Shrubbery is a garden staple, but flowering bushes do more than mask the house foundation or provide a green backdrop for seasonal annuals. Left untrimmed as hedges for screening or privacy, they are less obtrusive than fences or traditional, sheared hedges. When used as borders along property lines or as specimen plants, common flowering bushes add an extra layer of color and a casual, unstructured note to the landscape.
Hydrangea macrophylla is one of the most common flowering bushes. It is a deciduous shrub that has large leaves distinguished by their serrated edges. Hydrangea commonly stays in the 3- to 6-foot range in height and width; however, older specimens may exceed 8 feet in both dimensions. In the most common varieties, flowers appear as enormous round clusters, and most are pH sensitive. Acidic soil produces blue or purple flowers, and alkaline soil produces pink. White or greenish-white flowers appear on bushes grown in neutral soil. Hydrangea likes loose, well-drained soil. It is hardy in USDA Zones 6 to 10. In colder ranges, hydrangea prefers full sun, but where summers are hot, it needs afternoon shade. If exposed to too much sun, the entire bush will wilt as though it needs water.
Syringa vulgaris, the common lilac, is a popular deciduous shrub that is hardy in USDA Zones 3b to 7. Lilac bushes grow to a height of 8 to 15 feet with a spread of 6 to 12 feet. They maintain an upright form with stiff branches that can become leggy over time. Spring flowers grow in 4- to 8-inch terminal panicles (clusters along stems) and may be white, cream, purplish-pink or rose, depending on type. Their intoxicating scent will permeate a garden and drift through open windows nearby. Lilacs will grow in sun to partial shade and in a variety of soil types, including dense, heavy soils. Prune lilac bushes after flowering and remove all old flower heads. Cut back any leggy branches to maintain form.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis grows in USDA Zones 9 through 11, where it attains a height of 7 to 12 feet and a width of 6 to 10 feet. It is a vase-shaped bush commonly used as a hedge, specimen or container plant. It makes a striking accent near a swimming pool or on a patio. Flowers are 4 to 8 inches in diameter and come in single or double varieties in shades of red, pink, yellow, peach, white, or orange or in combinations of these. Flowering is profuse and continuous though each flower lasts but a day or two. In warmer climates, flowering continues year round. Hibiscus grows best in full sun or dappled shade. It requires regular water when first planted; once established, however, it is low maintenance.