Early spring explodes with floral fireworks, courtesy of blooming shrubs. These beautiful plants kick off the season with eye-catching color. They grace the landscape even into summer with their artful forms, as they continue their attractive growth patterns.
Before you make room for a spring-flowering shrub, consider mature size and flowering window.
- Some flowering shrubs can soar to the size of a small tree. Make sure you give your shrub plenty of elbow room – both above and around it – so it can achieve its full botanical potential.
- In northern zones, flowering plants may burst into bloom while it’s still cold outside. When possible, site early-flowering shrubs where they’re visible from indoors.
- In coldest regions, place blooming shrubs in a northern exposure to delay flowering. This may help prevent late-spring frost damage to flowers or buds.
With all spring-blooming shrubs, wait to prune until after flowering – unless you want to bring a few branches inside for forcing into bloom. Otherwise, prune shrubs as quickly as you can following blossom time, because plants form buds for next year’s flower show during the current growing season. Prune too late, and you’ll remove flower buds.
7 Versatile Favorites
These flowering shrubs are well suited for a variety of uses in your landscape, from privacy hedges to specimen plantings. And their pretty blooms blend wonderfully with traditional spring bulbs, including tulip, daffodil and hyacinth.
Beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis)
Graceful and elegant, beauty bush grows upright stems blanketed with fragrant, yellow-throated pink blossoms. In light shade, branches arch, forming a fountain. Summer fruits beckon birds. Peeling bark adds winter interest. USDA Zones 4–9.
Size: 8–12 feet high and wide.
Landscape use: Specimen shrub, privacy hedge
Dwarf flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa ‘Rosea Plena’)
In early spring, branches become magic wands of double pink blooms. Leaves appear after flowers. Gardeners hail this flowering shrub as bulletproof, reporting it survives desert heat, Texas drought, poor soil and below-zero cold. Site in full to part sun; regular moisture yields best growth. USDA Zones 3–8.
Size: 3–6 feet high by 4–6 feet wide.
Landscape use: Specimen shrub, flowering hedge, in mass (like azaleas)
Flowering quince (Chaenomeles spp.)
Twiggy, usually thorny, branches burst into bloom before they do anything else. Flowers unfurl single or double petals in salmon, red, coral, white or pink shades. Some bear tart, apple-like fruit in fall; use in jam and marmalade. Plant in full sun to part shade. USDA Zones 4–9.
Size: Varies with selection, from 3–10 feet high and 3–15 feet wide.
Landscape use: Hedge, barrier plant, specimen shrub, woodland garden
Mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius)
Beautiful white, cup-like blossoms open in late spring to early summer, after leaves emerge. Fragrance may vary by plant, but most cast a sweet, pervasive perfume. Shrubs grow vigorously when conditions are right. Prune hard to keep in bounds. Grow in sun to part shade. USDA Zones 4–9.
Size: 8–12 feet high by 8–10 feet wide.
Landscape use: Informal hedge, background shrub
Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
Strappy-petaled blooms burst from fuzzy buds in late winter to early spring. Leaves unfurl as flowers fade. Selections offer blossoms in white and pink shades; most are fragrant. Underplant with blue scilla for a striking scene. Site in full sun to part shade. USDA Zones 4–9.
Size: 10–20 feet high and wide (largest sizes occur in warmer zones).
Landscape use: Specimen shrub in entry garden, edge of woodland garden
Korean spice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)
Round pink flower buds open to reveal richly perfumed, waxy white blooms. Flowers cluster at stem tips, forming balls. Blossoms fade to red fruit that birds love. Leaves turn red in autumn. Place beneath deciduous trees to provide full sun in winter and spring, light shade in summer. USDA Zones 4–9.
Size: 4–8 feet high and 4–7 feet wide.
Landscape use: Entry garden, foundation plant, hedge, mixed shrub border
Weigela (Weigela florida)
This shrub is a classic beauty with pink trumpet-shaped blooms in mid- to late spring. Look for selections with green, variegated white, or dark burgundy-black foliage and with various flower colors from red, to white, to yellow hues. Blooms beckon hummingbirds and butterflies. USDA Zones 4–9.
Size: 2–10 feet high and wide; size varies with selection.
Landscape use: Straight species as a summer screen or backdrop for flower plantings; dark-leaved and dwarf green types work well as hedges or in mixed shrub borders