Source(s): Randy Drinkard
The spring landscape is saturated with flowering shrubs. But spring passes and suddenly it’s summer. All that color doesn’t have to disappear, though. Many plants tolerate Georgia’s heat and humidity while providing lots of summer color.
Numerous shrubs are available to Georgia homeowners for providing summer interest in the landscape. Just a few examples of easy-to-grow, summer-blooming shrubs include, althea or Rose of Sharon, bottlebrush buckeye, clethra, chase trees, crape myrtles, hydrangeas, hypericums and spireas.
Hydrangeas welcome the heat of summer to make new growth. The big-leafed hydrangeas produce big, blue, mop-headed flowers that demand attention. The large mounds of foliage support multitudes of flowers, usually mop heads. But occasionally we see a lace-cap plant or two. The flowers are generally blue in our acid soils. But if you lime the soil, the flowers will turn pink or purple.
Two selections are available that keep blooming all summer. ‘Endless Summer’, a new release, and ‘Penny Mac’ keep producing new flowers until frost. Both do best with afternoon shade and a steady supply of moisture.
Our native oakleaf hydrangea forms 6- to 10-foot mounds of foliage from top to bottom. It produces long panicles of white, sterile flowers just above the foliage. These panicles are eight to 12 inches long and fade to a burgundy red as they age. The foliage looks like an enlarged oak leaf. Plants do well in partial shade but require well-drained soils. A great place to plant is on the edge of the woods, where the plants are shaded from the hot afternoon sun.
The peegee hydrangea develops into a large, upright shrub or small tree. The big, white flowers open on new growth in July and August. The selections ‘Tardiva’ and ‘Chantilly Lace’ flower a little later and hold flowers on strong, upright stems. These plants will grow in sun or shade on well-drained soils.
The blue flowers of the chaste tree (Vitex) in July remind us that the flowering season isn’t yet over. The 10- to 12-inch spikes nearly cover the plants. There’s a buzz of excitement, too, as the bees visit each flower. The chaste tree is a fast grower. It reaches 12 to 15 feet tall. The gray-green foliage is usually pest-free. Plants do best in full sun. Flowers develop on new growth, so you need to prune in early spring before growth begins.
Summersweet clethra blooms late, in July and August. This native produces a sweet fragrance that permeates the garden. The spiked clusters of white flowers are 4 to 6 inches long and last three to four weeks. The plants grow 4 to 6 feet tall. They adapt to sun or shade and tolerate heat and drought. The shiny, dark green leaves turn yellow in the fall. Summersweet clethra is a great choice for the shrub border, along lakes and streams or on the edge of the woods.
Be sure to include some flowers and fragrance in your summer landscape. These shrubs make great additions to any landscape. You could even remove an overgrown azalea or two and replace it with some summer excitement to extend your flowering season.