Here Are 10 Good Flowering Trees and Shrubs for Your Spring Landscape

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10 Great Spring-Flowering Trees and Shrubs

The end of the long gray winter months is usually heralded not by spring bulbs, but by flowering trees and shrubs, such as dogwood. The merit of these trees can extend well beyond spring, as the flowers in many varieties give way to fruits that attract wild birds, with some offering colorful foliage in the fall.

There are also multitaskers who pride themselves on more than ornamental qualities, as they produce edible fruit.

Criteria for a Great Spring Tree or Shrub

Several virtues will make a particular spring-flowering tree or shrub a good choice for your landscape:

  • Flower display
  • Interest in foliage, including colors for all seasons.
  • Interesting branching patterns
  • Cold resistance
  • Production and beauty of red fruits
  • Ease of maintenance, including resistance to disease

Some very popular spring-flowering shrubs (azaleas and rhododendrons, for example) are not on the list because they are not particularly attractive after the spectacular spring flowering season is over.

The trees and shrubs selected below are equally divided between early and late blooms. The former are those that bloom in early April, while the late ones are those that bloom only after the full onset of spring (late April or possibly early May). A well-designed landscape features mixed plantings of flowering trees and shrubs and includes early and late blooms.

All of the plants on the list should be grown in full sun, although flowered dogwood generally works just as well in partial shade. Although most of the plants on this list are considered low maintenance, this should not be confused with no maintenance. It's always a good idea to winterize flowering shrubs, especially when young, to protect them from the harsh winter.

Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida, Cornus kousa)

Collectively, dogwoods score the highest for spring blooms, with an impressive number of benefits for the landscape. The branching pattern of flowering dogwoods is fairly horizontal, giving them visual interest at any time of year.

The two main elements that stand out in this group are the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), a Native American species, and the Japanese dogwood (Cornus kousa).

Two popular varieties of Cornus florida are "Cherokee Chief" and "Rubra". "Cape Cherokee" reaches a maximum height of approximately 25 feet with a width of approximately 15 feet. Its spring flowers are red and produce fruit that birds love to eat. In autumn, the leaves turn bronze-red.

'Rubra' is commonly known as dogwood rose or flowering dogwood rose. It reaches 15-30 years in height, with a similar spread, and blooms from April to May.

Japanese dogwoods are relatively resistant to disease and flower a little later in the spring than American dogwoods.

USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

Color Varieties: White to pink

Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

'Donald Wyman' Crabapple (Malus 'Donald Wyman')

Malus 'Donald Wyman' is a disease-resistant apple tree. These flowering trees grow from 5 to 7 meters in height, with a spread of 6 to 7 meters. The pink buds open in April to become unique white flowers.

The flowers are fragrant, although they don't do as well as another favorite lilac shrub in the spring. The tree has a good autumn color and the ornamental fruits last all winter; Wild birds eat in February and March.

Avoid spring pruning with this tree, as open wounds can be susceptible to fire infections. Instead, prune in late winter.

USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

Color Varieties: Pink, transitioning to white

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Needs: Well-drained, acidic loam

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)

A particularly good form of quince is 'Cameo' (Chaenomeles speciosa 'Cameo'), a compact, a general-flowering shrub that is suitable for a low border or hedge (this is a thorny plant).

It reaches a mature height of 2 to 4 feet, with a spread of 3 to 5 feet. Its double spring peach bloom, which arrives in March and April, easily makes it a favorite shrub. The reddish-yellow edible berries of quince ripen in the fall and are commonly used for jams and jellies.

The root buds should be pruned regularly to prevent the spread of flowering quince bushes.

USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

Color Varieties: Pale red to scarlet

Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana)

Although the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) blooms earlier than the saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana), the large saucer-shaped flowers that appear in March make it a popular tree.

The flowers range from pink to purple on the outside, with a soft white interior. This tree reaches 20-30 feet tall with a similar spread. The star magnolia is slightly smaller (15-20 tall, slightly less than that).

Late spring frosts can damage flowers, but the plant usually recovers. Watch out for scales, canker, and leaf spots from fungi.

USDA Growing Zones: 4–9

Color Varieties: White and purple

Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil Needs: Rich, acidic, well-drained loam

'Sunrise' Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia 'Sunrise')

Forsythia x intermedia 'Sunrise' reaches a mature height of only around 6 feet, making it a more compact shrub than some of the other popular forsythia shrubs.

For many gardeners, spring would not be spring without the bright yellow forsythia flowers that arrive in March and April. The flower stalks make good cut flowers, and the shrub itself has a thorny habit that makes it a good plant for hedges and border crops.

Don't prune this shrub until mid-July. 'Sunrise' is a very cold hardy plant (down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit) and some gardeners in zone 4 can grow it.

USDA Growing Zones: 5–8

Color Varieties: Bright yellow

Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil Needs: Loose, medium-moisture, well-drained soil

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

When the redbuds bloom, their limbs appear to have hair that is actually the beginning of the flowers. Eastern redbud trees grow 6 to 9 meters tall with a similar distribution.

Other trees and shrubs may match the color of redbud tree flowers, but few are quite as graceful. The fall foliage is yellow, but it is not highly appreciated.

Eastern redbud trees display bright purple-pink flowers along their bare branches in April, about the same time that crabapples are in bloom. They are among the few flowering trees that tolerate shade, although they bloom best in full sun.

This tree can be susceptible to a variety of diseases and insect problems if it starts to decline, so try to keep it healthy and treat problems immediately when they occur.

USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

Color Varieties: Pink

Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

'Tor 'Spirea' (Spiraea betulifolia 'Tor')

Spirea 'Tor' is also on the list of the best shrubs for fall color. This spirea is quite compact, maturing up to 3 meters tall by 3 meters wide. It has dark green leaves in the summer that turn red in the fall.

From mid to late spring, spirea 'Tor' produces small white flowers but clustered in showy clusters. The Goldflame and Gold Mound swirl also bloom late (they have pink flowers, like "Neon Flash"). But they do have golden, colorful leaves early in the season.

This shrub blooms on new wood, so pruning should be done in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

Color Varieties: White

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Variegated Weigela (Weigela florida 'Variegata')

Weigela florida is an old-time favorite and rewards growers with a beautiful flower display in the spring. But growing the "Variegata" is somehow an improvement. It can be enjoyed long after the flowers have passed.

It is a compact, rounded shrub with a height of 3 to 5 feet and a similar spread and has green leaves surrounded by creamy white. It is worth growing just the foliage of the plant, but the pink flowers are a bonus and attract hummingbirds too. It is a long bloom, with flowers from late spring to August.

Weigela tends to look best natural-looking, without pruning, but if you need to prune it, do it in the spring just after flowering is complete.

USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

Color Varieties: Rose pink

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)

Pussy Willows (Salix discolor) are Native American plants and other favorite plants from early flowering to full force. Since willow is a wet plant in nature, it is ideal for all areas of a landscape that suffer from poor drainage. In dry locations, artificial watering may be necessary during dry spells.

Pussy Willow flowers are catkins with a smooth texture that appear to resemble the paws of cats. They appear from March to April and the stems can be cut for use in dried flower arrangements. Only male plants display decorative catkins. The Pussy willows, carefully trimmed, can be used as hedges.

Cut the plants into the ground every three to five years to keep them under control.

USDA Growing Zones: 4–8

Color Varieties: Grayish white

Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Soil Needs: Damp but well-drained soil

'Redspire' Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Redspire')

The Callery 'Redspire' pear (Pyrus calleryana 'Redspire') is a tree that blooms with many white flowers in early spring and has bright green leaves that turn wine red in fall.

This early bloom is resistant to fire cracking. Pea-sized peas don't look messy on the lawn or garden. The branching pattern is well balanced on all sides of the tree, resulting in a compact and uniform appearance. However, this is not the most stable tree and is subject to wind damage. It reaches a mature height of 30 to 45 feet with a spread of 20 to 30 feet.

"Redspire" developed from the popular "Bradford" variety, but is a slightly smaller tree with an attractive pyramidal habit.

Attention: this plant reproduces freely and, together with other forms of Callery pear, can be considered invasive in its state.

USDA Growing Zones: 5–9

Color Varieties: White

Sun Exposure: Full sun

Soil Needs: Humusy, well-drained soil

Landscaping Tips

    • To better use flowering trees and shrubs in your garden, follow these tips:
    • Planting specimens of flowering shrubs on either side of the driveway helps to direct your gaze toward it. Be sure to choose varieties with interesting foliage to keep the driveway looking good after spring.
    • You can hide the foundation of a tall house with flowering shrubs that serve as foundation plantings. Again, consider foliage and flowers when choosing plants.
    • Flowering shrubs can be planted near a house to "soften" the landscape, breaking very strong vertical or horizontal lines.
    • Some flowering shrubs are particularly effective in controlling erosion. For example, forsythia has a large root system that can help retain soil on a hill.
    • Flowering dogwood trees and flowering shrubs with attractive foliage can be used as a border for landscaping property lines or to define distinct outdoor spaces.
    • Taller plants, like some of the larger varieties of magnolia, can provide shade for patio and deck areas.

    Enjoy This Video Tutorial About How to prune spring-flowering shrubs

    Source: RHS - Royal Horticultural Society

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