Douglas Hunt
Douglas Hunt
  • Hometalker
  • New Smyrna Beach, FL

Five native shrubs that put on a show

I don’t know where this notion came from that you couldn’t have a garden full of beautiful blooms if you relied on native plants. Some of the most impressive displays I have seen over the last few weeks have come from natives, which often have the added bonus of being great wildlife plants. Here are five that caught my eye. (These are eastern natives. I can’t vouch for how they’d do elsewhere. I hope other Hometalk members will chime in with comments on favorite natives for their area.)
five native shrubs that put on a show, flowers, gardening
Arrowwood viburnum
Viburnum dentatum is a true multi-season shrub, with creamy flowers in late spring or early summer, lovely foliage, blue-black berries and excellent fall color. Like most of its viburnum brethren, it has important wildlife value, providing both food and refuge for birds, and larval food for butterflies and moths. It will take winters to zone 3, and the heat of the deep south (zone 8). Generally has an upright habit from 5 to 9 feet high. Many cultivars of this native have been developed,. The one pictured here is a hard-to-find variegated form, “Island Treasure.”
five native shrubs that put on a show, flowers, gardening
Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia is the state flower of Connecticut, but its native range covers much of the eastern third of the country, from southern Maine to northern Florida and west to Mississippi. It is naturally found in a wide variety of habitats, but is perhaps best known as a shrub for shade. The flowers are very showy (pictured in bud, not bloom), and walking through a stand of mountain laurel in May or June can be an otherworldly experience.
five native shrubs that put on a show, flowers, gardening
Drooping leucothoe
Leucothoe fontanesiana grows in forested areas, often along streams, from New York to Georgia and Alabama. It will take more sun if provided with adequate moisture. It has a graceful, arching habit and will grow 3 to 6 feet high and wide. It is considered hardy from zones 6 to 9. The cultivar “Girald’s Rainbow,” shown here, has new growth that is white, pink and bronze.
five native shrubs that put on a show, flowers, gardening
Red buckeye
Aesculus pavia is a large small shrub or small tree native to a large portion of the eastern half of the U.S. Showy red flowers, which can begin as early as March in the southern portion of its range, earn it the common name of firecracker plant. It should not be a surprise at all that they are favored by hummingbirds. (Do note that the fruit produced by the seeds is poisonous.) Needs some protection from afternoon sun and generally grows to 10 to 15 feet, although much larger specimens are known. Hardy from zones 5 (possibly 4) to 9.
five native shrubs that put on a show, flowers, gardening
Fringe tree
Chionanthus virginicus is probably technically a tree but I am throwing it in anyway because it is so beautiful and graceful. Delicate and gloriously fragrant flowers appear in May and June. There are male and female plants, and fertilized flowers produce fruits in late summer that are a good source of food for birds and wildlife. Naturally occurs from southern New Jersey throughout the southeastern and south central states and is generally considered hardy from zones 5 (perhaps 4) to 9. Variable habit from 12 to 20 feet high and wide.

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2 of 16 comments
  • Julie
    on Jul 18, 2014

    Well thanks for your advice and feedback.... I will move it and see if I have any luck.

  • Suzette T
    on Feb 2, 2016

    Thank You, Douglas, for these great suggestions I love your choices top to bottom and could not agree more. This was a selfishness share on your part that I know many shall benefit from. Everyone always promotes flowers and it seems like the great shrubs are being left behind for no reason. For me when landscaping large locations, these are foundation plants that the garden can be worked around. Thank you again, I bookmarked this page that is how much it is worth to me.

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