Flowering Native Shrubs

As spring approaches, I begin to reassess my garden in earnest to see where changes are needed.  The bones of my garden tell me a story.  Do I need to fill an area?  What plants are not performing and should be replaced?  So I begin to plan for the spring clean up and planting.

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty. It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.” ― Aldo Leopold

My posts here of late have drifted to beloved native plants that gardeners should consider adding to their garden to entice wildlife and benefit the ecosystem.  But gardeners are after plantaholics and gravitate toward flowers before we consider other benefits of a plant.  We also like to look at the latest trends in gardening.  Now I am not saying I follow these trends or am a plantaholic (OK I am), but if  I did or you do follow trends consider that this year the experts are saying one of the big trends is flowering shrubs.

When I heard this, I said hey I wonder if gardeners  know that many flowering shrubs are native.  So I thought I would share a few native flowering shrubs you can add to your garden this year.  These shrubs have added value because they provide food and shelter for birds and pollinators, they’re low maintenance, easily fill larger spaces and provide flowers and fragrance without the upkeep of some other shrubs.  Also they are easily found at local nurseries.

Viburnum dentatum or Arrowwood











This shrub, from the Honeysuckle family, can easily grow 6 to 12 feet forming a loose round habit.  It’s white flowers look like a spirea in flower.  The May flowers turn to dark blue berries that are stripped from my shrub by juvenile robins and their parents before they leave the area.  The beautiful dark green foliage turns gorgeous shades of of coral red.

It seems to be fine in my amended clay soil growing in sun to shade.  It tolerates dry to wet conditions.  If you do not want the shrub to grow to its full height, you can keep it trimmed.  Mine is 5 feet and perfect at the edge of my patio.  The berries also attract Eastern Bluebird, Northern Flicker, Gray Catbird, and small mammals although the birds hoard the berries so I have never seen any small critters sharing the berries with birds.  Also this plant is not messy since the berries never have a chance to fall all over the ground in my garden.  An added bonus of this shrub’s flowers are visited by butterflies and it is the larval host for the Spring Azure butterfly.

Clethra alnifolia or Summer sweet










Summer sweet is a narrower growing shrub that can grow from 3-6 feet tall and is part of the Sweet-Pepperbush family.  This shrub flowers with white or pink spiky, fragrant flowers at the end of the branches. The fall color is beautiful as shown here.  A bright yellow with red markings.   The flowers form brown clusters of fruit which remain all winter.

This shrub is disease and insect free and will tolerate clay soil.  It loves sun to shade, but it must have moisture.  Clethra is found in swamps, bogs and stream banks which is why it loves wet conditions.  I have tried to grow it in drier conditions to no avail.  So if you have a rain garden area or wet spot plant a clethra.  Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds love the flowers of clethra and so do I.  It has a wonderful scent.


Spring and fall are great times to plant trees and shrubs. So if you are considering adding flowering shrubs this year to your garden, why notconsider natives.  I will have more native flowering shrubs for you to consider in your garden plans next week.



“To me, the garden is a doorway to other worlds; one of them, of course, is the world of birds.  The garden is their dinner table, bursting with bugs and worms and succulent berries.”
-  Anne Raver


© 2012, Donna Donabella. All rights reserved. This article is the property of BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    love the pictures of the Clethra but this is a hybrid. Do you know which cultivar? I have the native variety and it is white. The fragrance is fabulous and it is one of my favorites; even in the winter when the juncos are all over the peppercorn type seeds which remain.
    I have 6 different Viburnums and yes the birds love the berries. It is amazing how they can be full of berries one day and then upon ripening, they can and will be stripped in a matter of days or hours.

  2. says

    This is so helpful to me because I want to remove the non-native and plant native but am a novice. I am also going to work on my milkweed patch and try to get some neighbors not to mow between the pond and the woods therefore cutting down all the milkweed. But they think it’s ugly..so I am going to have to find some native flowers that look pretty and can stand the dry soil as I can’t water across the pond. If you have any suggestions for them I would appreciate it.. I am in zone 6a…Michelle

    • says

      Michelle so glad you enjoyed the post…I will be adding a few more shrubs to the list next week and you can click on my name above to find lots of NY native ideas. Echinacea, Helianthus divaricatus, goldenrod can handle the dry conditions…Physostegia virginiana won’t be too aggressive in drier conditions…even Joe Pye once established will grow in drier conditions. Of course black-eyed susans are great too. You can plant them as plants or seed in early spring so the rain will help them germinate…Love to connect more so feel free to keep in touch!

  3. says

    Viburnums are awesome! We don’t have Arrowwood but we do have Highbush Cranberry and we’re getting some Nannyberry this year as well. I’d also recommend the Maple Leaf Viburnum.

    • says

      Thx Kathy. I really want the every day gardener to see the beauty of easy to grow native shrubs and all their added value…they can easily plant these instead of some of the more invasive choices…and they will be much happier if they did!

  4. says

    Really pretty stuff, Donna. I’ll have to check their native status in Florida (as well as their chance of survival). You always pick the most eyecatching additions to the landscape.
    Loret recently posted..Boys will be boys

    • says

      Thx Loret…I am trying tot entice gardeners who like pretty flowers to plant natives because they are so beautiful…as far as I can tell on the native plant websites, both shrubs are native to FL.

  5. says

    I hesitate to add Arrowwood here with the Viburnum Leaf Beetle now in residence. I do have a Cranberry Viburnum which is also susceptible but know there is a fantastic hedge of them in the area, so … Summer Sweet is a shrub that has always made me pause to look and consider since I do have some wet areas in my garden. I think it is beautiful and eventually I’ll be adding this one to my garden! I wish we had smell-o-rama.


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