“I will be planting shrubs in containers. Which potting mix between Fafard and Black Gold would be the best choice and longest lasting? I would prefer something more permanent so as to not have to change out the potting mix every few years. I live in zone 7. Thank you for your response.” Question from Mel of Atlanta, Georgia
Answer: When recommending the best soil for potted shrubs that will be there for the long term, I always suggest filling the pots with 1/3 quality topsoil or ground soil and 2/3 quality potting mix. Mix the two evenly before filling the pots. I like to add ground soil because potting mixes tend to acidify over time, and ground soil, which is primarily inorganic, helps buffer the acidification process, and it will not break down and shrink over time. You might also consider adding some other ingredients, such as sand or pebble, depending on the shrubs grown. Finally, be sure to refresh the pot with new potting mix seasonally. The addition of dolomitic lime can also reduce acidification.
With that said, I would choose the following mixes for long-term potted shrubs.
Feed your shrubs seasonally in the spring with a slow-release fertilizer. It is also important to note that potted shrubs are most apt to survive winter if they are at least two zones hardier than your zone because they are more exposed.
Berried holly branches are a ubiquitous holiday symbol, but these festive trees and shrubs come in more colors than just red and green, and many offer landscape interest beyond the winter season. My favorite winter hollies (Ilex spp.) are forever beautiful, whether berried at the end of the season or clothed in new spring foliage. Here are five that continuously shine in the garden, offering year-round splendor and high landscape utility.
There is only one essential bit of information to know when growing any holly. The shrubs are dioecious, meaning that each shrub is either male or female. Only the females produce colorful berries, while at least one male is needed to provide pollen to the females for a successful fruit set. So, plan to plant at least one complementary, pollenizing male for female berry producers, and make sure that the male is a compatible variety.
Crisp white edges keep the variegated foliage of this classic English holly tree looking lovely all season. In spring, the shrubs are beautifully complimented by landscape bulbs, such as bright tulips and alliums, and in summer colorful annuals provide an equally complementary color boost. In late summer and fall, green berries turn to red and remain beautiful well into winter. The tree to large shrub develops a conical habit over time. Plant in full sun and provide slightly acid, well-drained soil for best growth. The equally variegated ‘Gold Coast‘ is the perfect male pollenizer for this variety.
(USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9; Height x Width: 5-7 feet x 10-12 feet)
Truly golden boxwood-like foliage is the hallmark of this favorite Japanese holly. The golden outer foliage looks great all season and is complemented by red-, orange- and purple-flowered ornamentals in spring, summer and fall. Black berries develop on the shrubs in fall, but these offer little visual interest. The more sun this holly is given, the more golden and full the foliage becomes. Don’t be deceived by its compact size at purchase; ‘Drops of Gold’ grows to be quite large and broad over time.
(USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9; Height x Width: 4-10 feet x 1-3 feet)
Few shrubs reach up to the sky as well as the uniformly upright ‘Sky Pencil’. The popular evergreen shrub is revered for its architecturally clean verticality, and it looks super all year long. The all-male variety bears no fruit, but its fine, glossy, rich green foliage never stops looking good as long as plants are provided full sun and slightly acid soil with average to good drainage. This is a shrub that does not appreciate high wind, so plant it in a somewhat protected location.
(USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8; Height x Width: 4-7 feet x 3-5 feet)
The unique winterberry ‘Sunsplash’ bears lots of red berries on deciduous stems in fall and winter, but it also has the added bonus of gold and green variegated foliage that looks especially pretty in spring and early summer. The variegation is not uniform, but it has landscape appeal. This Broken Arrow Nursery introduction makes a unique addition to the landscape, and like all winterberries, it will grow well in the moister ground than most other hollies. Specimens planted in higher light will have the lightest variegation. If you are not keen on variegation, try the compact ‘Sparkleberry‘, which produces many small, bright red berries. Plant them with the male counterpart, ‘Apollo‘.
(USDA Hardiness Zone: 1-11; Height x Width: 2- 3 feet x 4 feet)
This little bitty evergreen holly looks so pretty in small garden spaces. The shearable, slow-growing shrub develops a low, mounding habit and boasts deep green foliage that never stops looking nice. Like all yaupon hollies, ‘Stokes Dwarf’ is fairly tender and best planted where winters are relatively mild. Plant this one as you would any dwarf boxwood. Sharply drained soil and full sun are necessary for good growth and appearance.
Caring for hollies is not rocket science. Full to partial sun keep their foliage full and growth uniform and attractive. Sufficiently drained soils that are slightly acid are best. Amendment and mulching with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend in mid- to late-fall is recommended as is light fertilization with an all-purpose fertilizer in spring. Please click here for planting details by plant expert, Russell Stafford.
Whether large, small, bushy, or tall, every one of these holly shrubs is glorious in the landscape and garden. So this year make all seasons holly seasons. Plan to plant one of these forever jolly hollies in your spring garden.
When we think of pruning shrubs, we probably think of late fall and early winter as the ideal time, but this is not always the case. For many spring-flowering shrubs, late spring is the best time to prune because pruning must happen shortly after flowering. Prune off-season, in fall or spring, and you will remove the following year’s flower show! In my own garden, I have many spring-flowering shrubs that need late spring or early summer pruning, so I have learned to time my pruning carefully.
As a rule, most spring-flowering shrubs must be pruned just after or shortly after flowering because this is the time when they set new buds for next spring’s show. Prune them later in summer, and you will end up trimming off next year’s flower buds. For this reason, I have highlighted just a few spring-flowering shrubs and tips for pruning them.
The plant that immediately comes to my mind that requires at least two prunings a year is the English Laurel, (Prunus laurocerasus, USDA Hardiness Zones 6-8, 10-18 feet), a hedge that my neighbors have. It is an evergreen and fast-growing shrub with dark glossy green leaves and has spikes of creamy white fragrant flowers in late spring. The scent is sweet and powerful, and the shrubs look very attractive in bloom.
My neighbors always give it a heavy pruning after it blooms and then another pruning later in the summer. They also selectively prune to keep the favorite hedge shrubs open and airy, which helps prevent disease problems. Theirs is certainly a taller variety that would take over the house without being pruned twice yearly.
Pruning Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Rhododendrons and azaleas (Rhododendron species and hybrids, variable hardiness and sizes) will both bloom on second-year wood, so they benefit from spring pruning just after they have flowered. Any later and you risk accidentally removing next year’s blooms. Often the process for both is referred to as ‘deadheading’ because the old flower is removed. Once the flower has faded, it can be removed. Not only does this look nicer, but it allows the plant can expend energy for new growth instead of seed production.
Deadheading a large rhododendron plant can be quite time-consuming, but it is well worth the time. The plant will physically look better without faded flowers and it saves the plant energy. Some care is required when removing the old blooms. If you look carefully, each has a tender stem that can be snapped off just below the bloom. This is where care is required because it is important to just remove everything above the stem–nothing below because all of the new growth will emerge below the stem.
Generally, rhododendrons and azaleas do not require more intensive pruning unless it is needed for space considerations or plant shaping. If pruning is required, do it immediately after flowering so the plant has adequate time to produce new growth for next year’s flowers.
The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris, Zones 3-8, 8-20 feet) is another plant that usually requires spring pruning. Once the plant has bloomed, cut off the spent blossoms. To do this, make the cuts back to the first or second pair of leaves on the stem.
If the shrub needs some major pruning, do it immediately after flowering because these lilacs bloom on wood from the previous year. On established plants, cut out a few of the oldest stems yearly and this will encourage new growth. It is also important to remove dead or dying stems, as needed, to keep the shrubs looking their best.
Pruning Tree Peonies
The tree peonies (Paeonia suffruticosa, Zones 4-8, 3-5 feet) in my garden have finished their flowering season, so it is time to cut off the old flowers to keep the plant from producing seed. I do this with hesitation because the brown, starry seedpods open to show bright red or black seeds, which can be quite attractive. But, the seeds also take needed energy away from the plant. To have the best of both worlds, I sometimes leave some pods on to look nice. In general, shrubby tree peonies do not need to be pruned extensively, unless it is to remove a stray or dead branch. These architectural slow growers are usually happy just remaining as they are.
My Japanese camellias (Camellia japonica, Zones 7-9, 7-12 feet) put on their greatest show in late winter or spring, but they will also bloom intermittently. Generally do not need pruning except to improve the appearance of the plant or for space considerations. I also remove the old flowers after they are spent to keep the shrubs looking nice and clean. When I do decide to prune, I do it immediately after flowering.
I have found that most spring-flowering shrubs are fairly forgiving with regard to pruning if you are sure to prune them after they flower and no later. If mistakes are made, the plant will survive. Severe pruning may eliminate, or decrease flowering for the next year, but the plant will carry on. Remember that gardening should be enjoyable, so don’t stress too much about potential pruning mistakes. Common sense is a good trait!
“I’ve heard that its not a good idea to place mulch too close to a house’s foundation. I was also told to mulch or plant shrubs around my house’s foundation to prevent my kids from getting lead poisoning from the old chipped off paint in the soil. What should I put near my foundation, bricks? Also, how far from my foundation should I plant vetiver grass? I’m having trouble finding guidance on how far from my brick foundation it should be with its deep root system.” Veronica of Clay City, Indiana
Answer: Some speculate that termites may be attracted to or reside in bark mulch. It is true that termites can eat bark mulch, but they survive and form colonies in solid wood, so bark mulch not a terribly strong termite lure. Moreover, newer homes are generally protected from termites, and older homes should be for their longterm protection.
The best way to keep kids away from the soil at the base of the home is to plant lawn or shrubs along your foundation (click here for some good flowering shrubs for foundations). Ornamental grasses are another option, but I would not recommend vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanoide, Zones 7-8) because it is a warm-climate grass that will not be hardy in your Zone 5 garden, and it is weedy. Better, more beautiful, sun-loving grasses for your foundation include Karl FoersterFeather Reed Grass, Prairie Winds®‘Apache Rose’Switch Grass, or Little ZebraDwarf Zebra Grass. All need sunshine and should be planted 2 to 4 feet from your foundation in a mulched bed, depending on the final height and width of the grass you choose.
What exactly is a Viburnum? Viburnums are trees or shrubs, evergreen or deciduous, that may be diminutive three-foot globes or grow 60 feet tall. Their leaf texture varies from smoothly shiny to velvety, and, their leaf edges may be serrated, dentate, lobed, or not! Viburnum flowers are either round or flattish and range in color from white to pink. The blossoms are either deliciously fragrant, have absolutely no scent, or can be downright offensive. Just forget trying to determine what viburnum you are admiring by its fruit color alone since berries range from yellow to orange, red to black, and blue to purple.
According to the great Georgia plantsman, Dr. Michael Dirr, their characteristics are simply too varied to make a definitive identification without a very good reference guide. In his 2007 guidebook, Viburnums, Flowering Shrubs for Every Season, by Timber Press, Dirr admits that even taxonomists can’t agree on how many species presently exist in the genus Viburnum with the true number probably falling somewhere between 160 to 250.
What makes a Viburnum a Viburnum?
Famed tree and shrub specialist Michael Dirr’s definition is:
The fruit is a drupe, generally ellipsoidal, flattened, ovoid to rounded, with a fleshy coat, hard bony endocarp, and a single seed within; and
The leaves are always arranged opposite; a few species, occasionally, have three leaves at a node.
Besides their exquisite beauty, the main reason why we embrace viburnums in our home landscapes is their extreme hardiness. Many varieties can be very drought tolerant (once established) as some of our best Southeastern native viburnum hail from dry woodlands. A few, such as our native Arrowwood, will also tolerate wet feet. Most will grow well in full sun to part shade, can take a variety of soil types, and still thrive.
In the absence of good soil, you could amend the planting hole fill dirt with Black Gold Garden Soil for improved drainage that will still provide enough moisture retention essential for a newly transplanted viburnum. Otherwise, mulch the base of your new addition with Black Gold’s Garden Compost Blend in order to help hold moisture, keep developing roots cool in summer and warmer in winter, and to suppress weeds.
In my home landscape, I have found several species of viburnum grow well under the canopy of a large Black Walnut tree, where it is very dry. Here I have planted Koreanspice bush (V. carlesii) and Cranberry viburnum (V. opulus), and they both perform beautifully.
Viburnums have also been evaluated for their resistance to deer grazing. The toughest survivors of deer predation are our native Arrowwood (V. dentatum); Blackhaw (V. prunifolium); Smooth witherod (V. nudum), which is sometimes erroneously called “possum haw” and, the Maple-leaf arrowwood (V. acerfolium).
Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii, Zones 4-7) is one of our most popular, old-fashioned, pass-along southern shrubs. Grown for its intensely sweet springtime fragrance, the late March to early April flowers of Koreanspice begin pale pink, turning white with age, grow 2-3 inches across, and are rounded. This 8-10 foot tall shrub has dull green leaves that turn reddish in the fall, and red to black fruits.
The Cranberry viburnum is named for its brilliant cherry-red fruit clusters that begin coloring in late summer. Its famous leaf fall color is much more dramatic in cooler regions where leaves turn gold, red, and burgundy. A very good cultivar is V. opulus ‘Compactum’, which should top out at just 5-6 feet.
For sheer drama, nothing compares to the Chinese Snowball (V. macrocephalum). This multi-trunked small tree can reach 12-feet or more in height and grow just as wide. Sometimes semi-evergreen in mild winters, this very dark-leafed viburnum is beloved for its 6-8 inch, rounded, springtime flowers that begin pale chartreuse and age to purest white. They are so beautiful that we can forgive it for not bearing any scent. A significant bonus is that it also flowers again from late summer into fall. Since the Chinese Snowball’s hydrangea-like flowers are sterile, there is no fruit, therefore no unwanted seedlings.
Your winter landscape could be delightful including a Bodnant viburnum in it. Viburnum x bodnantense ‘Dawn’ has bright pink, strongly perfumed flowers in late February to early March in my Wake Forest, North Carolina, Zone 7-8 garden. The small, rounded, sweetly fragrant flowers are borne on bare branches on a rather rangy shrub, but ‘Dawn’ blends nicely into the mixed border the rest of the year.
Garden centers offer V. tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ in autumn, which is the right time to plant them. During the late fall months ‘Spring Bouquet’ forms tight rose-colored clusters of buds that will start popping open during the first months of the new year. These viburnum flowers are only slightly fragrant, but they will cover the small shrub. This evergreen viburnum will need part shade in summer, winter protection from sun, plus they benefit from being shielded from desiccating winds.
Since they bloom in early April, Doublefile viburnums, V. plicatum f. tomentosum, are great substitutes for ailing native dogwoods. Named for its flowering habit of doily-flat flowers positioned side-by-side along the top of long horizontal branches, this is a stunning small tree. These viburnum are deciduous in winter, have dark green foliage in summer, and bright red berries in late fall. A cultivar named ‘Summer Snowflake’ will bloom well in early spring, then sporadically repeat off-and-on throughout the summer.
Chindo viburnum is another popular viburnum that isn’t grown for its flowers at all. Promoted by the late Dr. J C Raulston of North Carolina State University, V. awabuki ‘Chindo’, is a loosely pyramidal-shaped, shiny-leafed, evergreen shrub that can reach 15-20 feet. It grows in sun or shade and is shaped reminiscent of a large-leafed holly, so it makes an ideal screening plant. One warning is that a Chindo viburnum won’t like winter temperatures that drop below zero; so, if it does get that cold you may have to trim your plant back severely in springtime to encourage new growth to flush.
There is probably a perfect viburnum for just about any location in your landscape, so how do you go about narrowing your selections? Ask your garden center professional for their recommendations, check with your local Cooperative Extension Service, and find a copy of Dirr’s Viburnums book.
“I am having trouble with roses in the constant north side shade area of my home. Looking for a possible flowering shrub or a better suggestion for this area at the front of our house.” Question from Larry of O’Fallon, Missouri
Answer: Roses by default are sun-loving. Just a handful of species roses and cultivated roses will tolerate partial shade. (Click here to read another AGE about shade-tolerant roses.) But, there are loads of flowering shade-tolerant shrubs that will grow beautifully on the north side of a home. Here are some of my favorites. All of them should be hardy where you live in Missouri.
Reblooming Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.):Encore® and Bloom-A-Thon® Azaleas will rebloom and some are even evergreen. I recommend them if you have slightly acid to acid soils with good drainage.
Smooth Hydrangea varieties (Hydrangea arborescens): Tolerant of sun and shade, smooth hydrangeas are very hardy and native to your region. Some of the new varieties bloom for a long time in summer, and then their flowers remain on the plants and continue to look pretty into fall and winter. I love the many varieties sold by Proven Winners, such as the pink-flowered Invincibelle, among others. (Click here to view them all.)
Yak Rhododendrons (Rhododendron hybrids): There are so many outstanding evergreen Rhododendrons that grow beautifully in shade, and yak forms are extra tidy and compact. ‘Grumpy‘ is an outstanding yellow-and-pink-flowered form that reaches 5 feet at maturity and has dark, evergreen leaves.
Lily of the Valley Shrub (Pierisjaponica) is another evergreen that likes growing conditions similar to that of azaleas and rhododendrons. Interstella has pink chains of blooms in spring and only reaches 4 feet at maturity. Larger varieties include the outstanding gold-and-flame-leaved Forest Flame, which reaches 6 to 10 feet and has chains of ivory spring flowers. It’s a real showstopper.
Hartlage Wine sweetshrub (Calycanthus x raulstonii ‘Hartlage Wine’) grows well in partial sun to light shade and has very fragrant maroon-red flowers in late spring. At maturity, it reaches 6 to 8 feet, so give this one some space. In autumn, its leaves turn yellow and orange before falling.
We have an excellent article, by horticulturist Russell Stafford, that details how to properly plant new shrubs in the landscape. Please click here to view it. I hope that some of these shrubs interest you!
The key to successful gardening is to go (and grow) with what you’ve got. If your garden has acid soil and lots of shade, go with acid- and shade-loving plants. If sunny, dry, alkaline conditions dominate, then plan and plant accordingly. This also holds true for the garden’s aesthetic. For example, more “naturalistic” settings (such as a woodland edge) call for more informal, nature-evoking plantings. Beautiful and bountiful things happen when a garden is in harmony with its surroundings.
Understand Your Garden’s Site
It’s especially important to keep this in mind when choosing – and planting – the trees and shrubs that will form the framework of your garden. Choose the right plants and get them off to a good start, and good things are almost sure to follow.
It all comes back to knowing the site’s conditions. What are the pH, nutrient-holding capacity, and other characteristics of your soil? If in doubt, you can get a definitive answer by sending soil samples to your state’s horticultural extension service (click here for a nationwide list of extension services). What is the site’s exposure to sun, wind, and water (e.g., rain and runoff)? How and when do you use your yard? Now, during the dormant season, it is a great time to assess these factors. Then, based on your site’s particulars and your preferences, compile lists of trees and shrubs that are a good fit.
Planting Trees and Shrubs
When you get around to planting, the same precepts remain. Trying to force an ill-chosen plant into an incompatible site is a losing prospect. If the tree or shrub is a good fit, all it needs is a good root system and a suitably broad planting hole, backfilled (to the proper depth) with unamended or lightly amended soil for best establishment. Of course, planting at the proper season and providing regular post-planting care (especially watering) are also essential.
Sizing Up the Planting Hole
Planting width requires a “suitably broad” planting hole is at least three times as wide as the plant’s root ball, although twice as wide will do in a pinch. The texture of the excavated and refilled soil differs significantly from that of the surrounding undisturbed soil; consequently, it also differs significantly in other properties such as moistness and aeration. Adding a light application of soil amendments, such as OMRI Listed Black Gold Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss or Black Gold Garden Compost Blend, will give the soil additional organic matter for increased water-holding ability to help the establishing plant. This is of greatest importance in poor or sandy soils. If your soil is of good to average quality, this step is not needed. A wide planting hole gives the roots a relatively homogeneous environment in which to extend and establish. By the time they’ve reached the edge of the former planting hole, they’ll be more up to the job of worming their way into the undisturbed soil. Additionally, the refilled soil will settle over time to a texture closer to that of the surrounding soil, thereby easing the roots’ transition.
Planting depth – unlike width – can be overdone. In fact, the planting hole should be no deeper than the root ball. Most of a tree’s or shrub’s feeder roots are within a few inches of the surface. A deeper hole serves only to loosen the texture of the soil below the root ball, increasing the likelihood that it will settle and pull the roots down with it. Plants generally do not thrive in air-starved sinkholes.
Shallower planting may be required in heavy clay soil. Planting holes in such soils are subject to the bathtub effect, with water percolating through the relatively coarse refill soil and pooling at the bottom of the hole. Here, dig an extra-wide hole that’s significantly shallower than the root ball, sloping the base of the hole toward its edges. Mix the excess backfill with Black Gold® Garden Soil, and mound this over the exposed root ball after planting.
Sizing Up the Tree or Shrub
Potted trees and shrubs with vigorous, relatively undisturbed roots make the best planting material. Avoid pot-bound plants whose roots have long ago filled or grown beyond their containers. Before buying a containerized plant, try to knock it out of the container to check the root system. If the root ball remains stubbornly wedged in its container even when you apply force to remove it, it’s a risky prospect. Ideally, the roots should not circle the soil ball, and abundant white feeder roots should be evident at its edge. You can plant container-grown trees and shrubs just about any time the ground is workable, but be sure to keep the root ball from drying out after planting. Most potting soils are peat-moss-based, making them coarser and more drought-sensitive than the surrounding soil. They also resist re-moistening once completely dry. Newly planted container-grown plants may need watering several times a week during summer droughts.
Bare-root and balled-and-burlapped (B&B) trees and shrubs lose much of their root systems when harvested at the nursery. They thus require more kid-glove treatment. Plant them either in early spring or in late summer/early fall to give their roots ample time to regrow before summer heat or winter cold arrives. Be sure that their roots do not dry out before planting. Unlike container-grown plants, B&B plants are often grown in heavy clay, which cracks and resists water when dry.
Be careful to plant bare-root and B&B shrubs and trees at the proper depth. For bare-root plants, partially refill the planting hole with a volcano-shaped cone of soil, spreading the roots atop the cone before backfilling. The plant’s trunk/root junction (also known as the “root flare”) should be just at or slightly above the soil surface. Stems of B&B trees and shrubs are often partly buried in their root ball; if so, remove some of the soil to expose the root flare. Also, be sure to minimize disturbance to B&B root balls as you plant, and remember to unswaddle the burlap (or wire caging) from the top and sides of the root ball before refilling the hole. Either cut and discard the unwanted wrap or pull it back and bury it at the bottom of the hole.
Add a good mulch layer to buffer newly planted trees and shrubs from drought, heat, and cold, and apply an inch of Black Gold® Natural & Organic Garden Compost Blend and a couple of inches of bark mulch to the planting area. They’ll appreciate the extra pampering, and you’ll appreciate the results!
“I have a spot on the front of my house that gets morning sun. Our house faces east. The spot is about 6 feet x 4 feet. I’d like to find a shrub that grows tall and skinny.” Question from Jen of Sycamore, Illinois
Answer: There are many slender shrubs for small garden spaces that are just tall and skinny enough to fit in your partially sunny bed. My suggestions only include shrubs that will not overgrow the spot. All are tolerant of partial sun.
Stonehenge Skinny™Yew stays upright, slender, and reaches just 8 feet when mature and 2 feet across. It is also tough, evergreen, and hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 5.
Sky Pencil Japanese Holly is a classic upright evergreen shrub that remains very slender–to 18 inches across- and only reaches 6 feet high.
“What are some shrubs that add interest and color year-round? For example, foliage that changes color in the different seasons.” Question from Alecia of Puyallup, Washington
Answer: There are loads of shrubs that remain attractive through the seasons. Here are four great selections for your region followed up by a video of my favorite shrubs that bloom all summer long. Many of these also look attractive through fall and winter.
Shrubs with Year-Round Interest
Cardinal Candy® Linden Viburnum (Viburnum diltatum Cardinal Candy®) – Cardinal Candy has clusters of white flowers in spring and lustrous foliage and heads of greenish berries in summer that turn scarlet in fall and persist into winter. The fall leaves also turn beautiful burnished shades of dark red.
Kaleidoscope Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’) – Beautifully variegated evergreen foliage and loads of flowers through most of the growing season make this compact shrub a real winner.
Ruby Slippers Dwarf Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’) – All oakleaf hydrangeas have all-season interest, but most become very large, which is why I like compact varieties like ‘Ruby Slippers’. It has beautiful oak-like leaves and clusters of white flowers in early summer that persist on the shrub into fall, turning shades of ruby-rose as they age. In fall, the leaves turn burgundy red and the flowers dry to tan. Through winter, the old flowers will remain and the stems have attractive peeling bark.
Yak Rhododendron (Rhododendron yakushimanum) – For your region, yak rhodies are great garden performers. They bloom beautifully in spring with clusters of flowers in varying shades of pink and white, depending on the variety. They form lovely tidy, broad mounds of evergreen foliage with attractive felty new foliage. I just love them. To discover more rhododendron for your area visit the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden website. The garden is also a real treat to visit in spring.
“I have a shade area with poor soil…I need suggestions for plants, when to plant and how to improve the soil.” Question from Patricia of Knoxville, Iowa
Answer: Thank you for your questions. I encourage you to read a couple of our garden articles that are sure to help you improve your soil and then fill your gardens with the right plants. Any of the plants suggested in the articles can be planted in spring or early summer. Shrubs and perennials can also be planted in fall.
If you are interested in resilient flowering shrubs, I recommend that you plant smooth hydrangea varieties (click here for some great options). They are tough, beautiful, very hardy, and grow well in partial shade. Kodiak® Orange Diervilla is another tough, top-notch option for deep, dry shade.