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Looking for that amazing “pop” of color in your garden or landscape? Want something that makes a statement and really stands out against your backdrop!

Enter… perennial shrubs

Perennial shrubs add balance to your landscape. Today we’re going to be talking about flowering shrubs that can really catch the attention of passerbys. If you’re following my garden plan, you have already chosen your trees and evergreen shrubs. Perennial shrubs are the next layer out from your house — the are the perfect foreground for your evergreens because they add tons of color and interest, and are large enough to make a statement. Set in front of a row of evergreens will really make these perennial shrubs POP.

And… when they are done blooming, your sturdy evergreen foundation will keep your garden from looking bare and messy.  See, your landscape is already starting to take shape.

Let’s get to the fun stuff! These are my picks for the BEST perennial shrubs to add color and texture to your landscape.

Perennial Shrubs To Add Color and Texture To Your Landscape

Double-Knockout Rose Bush

Knockout Rose Bush

Full sun, 3-4′ w x 3-4′ h, Zones: 5-11

I am SUCH a sucker for knockout rose bushes. Make sure that you get “knockout” or even “double-knockout” variety when you choose your roses. Knockout roses are easy to grow and don’t require special care. The knockout variety I’m suggesting bloom a LONG time, whereas regular rose bushes only bloom once and then they are done. The great thing about knockout rose bushes is that they are easy to grow and bloom up to 9 months of the year — literally from spring until the end of fall when it starts to frost. Every day more and more blooms will fill your bush. You literally do nothing except admire how gorgeous they are. You can even cut some and put them in a vase in your house!

Knockout roses come in a couple different variations of color. Most are in the pink (hot pink to blush) or yellow family. I chose a Sunny Yellow Knockout Rose bush to flank the right side of my house, and 2 pink double knockout rose bushes to mix with the Blue Star Juniper.

Rhodendron Garden


Part Sun – Part Shade, Zones: 4-8

I love Rhododendrons. These are another densely flowering perennial shrub. Rhodys prefer a “sun dappled shade” — meaning they do better in a part shade environment. The sun can scorch these guys, but if they are getting at least a bit of shade and you have an acidic soil, they should thrive. These are also great to plant underneath the shade of a tree! There are many different sizes of rhododendrons — the larger ones can almost look like a tree. The smaller/hybrid varieties make perfect perennial shrubs to layer in front of your evergreens. One of the best things about rhododendrons is that their leaves are ALSO evergreen — so although their flowering season cannot match the knockout rose, they never drops their leaves. So — no bare bush to make you sad all winter. Here are some different varieties you can try — I sorted them by size and zone. You’re welcome 🙂

Miniature Rhododendrons

Miniature rhododendrons grow to barely a foot high. Some may even be small enough to plant at the front of your border (this would be layer 4 of your landscape). As well as being miniature, some of these varieties also produce miniature leaves. Some varieties to check out are:

  • Hardy to Zone 5: Rhododendron impeditum has bright blue flowers
  • Hardy to Zone 6: Rhododendron “Chikor” and “Little Lou”  bear yellow flowers,with yellow flowers “Cliff Garland” has pink flowers

Dwarf Rhododendrons (1 to 3′)

  • Hardy to Zone 4: Rhododendron “PJM”: Check out “PJM Elite” purple/pink, the light pink “PJM Laurie”, or my personal favorite Rhododendron “Purple Gem” which is a beautiful, deep purple (almost blue) color
  • Hardy to Zone 6: Red-flowered varieties “Baden Baden” and “Scarlet Wonder”
  • Hardy to Zone 7: “Cappuccino” and “September Snow” have white flowers or”Primary Pink”

3 to 6′

Most rhododendrons fall into this 3-6′ category. Here are a few varieites to try

  • Hardy to Zone 4: Rhododendron “America”, Rhododendron “Burma”) Rhododendron “Nova Zembla” bear red flowers
  • Hardy to Zone 5: Rhododendron “Anah Kruschke” and Rhododendron “Cadis” have purple flowers
  • Hardy to Zone 6: Rhododendron “Furnival’s Daughter” Rhododendron “Van” are great pink-flowered varieties to try

Over 6′

These are quite large, even tree-like in size.

  • Hardy to Zone 4: Rhododendron “Caractacus” with red blooms
  • Hardy to Zone 6: Rhododendron “Whidbey Island” has purple flowers,  Rhododendron “Mother of Pearl” and Rhododendron “Mount Everest” both bear white flowers. The Rhododendron “Binfield” bears clear yellow blooms.

Plant Pairing Guide Mockup

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Full Sun, 5′ w x 5′ h, Zones 5-8

The early-bloomer of the bunch, forsythia bursts with yellow flowers that signal the start of spring. In late winter, before the leaves have even considered popping out, tons bright yellow flowers will appear on the branches of your Forsythia. Several would look lovely scattered throughout your landscape in front of your evergreen layer. It also makes a great fast-growing hedge. Try the “Lynwood Gold” or “Sunrise” variety.

You’ll want to prune the bush occasionally (I recommend spring AFTER the bush blooms).  You can actually prune it all the way down to the ground and it will come back even brighter and fuller next year. I love forsythia, but it saddens me that the blooms are short-lived. They are also a bit more work than some of the other suggestions on this list because of the heavy pruning.

There’s also a dwarf variety of forsythia that is only 2-4′. It has all of the beauty and benefits of a full-sized forsythia, but in a sweet little low-growing package.

Indian Hawthorne Bush
Indian Hawthorne Bush Closeup

Indian Hawthorne

Part-Full Sun, 3-6′ w x 3-4′ h, Zones 8-11
Tree variety: 8-10′ w x 15-25′ h

Indian Hawthorne is a small and slow-growing evergreen shrub native to southern Chine and Japan. These no-fuss perennial shrubs stay neat and tidy without pruning, do well in most soils, and once established, will tolerate moderate drought. Indian Hawthorne bursts forth in spring with pink or white clusters of flowers, which give way to dark blue berries that attract birds and other wildlife the rest of the year. I’m in zone 5, so I’m jealous of any of you that can plant the Indian Hawthorne. Send me pictures!

Beyond Midnight Bluebeard

Beyond Midnight Bluebeard

Full Sun, 2-3′ w x 2-3′ h, Zones 5-9

Beyond Midnight Bluebeard is a lovely vibrant green shrub, with a naturally rounded shape. Beyond Midnight adapts to a variety of soils and is drought resistant once established.  Even though wildlife love it, destructive deer will pass it by. Its true value is seen as the season progresses. In late summer, long stems shoot up above the glossy, dark-green foliage COVERED in deep-blue flowers. There are so many blue blossoms shooting from these long wands that it has the effect of turning the shrub into a  big blue ball in your landscape. So cool!

Wrapping Up

Plant your perennial shrubs in front of your evergreen shrub layer in your landscape. The evergreens will be the perfect backdrop for these blooming pops of color. A must have is the “knockout” or “double knockout” rose bush — these can bloom up to 9 months of the year and are very easy to care for. Rhododendrons are also a great pick. Not only to do they come in tons of colors, their leaves are evergreen so they will look great even in the dead of winter. Forsythias signal the start of spring, with bright yellow flowers blooming on the branches of the plant, before the leaves even appear! Do you live in a warmer climate and are looking for something no-fuss? The Indian Hawthorne (Hardy to Zone 8) is the perennial shrub for you. This no fuss shrub comes in pink or white flowers, and even has berries in the summer that attract birds. If you are feeling more adventurous, try the Beyond Midnight Bluebeard. This beautiful mound-like green shrub bursts with blue blooms on long stems in late summer, giving it the appearance of a big blue ball in your landscape.

What’s your favorite perennial shrub? Post your comments and pictures below and I’ll add them to my list!

Keep Reading...

In my perennial garden plan, I'll go over landscape layering and give you some suggestions for each of the 5 layers:

    1. Layer 1: Ornamental Trees
    2. Layer 2: Evergreen Shrubs
    3. Layer 3: Perennial Shrubs
    4. Layer 4: Other plants & flowers
    5. Layer 5: Vines and Groundcovers (coming soon)


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