Flowering shrubs for the South

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Flowering shrubs and small flowering trees serve important roles in the landscape. Not only do they bring color and aesthetic value to your homes and gardens, but they also enhance soil stability, improve air quality and provide food and habitat for wildlife.

In addition, shrubs and trees strategically placed around the home can provide shade to help save on energy bills. Shrubs range in size from dwarfs only reaching 1 foot tall to larger specimens that grow to 10 to 12 feet tall. Shrubs also are easily pruned and trained to the shape and form you wish. You can plan and plant from a list of excellent performers for Louisiana landscapes.

The Louisiana Super Plants program endorses several excellent shrubs for use in the landscape. They include Henry’s Garnet Virginia willow, Leslie Ann camellia, Shishi Gashira camellia, Drift roses, Belinda’s Dream rose, Conversation Piece azalea, Penny Mac hydrangea, Frostproof gardenia, Shoal Creek vitex, Aphrodite althea (rose of Sharon) and rabbiteye blueberry.

All are outstanding selections for the landscape, each offering different heights and flower types. Check out the LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plants webpage for fact sheets on each of these great shrubs. The rose, camellia and gardenia selections are all evergreen. Both roses are repeat bloomers, and the gardenia blooms in the spring.

The remainder of the list is deciduous shrubs that lose their leaves in the fall. Both Aphrodite althea and Shoal Creek vitex are summer bloomers, while Henry’s Garnet Virginia willow, Conversation Piece azalea and both Limelight and Penny Mac hydrangeas are all spring bloomers.

In addition to these great selections, there are many other new varieties being developed by plant breeders. In the South, we especially love our azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas and roses. Year after year, growers make improvements to these beloved plants.

As a state horticulturist, I get the privilege of attending trade shows and meeting with growers to learn about the new and up and coming plants. Check local nurseries for their availability and keep these on your radar for future additions to your landscape. If the nurseries do not have these available now, ask about them for the future.

Starting with azaleas, the Encore reblooming azaleas have some new selections and some popular older varieties. Encore azaleas have been in production for 25 years now. The top 10, in order, are Autumn Royalty, which looks like the traditional Formosa azaleas; Autumn Embers (coral); Autumn Twist (light and bright pink); Autumn Fire (red-dwarf); Autumn Carnation (semi-double); Autumn Bonfire (true red, semi-double); Autumn Empress (medium pink, semi-double); Autumn Sangria (dark pink, single bloom); and Autumn Angel (pure white, single bloom).

Petite Knock Out roses are miniature, have dark foliage, are everblooming and are more leaf spot resistant. They make excellent patio plants for container growing. In addition to the new petite Knock Out roses, there is a new drift rose called the Blushing Drift.

There are couple of new spireas that are excellent flowering shrubs for the landscape called Candy Corn, a dwarf variety only growing to 2 to 3 feet, and Doozie, which grows to 3 to 4 feet. Abelia is another great flowering shrub. Three of the best cultivars are Kaleidoscope, Radiance and Peach Perfection, which is a heavy bloomer.

Hydrangeas are another great group of flowering shrubs, particularly the Hydrangea paniculata that are more sun tolerant with large panicle flowers. We are familiar with Limelight hydrangeas, but there have been improvements and new paniculatas added to the list. Little Lime is a dwarf version of Limelight and is an excellent compact hydrangea with profuse blooms.

Limelight Prime is a smaller, improved Limelight, and then there is the Littlelime Punch that goes from green to white to pink to finally a Hawaiian Punch-like red color that is just stunning to see. Some other new hydrangea varieties that are coming to the market are Strawberry Sundae, Diamond Rouge, White Wedding, Quick Fire, Little Quick Fire, Bobo, Phantom and Pinky Winky.

There really is no shortage of flowering shrubs and small trees for use in Louisiana landscapes. Take a trip to your local nursery as we approach late winter and early spring to get your hands on new varieties that are available. It is a great time to plant — just let us wait for this latest winter storm to pass first. Be sure to cover tender tropicals now as the temperatures dip this weekend.

Limelight Hydrangea is a paniculata type that does well in full sun. LSU AgCenter Stock Photo.JPG thumbnail

Limelight hydrangea is a paniculata type that does well in full sun. LSU AgCenter file photo

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Frostproof gardenia is a Louisiana Super Plant. LSU AgCenter file photo

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The glossy, dark green foliage of Shishi Gashira stays on the shrub year-round, making it an excellent choice as a small, evergreen foundation shrub. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

1/21/2022 3:41:50 PM
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