No-Fail Flowering Trees and Shrubs

from Spring Planting Guide
See our list of flowering trees and shrubs for an easy way to add height and bold, vivid color to your landscaping ideas.

Magnolia
The pink, goblet-shape flowers of Magnolia x soulangeana (saucer magnolia) are among the most eagerly awaited signs of spring, and one of the season’s biggest gambles. A hard freeze just as the flowers open can bring the magnificent show to an abrupt and ignominious halt, but these trees are most certainly worth the risk. Saucer magnolias are sturdy, handsome deciduous trees up to about 30 feet tall, worthy specimens for a front yard. Many cultivars are available, some with deep purple or creamy white flowers. Look for cultivars with frost-tolerant buds ('Forrest Pink' is one). Give them full sun. Hardy in Zones 4–9.

Flowering Dogwood
The sparkling white flowers of Cornus florida (flowering dogwood) light up the Eastern woodlands in spring and bring them back to life. Up close in your own garden, flowering dogwoods are a pleasure year-round. These small trees, usually up to about 25 feet tall, have a graceful horizontal branching habit. They produce clusters of glossy red berries in fall, and they are known for their exceptionally colorful display of fall foliage. Plant them in well-drained soil in sun or part shade. Water during dry spells. Hardy in Zones 5–9; hybridizers are working to develop a cultivar that will be hardy to Zone 4. In bitterly cold areas, Cornus alternifolia (pagoda dogwood), hardy to Zone 3, is a good choice.

Redbud
Flashy purple-pink flowers practically cover the branches of Cercis canadensis (redbud) in midspring, turning the trees into colorful sculptures in the landscape. The flowers last for weeks and are followed by lovely, rounded, palm-size leaves that cast sufficient shade to protect hydrangeas and other shade-loving shrubs. Redbuds are relatively small trees, growing to about 25 feet tall, with a spread nearly as wide. They are native to eastern North America and are widely adaptable. Grow them in sun or shade. A white redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Alba’) is equally stunning; ‘Forest Pansy’, which has purple foliage, is another striking specimen. Hardy in Zones 4–9.

Kerria
Who can resist plucking a bright yellow Kerria japonica ‘Pleniflora’ (Japanese kerria) flower from a bush just to experience its fluffy exuberance, and who would miss one flower from a shrub that produces so many? Japanese kerria blooms prolifically over several weeks in spring, later than forsythia, along with the last daffodils of the season. Its slightly arching stems grow to form a mound 3–6 feet tall and wide; it can be kept smaller with annual pruning. Plant it in well-drained soil in a slightly shaded location. Japanese kerria’s distinctive bright green stems look pretty in the garden all winter. Hardy in Zones 4–9.

Carolina silverbell
Halesia tetraptera (Carolina silverbell) isn’t seen a lot in city and suburban landscapes—but it should be. In midspring, pure white (sometimes soft pink) blooms dangle from the branches like innumerable tiny bells. In the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they are native and abundant, the display is breathtaking. Carolina silverbells grow 30–40 feet tall; they thrive in well-drained moist soil in shade or part sun. Leave room for a bench beneath its branches so you can look up at the sparkling bells. ‘Wedding Bells’ is a new introduction with especially large flowers. Hardy in Zones 4–8.



Fothergilla
No other flower tickles your nose quite like Fothergilla gardenii (dwarf fothergilla), a charming little shrub with honey-scented, bottlebrush blooms in early spring. This native North American shrub does well in moist (not boggy) spots and in partial shade, but in sun, it produces more flowers and can be relied upon for a magnificent display of burnished-gold tall foliage. Dwarf fothergilla grows slowly to about 3 feet high and wide. It is small enough to plant in mixed borders among perennials, and will thrive with the same watering and attention they receive. It does not tolerate drought. Hardy in Zones 5–8.

Viburnum
In late spring, Viburnum carlesii (Koreanspice viburnum) is covered with dense clusters of pink buds that open to pure white. Plant it along a path, off a deck or patio, or near the front door — close enough to the house to enjoy the exotically spicy fragrance of its flowers as you come and go. The bloom lasts up to two weeks. Koreanspice viburnum thrives in part shade to full sun, and grows to about 8 feet tall; it tolerates pruning well, and can be grown as a striking hedge. The foliage turns ruddy red in the fall. Hardy in Zones 4–8.

Azalea
Rhododendron ‘Hino Crimson’ is a small evergreen azalea, but its tiny, shiny leaves can scarcely be seen in spring, when bright red buds cover the shrub and open into a gorgeous profusion of flowers. ‘Hino Crimson’ is one of many Kurume azaleas; these slow-growing hybrids are known for their hardiness, dense branch structure, and attractive small leaves. Other cultivars have white, pink, salmon, fuchsia, or purple flowers. ‘Hino Crimson’ is among the hardiest of the Kurume hybrids. Its foliage turns bronze in winter. In time, Kurume azaleas will grow to 4–6 feet tall; plant them in light shade, in an area protected from winter sun, and mulch to conserve soil moisture. Hardy in Zones 5/6–9.

Crab Apple
Malus ‘Indian Magic’ (flowering crab apple) is just one of hundreds of wonderful choices in the astonishingly vast world of crab apples. ‘Indian Magic’ sets itself apart with its red flowers in spring and persistent orange fruit in the fall and winter. Crab apples are small, attractive trees with a generally rounded habit, growing 15–20 feet tall and just about as wide in well-drained soil in full sun. Crab apples are susceptible to a dismaying number of bugs and blights, and it is important to choose resistant varieties. ‘Indian Magic’ gets good reports, as do ‘Adirondack’ (introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum), ‘Callaway’, and ‘Sugar Tyme’. Hardy in Zones 4–7.




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