12 Colorful Shrubs for Year-Round Color


Many shrubs produce impressive autumn flowers, fall foliage, and berries, making them a great way to maintain visual interest in your garden even in the dead of winter. Quite a few are also repeat bloomers that start producing flowers in the early summer and keep producing until the first sharp frost. Use shrubs as borders or foundation plantings, and enjoy their beauty as the summer flowers disappear.

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As you select shrubs for your garden, make note of when their leaves, flowers, and berries are at their most beautiful. Then choose a selection to ensure that you have color in your landscape all year round.

Here are 12 excellent shrubs for providing year-round landscape color for every climate zone.

  • 01of 12


    Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia)

    Witch hazel plant with thin yellow petals closeup

    Witch hazel is an early-blooming shrub that may produce the first flowers in your garden. The shrubs are vase-shaped and grow as tall as 12 feet high and wide (though they can easily be pruned back). In fall, expect yellow or orange foliage, which will be brightest if the plant is grown in full sun. Keep plants well-watered during dry periods to avoid leaf scorch.1

    • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained, acidic soil amended with compost
  • 02of 12


    Forsythia Bushes (Forsythia)

    Forsythia bush with small yellow leaves on extended branches

    Not only is forsythia a vigorous, beautiful bush, but it is also an early bloomer. In fact, forsythia goes into full bloom even before its leaves appear in spring so that they are easy to see and enjoy. They only bloom once, however, and after that, the bush is not particularly interesting. Forsythia can become unkempt if not trimmed; pruning should be done immediately after spring flowering is complete.

    • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained
  • 03of 12


    Common Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris)

    Lilacs in bloom

    This May-flowering bush features beautiful clusters of fragrant flowers. Although various cultivars are now marketed (such as ‘Bloomerang’ and ‘Miss Kim’), many gardeners still prefer the smell of the old-fashioned, common lilacs. Common lilac can spread uncontrollably unless suckers are removed at ground level.2

    • Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Lavender-blue, white, burgundy, deep purple, lilac
    • Sun Exposure: Full
    • Soil Needs: Loamy
  • 04of 12


    Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

    Rose of Sharon plant with large orange flower and single pistil

    As a flowering bush of late summer with a long blooming period, rose of Sharon helps bridge the gap in yard color between other plants’ spring and fall blooms. In fact, these beautiful flowers will rebloom until the first frost. Rose of Sharon is also easy to grow and is tolerant of a wide range of soils and growing conditions. Flowers are produced on new wood, so prune to maintain shape in early spring.

    • Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, red, lavender, or light blue
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich and moist
  • 05of 12


    Fothergilla Bushes (Fothergilla)

    Fothergilla bush with fall color enhanced by sunlight

    A multi-season shrub, fothergilla features white, fragrant “bottlebrush” flowers in spring. Many gardeners, however, choose the ‘mount airy’ dwarf fothergilla shrubs because of their spectacular autumn foliage. Expect various hues (orange, yellow, green, purplish), sometimes all on one leaf. Fothergilla shrubs are often grown near azaleas and rhododendrons since they have similar soil and cultural needs.

    • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Moderately moist well-drained acidic soil
  • 06of 12


    Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia)

    Oakleaf hydrangea bush with large green leaves and small pink

    Oakleaf hydrangea is a bush that boasts multi-season interest. But while its flowers bloom in the summer, oakleaf hydrangea really comes into its own in autumn, when its leaves turn beautiful colors. For good measure, its peeling bark adds winter interest to the yard. Hydrangea shrubs, in general (there are many kinds), come in handy for those trying to bridge color gaps in the late summer landscape. Where soil is not sufficiently acidic, you can amend with peat moss or feed with an acid-enhanced fertilizer.

    • Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White or red
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained acidic soil with plenty of compost
  • 07of 12


    Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus alba)

    Cornus alba 'sibirica' (red-barked dogwood)

    The ‘Elegantissima’ cultivar of red twig dogwood outdoes even oakleaf hydrangea. A titan of four-season landscaping, this plant offers year-round visual interest: spring blossoms, two-toned leaves in summer, berries from summer to fall, and bright red twigs, which are brightest in winter. Red twig dogwood looks best when planted in groups or as an informal hedge.

    • Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, fertile, moist soil
  • 08of 12


    Blue Princess Holly (Ilex x meserveae ‘Blue Princess’)

    Blue Princess holly

    No list of shrubs would be complete without including an evergreen. Hollies are broadleaf evergreens, famous for the bright red holly berries with which they festoon the winter yard. The blue princess holly cultivar features glossy bluish-green spiny leaves, small flowers that bloom both in spring and fall, and of course, the holly’s classic red berries. Blue Princess holly can be prone to winter burn, which is less likely if you position them in north or east-facing sites.

    • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White flowers, red berries
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Sand to heavy clay; tolerates a wide range of soil types


    Holly berries are mildly toxic and can make animals and small children ill.3

  • 09of 12


    Threadleaf False Cypress (Chamaecyparis)

    King's Gold

    King’s Gold and Gold Mops are popular kinds of false cypresses. Bearing golden foliage, these evergreens are especially useful when grown along with plants bearing so-called “black flowers” (really a deep purple, in most cases) or dark leaves to create striking landscaping color schemes. As evergreens, bushes such as Gold Mops offer year-round color for the yard. Threadleaf false cypress plants like to be kept evenly moist; a thick layer of mulch around the plants can help with this.

    • Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun, part shade
    • Soil Needs: Clay, silt, loamy
  • 10of 12


    Stewartstonian Azalea (Rhododendron x Gable “Stewartstonian”)

    Stewartstonian azalea plant with bright red ruffled flowers

    Stewartstonian azalea is an evergreen type of azalea that offers spring flowers, bright red autumn leaves, and attractive winter foliage. In late November, the foliage drops off, but by December new mahogany-colored leaves appear. These remain through the spring, creating visual interest even in dull March. Azaleas prefer somewhat acidic soil, so feed them with an acid-enhanced fertilizer.

    • Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Red
    • Sun Exposure: Partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-drained, and evenly moist
  • 11of 12


    Rugosa Rose (Rosa Rugosa)

    Rugosa rose bush branch with large pink layered flower

    No list of the best shrubs to grow would be complete without mentioning roses, one of the best summertime plants that you can grow—especially the famous Rosa rugosa. A hardy, easy-to-grow rose, Rugosa roses bloom in late spring to early summer, and many varieties will repeat bloom. These roses are sprawling, so give them plenty of space and beware of their large, sharp thorns.

    • Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, red, lavender, and white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-draining soil
  • 12of 12


    Hardy Hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos)

    Hardy hibiscus

    Hardy hibiscus not only brings year-long color to the yard but is also unusual in the north. Hardy hibiscus sports one of the largest blossoms you’ll find among hardy plants in northern climates, earning it the nickname “dinner-plate hibiscus.” It tends to bloom at about the same time as its relative, rose of Sharon: in mid-summer and then repeatedly through the fall till the first frost. Hardy hibiscus likes a relatively moist soil, so keep the ground around the plants well mulched to preserve moisture.

    • Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, red, pink, blue
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Loamy soil

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