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Sun Worshipers (Flowering Shrubs for Sun)

Maria is a master gardener and master of public health. She & her husband, known online as The Gardener & The Cook, live in coastal Alabama.

Top Row: plumbago, Limelight hydrangea, forsythia. Middle Row: poinsettia, double pink hibiscus, gardenia. Bottom Row: Hybrid Fiesta hibiscus, loropetalums, poinsettia

Top Row: plumbago, Limelight hydrangea, forsythia. Middle Row: poinsettia, double pink hibiscus, gardenia. Bottom Row: Hybrid Fiesta hibiscus, loropetalums, poinsettia

Roses are the most popular sun-loving flowering shrub. There are so many different types (hybrid tea, floribunda, grandiflora, miniflora, etc.) and cultivars of roses, they need and deserve their own article, so they are not discussed here.

Some flowering shrubs that love sun are not evergreen, but some are. Below, I will discuss some of each. These are just a few of the beautiful flowering shrubs that will beautify your landscape. Some are tropical. Most are not.

This blue plumbago is one of my favorite tropical plants.

This blue plumbago is one of my favorite tropical plants.

Plumbago

Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) is available in blue/purple and white. My personal favorite is the blue plumbago. They are considered tender perennials because they cannot take freezing temperatures. In Zones 8b and 9a they may die back to the ground in a hard freeze, but will return from the roots, as soon as the temperatures start warming.

They need full sun, acidic soil, and good drainage. They are typically disease-free, with their main problem is overwatering. Plumbago is native to South Africa, but can be found along the Gulf Coast of the U.S. from Florida to Texas. A plus for them is that they are very easy to propagate.

In areas where they don’t die back in winter, and have to start over every spring, they can grow to 6 feet tall. This allows them to hide an unsightly view, or to provide a beautiful privacy screen.

This guy died back to the ground after two hard freezes last winter, but came back stronger and larger than before.

This guy died back to the ground after two hard freezes last winter, but came back stronger and larger than before.

You can see why the common name of this shrub is Chinese Fringe Plant -- well, at least the "fringe" part.

You can see why the common name of this shrub is Chinese Fringe Plant -- well, at least the "fringe" part.

Loropetalum (Chinese Fringe Plant)

Loropetalum (Loropetalum chinense) is available with flowers in the more frequently seen fuchsia color, a dark red, and white. If you chose a loropetalum for your landscape, be sure you have room for it to grow into the large, graceful shrub it is.

It is available in several sizes, but even the dwarf variety will grow 6-10 feet tall. So, keep in mind that, when it comes to shrubs and trees, the word "dwarf" is relative. Maybe because this plant has both beautiful flowers and foliage, is evergreen, and is inexpensive, it has been over planted in many areas.

Loropetalum in full bloom. From a distance it can appear to be an azalea in bloom.

Loropetalum in full bloom. From a distance it can appear to be an azalea in bloom.

Builders and developers use landscapers who often plant far too many shrubs in a small space. They frequently use loropetalums because they are cheap (retail prices start at about $16 for a 1-gallon pot), plus they get contractor’s discount.

The landscaper put fourteen of these in a small space in front of our former home in Florida. This would have required frequent pruning, and therefore, would become a high-maintenance landscape package, which we did not want. I moved one to the side yard, one to the backyard, and gave away the remaining twelve.

The purple, red, and green leaves of loropetalum add year-round interest to the garden with their purple and green leaves.

The purple, red, and green leaves of loropetalum add year-round interest to the garden with their purple and green leaves.

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There are several cultivars of panicle hydrangea. This one is named Limelight.

There are several cultivars of panicle hydrangea. This one is named Limelight.

Panicle Hydrangeas

Panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculate) are the most sun-tolerant of all hydrangeas, which makes them a favorite among those of us who have a scarcity of shade in our yards. They are available in a variety of colors from the greenish-white of Limelight to the rosy-pink of “Living Pink and Rose”, “Vanilla-Strawberry”, and many others. Keep in mind, these are trademarked cultivars, so while you cannot propagate and sell them, you can safely give a cutting to a friend, relative, or neighbor.

They are also probably the most cold- and heat-tolerant of all hydrangeas, and are even drought-tolerant. In Zones 3 through 6, they can take full sun all day, but in Zones 7 through 9, they should be protected from the harsh afternoon sun.

Panicle hydrangeas bloom on new wood. Because of this, any pruning should be done in late winter, after danger of a freeze has passed, but before new growth has emerged. Pruning too late will remove your flower buds.

This gorgeous blossom changes from white to bright pink over a 3-day period.

This gorgeous blossom changes from white to bright pink over a 3-day period.

Confederate Rose

Confederate Rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) also known as “giant rose mallow” is just one of a group of hardy hibiscus shrubs. The impressive flowers are double, and can range in diameter from 4-6 inches. This is another large shrub: it typically grows 6-15 feet tall (180-450 cm) tall, and 6-10 feet (180-300 cm) wide.

These large showy blossoms start their lives white, shown below and over a 3-day period change color to a beautiful pink (above). As they die and start to produce seeds, they turn a dark, almost bluish-pink hue.

This one has just opened, and has not yet begun to change color.

This one has just opened, and has not yet begun to change color.

Hardiness of Confederate Rose

While hardy in Zones 7-11, in Zones 7-8, it will usually die back to the ground in winter, then return from the roots in spring. In both Zones 9 and 10, it and behaves more like a perennial plant, and rarely dies back unless there is a hard freeze — which can and occasionally does happen in Zone 9a.

Confederate Rose needs full sun and moist, but well-drained soil. It is deer-resistant, but can be attacked by aphids, mealy bugs, and scale-type insects.

The common name is Yellow Bells

The common name is Yellow Bells

Forsythia (Yellow Bells)

Forsythia (Forsythia viridissima) common name, yellow bells, add very early color to the spring garden. It is a deciduous shrub that blooms in late winter, then puts out bright green leaves that turn beautiful colors in autumn. I was surprised to learn it is in the same botanical family (Oleaceae) as olives.

Forsythia can be grown in Zones 5-9. Even as far north as Birmingham and Atlanta, it usually blooms in February. This shrub can grow up to ten feet tall by ten feet wide. It needs full sun, and lots of room to spread out in the garden.

These fragrant waxy flowers will turn brown when they die. No worries. Just pinch them off.

These fragrant waxy flowers will turn brown when they die. No worries. Just pinch them off.

Gardenia

Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) is a long-lived evergreen shrub that has lovely, waxy blossoms, and an intoxicating scent that is pleasant, but can be overpowering if many plants are placed together. Gardenia is often called “cape jasmine”. It is cold hardy in Zones 8-11. These shrubs can easily reach 8-10 feet tall, and about 6-8 feet wide.

Gardenias usually do not need pruning, unless they are planted in a space too small for their large, bushy growth habits. They bloom in spring, so don’t prune any later than August, or you could be removing next year’s flower buds that have already started to form.

In preparation for winter’s freezing temperatures, mulch heavily. Cover if temps are expected to reach 15 or lower.

The gardenia smells heavenly, but can be a bit overpowering when a large bush is in full bloom.

The gardenia smells heavenly, but can be a bit overpowering when a large bush is in full bloom.

There Are Others, More Than Be Covered Here

There are many sun-loving flowering shrubs. Some are tropical. Many are not. Unfortunately, there isn't room to discuss all of them here. Among them are:

  • Azalea (Rhododendron spp.) Zones 6-9
  • Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles) Zones 4-9
  • Hardy Azalea (Rhododendron prinophyllu) Zone 4-7
  • Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) Zones 4-9
  • Japanese Spirea (Spiraea japonica) Zones 3-8
  • Lilac, Zones 2-7
  • Peony (Paeonia lactiflora) Zones 3-8a
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) Zones 9-11
  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) Zones 5-9
  • Sunshine Bluebeard (Caryopteris incana) Zones 5-11
  • Weigela (Weigela spp) Zones 4-8

I have articles about poinsettia and peony that have been moved to Dengarden online magazine. Rather than duplicate the information here, I have provided the link to those articles, and a few of my photos.

To learn how to grow these beauties in your yard,  Click the link embedded in my name under this photo.

To learn how to grow these beauties in your yard, Click the link embedded in my name under this photo.

Poinsettia

Poinsettia is another tropical sun-loving shrub. I have written three articles about this shrub, two of which have been accepted by Dengarden online magazine. Rather than duplicate the information here, I am providing the links to those articles:

Want to keep these beautiful holiday flowers healthy after the holidays have come and gone? Click the link embedded in my name under this photo.

Want to keep these beautiful holiday flowers healthy after the holidays have come and gone? Click the link embedded in my name under this photo.

The Peony Is Known as "The Queen of All Flowers" To read this article, click the link embedded in my name under this photo.

The Peony Is Known as "The Queen of All Flowers" To read this article, click the link embedded in my name under this photo.

Peony

The peony is another favorite of mine. Unfortunately, it is too hot here in Zone 8b. My article on peonies is titled, Peonies: An All-Time Favorite.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 MariaMontgomery

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