush and forsythia. To add lots of color and fragrance, consider planting lilac, rose, butterfly or gardenia bushes. Space requirements most often determine what shrubs work best in the garden. Some bushes, such as rhododendrons, range in size from plants that reach only a few feet in height to tree-sized shrubs reaching more than 15 feet tall.
For shady areas of the garden, consider growing shrubs such as winterberry, which offers a high tolerance for wet areas or flameleaf sumac with its gorgeous red fall color. Rhododendrons and azaleas also thrive in shade. Shade-loving plants usually prefer slightly acidic, well-drained soil with plenty of space to spread out.
Sun-loving shrubs such as heather with its small pink, lavender or white flowers as well as roses and hydrangea grow best in well-drained, loamy soil in full sun to partially shady areas. They also require plenty of space to grow.
For most shrubs, late winter and early spring offer the best time to prune since the pruning cuts heal rapidly as new spring growth starts. Another reason to prune at this time is that dormant insects won't invade the pruning wounds. Pruning consists of removing old growth and dead branches. Rhododendrons, lilacs and forsythia require pruning right after they flower to provide enough time for new growth to occur by the following spring.
One of the best ways to determine a shrub's need for fertilizers is to get a soil nutrient test. Otherwise, many shrubs do not require fertilizer if they appear to be growing healthily with plenty of flowers. Adding too much fertilizer with nitrogen makes shrubs grow vigorously but reduces the amount of flowers that bloom.
Many shrubs provide food, shelter and a nesting habitat for birds. The scarlet fruits from the spicebush provide a great food source for birds in August through October. Berries from winterberry shrubs stay on the plant far into the winter, providing birds with a great food source when other foods seem scarce. Beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps, bees and flies also rely on the flowers and berries from shrubs to provide food and overwintering homes. They, in turn, pollinate the shrubs once the flowers bloom. The sweet scent of the butterfly bush with its profusion of white, orange or lavender flowers attracts lots of butterflies.