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Plants to Look Forward to as Summer Approaches

Casandra Maier- May, 2021


Plants and animals are the first to signal that the seasons are about to change.  When we observe the changes and processes in the world around us, we feel more connected to nature.  Take a moment to notice the flowering plants in the landscape.  Observe the time of year that they produce leaves, flowers, and fruits.  The following trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals begin blooming in late spring and early summer.  Consider adding these plants to the landscape when a pop of color or bit of texture is needed.  Or simply enjoy being able to identify them on the next nature hike or walk through the neighborhood.  These plants are the sign that the warmer days of summer are quickly approaching.                 


Kousa Dogwood

Latin name: Cornus kousa

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-8


Photo credit: ND Design Services Inc.  

The Kousa Dogwood, also called Chinese Dogwood or Japanese Dogwood, is a flowering deciduous tree.  It serves as a small specimen in the residential landscape and an ornamental street tree in urban settings.  While it is known for 4 seasons of unique displays, the show that the Kousa Dogwood puts on in late spring is what draws the most interest.  Look for a 15-to-25-foot-tall tree with a layered branch structure, dark green ovate leaves, and a picturesque canopy shape.  During the months of May and June, large star-like blossoms appear in colors of white or pink.  Upon closer inspection, the narrow pointed "petals" of this "flower" reveal themselves to be a leafy structure, called bracts.  The bracts surround a smaller cluster of true flowers in green and yellow hues.  The Kousa Dogwood is known for its hardiness, proving to be tougher than the native Dogwood species, Cornus florida.  It is more cold-tolerant and struggles with fewer pests and diseases.  This tree thrives when planted in partial or filtered shade.  Landscape designers advise caution when planting in full sun.  Four or more hours of direct sunlight per day leads to fried, scorched leaves.  Kousa Dogwoods attract animals and pollinators to the landscape, including songbirds, squirrels, and butterflies.  The berry that sets in late summer and early fall is edible to both humans and wildlife.   However, the flavor of this fruit is likely to be more appealing to our animal friends.                      


Japanese Lilac

Latin name: Syringa reticulata

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-7

Japanese Lilac.jpeg

At the end of spring, after other trees have concluded their brilliant displays, the Japanese Lilac is just starting its show. Flowering much later than other Lilac species, the unique timing of this deciduous tree is a good indicator that spring is ending and summer is on the way.  To identify the Japanese Lilac, look for a 15-to-25-foot-tall tree with an oval canopy shape and dark green ovate leaves.  Showy, cream-colored blossoms appear during the months of May and June.  The flowers develop in upright clusters that reach 6 to 12 inches in length.  Landscape designers advise clients that the sweet honey-like fragrance of the flower is pleasing to some, and off-putting to others.  These trees are typically utilized as specimens, shade trees, screening trees, or foundation plantings in the residential landscape.  They are also hardy enough to serve as street trees in urban settings.  In some cases, they are pruned to create a large shrub.  The Japanese Lilac requires good air circulation, but otherwise is low maintenance with a moderate growth rate.  It tolerates full sun to partial shade.  However, to increase the showiness of the late spring, early summer flower display, more sunlight is needed.                                       



Rosebud Azalea

Latin name: Azalea x 'Rosebud'

USDA Hardiness Zones: 5-9

rose azalea.jpg

Photo credit: ND Design Services Inc.

True to its name, the Rosebud Azalea produces a showy display of miniature rose-like flowers.  It differs from other Azalea varieties, which produce flowers that are similar in appearance to Rhododendrons.  This shrub is a late spring bloomer, marking the close of the season.  When the flower buds set, they are the closest in appearance to roses.  Look for the Rosebud Azalea's pink double blossoms during the month of May, or even during the final weeks of April.  This evergreen shrub has dark green leaves and a spreading growth habit.  As a dwarf variety it is slow-growing, typically standing between 2 and 4 feet tall with an equal spread.  For this reason it makes a good foundation planting, hedge, border plant, or container plant.  It thrives in partial shade and filtered sun in acidic soils, making it a good choice for understory planting.  Landscape designers advise against tight shearing or over-pruning of this shrub, which detracts from its tidy and pleasant natural form.  The Rosebud Azalea is low maintenance, but requires deadheading when the flowers fade, as the plant does not drop its expired blossoms.  In the landscape, this shrub is fitting for Japanese, woodland, and urban gardens.                                                               


Lemon Princess Spirea

Latin name: Spirea japonica

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-8

lemon princes with flower.jpg

Photo credit: ND Design Services Inc.

'Lemon Princess' is a dwarf Spirea variety that gets its name from the stunning yellow foliage that decorates this deciduous shrub.  Summer is certainly on the way when this plant begins flowering, starting in the month of May and continuing well into July.  To identify Lemon Princess Spirea, look for a dense, low-growing shrub with a rounded shape, standing approximately 2 feet tall with a 2-to-3-foot spread.  Its oval sharp-toothed leaves are red in color as new growth appears, turning to a brilliant yellow, and fading to a pink, orange, or red color in the fall.  In late spring and early summer, showy pale pink flower clusters with flattened tops set up in front of the foliage.  To extend the flowering cycle of this plant through the summer, landscape designers recommend deadheading to remove the expired blossoms.  In the landscape, this shrub serves as a specimen, grouping, or massing plant.  It is useful as a foundation planting, border, or low-growing hedge.  Plant this variety to decorate paths, walkways,  perennial beds, or rock gardens in rustic and cottage-style landscapes.  Lemon Princess Spirea is easy to care for with a moderate growth rate.  It prefers full sun but tolerates light shade, while attracting butterflies and keeping deer at bay.      


Stella De Oro Daylily

Latin name: Hemerocallis x

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3-11

stella d oro daylily.jpg

Photo credit: ND Design Services Inc.

'Stella De Oro' is a dwarf perennial that begins flowering during the month of May, ushering in the summer season.  This award-winning Daylily is one of the more popular varieties due to its tidy, compact structure and lengthy blooming period.  The flowers start their show in late spring, continuing through the summer and into early fall.  To identify this plant, look for one-foot-tall clusters of happy yellow flowers over thick herbaceous, grass-like foliage.  The flowers are roughly two-and-a-half inches across with long green stems, making them good for cutting gardens.  The Stella De Oro Daylily fits most landscape styles.  They are grown as individual flowers or a grouped massing.  As a perennial, they may be divided to create new plantings.  Due to their clumping growth habit and moderate growth rate, they often serve as a border, foundation planting, groundcover, or container plant.  It may also be planted to create a miniature hedge.  Designers utilize this variety for erosion control and fire-wise landscaping.  These hardy flowers are notoriously easy to grow and maintain.  Deadheading is needed to remove the expired flowers and extend bloom time.  Otherwise, Stella De Oro Daylilies thrive in full to partial sunlight, in most soil and moisture conditions.                 

Palace Purple Coral Bells

Latin name: Heuchera micrantha

USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9

palace purple coral bells.jpg

Photo credit: ND Design Services Inc.

During late spring and early summer, look for the eye-catching uniqueness that is the Coral Bell variety, 'Palace Purple.'  True to its name, this herbaceous perennial has shiny eggplant purple leaves.  Summer is on the way when this plant develops wiry, red-stemmed shoots that stick out above the foliage.  The stems are adorned with tiny, bell-shaped flowers in white or pink.  As hot weather sets in, the deep purple leaves begin to fade to a rusty bronze color.  Bloom time is extended when the expired flower stems are removed.  Standing 1-to-2 feet tall with an equal spread, the 'Palace Purple' has a moderate growth rate and thrives in partial sunlight.  Designers utilize this Coral Bell variety as a transitional plant in the landscape between full sun and shade gardens.  It is grown as a container specimen or border and edging plant.  Due to its mounding growth habit, it also serves as a groundcover.  Palace Purple Coral Bells are fitting in contemporary, cottage, and woodland-style landscapes.  Its contrasting color and texture make it stand out against other plants and flowers in the garden.  This perennial is easy to care for, and is known its hardiness and resistance to pests, diseases, and deer.                


Dragon Wing Begonia

Latin name: Begonia x hybrida

USDA Hardiness Zones: 10-11

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Photo credit: ND Design Services Inc.

Begonias make up over 1,000 different varieties of flowering plants.  The 'Dragon Wing' is a cane-forming hybrid variety that serves as a colorful annual in the landscape, starting in the month of May and extending into the fall.  Wing-shaped glossy green leaves form a compact, bushy, mounding plant.  To identify the Dragon Wing Begonia, look for their signature clusters of drooping flowers, classically in red, but also in pink or white.  These plants typically stand between one and two feet tall with an equal spread.  They tend to grow slightly larger when planted directly in the ground.  However, this variety is also suitable for containers, window boxes, and hanging baskets.  Thriving in low light, this plant serves as a bed or edging annual in full to partial shade gardens.  With proper fertilization, flowering will continue through the summer and into the month of October, or until the first frost date.  Landscape designers caution that Dragon Wing Begonias can be messy as the expired petals drop.  Be sure to clear away these fallen petals to prevent staining, especially with red varieties over decks and hardscaping.  These flowers also require good air circulation to prevent issues with powdery mildew and stem rot.                          


Latin name: Lantana x

USDA Hardiness Zones: 9-11

lantana massing with butterfly.jpg

Photo credit: ND Design Services Inc.

Like Begonias, Lantana is a genus of flowering plants that is composed of numerous species and cultivars.  In warmer climates this plant is evergreen.  In most zones, however, it is grown as a late spring, early summer annual.  As a heat-loving plant, count on Lantana to put on a showy floral display up until the first frost date.  This mounding, shrubby plant stands between 2 and 4 feet tall, low growing with a spread of 1 to 8 feet, depending on the variety.  It has dark green, oval-shaped leaves with serrated edges.  As a fragrant annual, it is the leaves rather than the flowers that emit an aroma.  Lantana produces dense round clusters of of tiny flowers, approximately 2 inches in diameter.  The flowers are known for their show-stopping colors of white, yellow, orange, red, pink, and purple.  Some varieties produce flowers with multiple colors on the same plant.  Landscape designer recommend this annual for its ability to control erosion, its drought tolerance, and ease of care.  It attracts both birds and butterflies.  Lantana is fitting for cottage, rustic, Mediterranean, tropical, and urban gardens.  In the landscape, it is grown as an accent, container plant, or massing.  It is also grown as a border plant or groundcover due to its rapid growth rate.                                      


Dodge, N. (May, 2021). Interviews with ND Design Services Inc. 

Arbor Day Foundation. (2021). Kousa Dogwood (Japanese Dogwood). Tree Guide.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Cornus kousa. Plant Finder.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Syringa reticulata 'Ivory Silk'. Plant Finder.

The Morton Arboretum. (2021). Japanese Tree Lilac. Trees and Plants.

University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension. (2021). Rhododendron 'Rosebud' Azalea. Plant of the Week.

Monrovia. (2021). Rosebud Azalea. Monrovia Nursery Company.

Monrovia. (2021). Lemon Princess Spirea. Monrovia Nursery Company.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Spiraea japonica 'Lemon Princess'. Plant Finder.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Hemerocallis 'Stella de Oro'. Plant Finder.

Monrovia. (2021). Stella De Oro Dwarf Daylily. Monrovia Nursery Company

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Begonia 'Bepared' Dragon Wing Red. Plant Finder.

University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension. (2021). Dragonwing Begonia. Plant of the Week.

Monrovia. (2021). Palace Purple Heuchera. Monrovia Nursery Company

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Heuchera micrantha var. diversifolia 'Palace Purple'. Plant Finder.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2021). Lantana camara. Plant Finder.

Monrovia. (2021). Spreading Sunset Lantana. Monrovia Nursery Company.


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