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7 Big Impact Dwarf Flowering Shrubs

Scale with dwarf flowering shrubs

Big gardens have a season in life, and we have unlimited energy to maintain perennial gardens and a quarter acre vegetable plot that produces enough food for the entire neighborhood. But if you're starting out with a three-story balcony garden or have a small garden, you can still use dwarf shrubs to create a beautiful outdoor living space.

Dwarf shrubs are perfect for small space gardens

When thoughtfully designed, a small space garden can be as visually appealing and emotionally pleasing as a sprawling yard. No need to sacrifice your favorite shrubs like roses and lilacs. You need to choose the right size varieties to match the size of the space. A short hedge or even a casket of flowering shrubs may be all you need to make your patio feel like "home."

Dwarf flowering shrubs for your garden

It's best to be selective when curating plant palettes for a small space. If the large shrubs you've seen at local nurseries are too much for your garden, look for the varieties you see here.

1. Cape Cod Bigleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

Blue hydrangeas are a dream come true for many of us, and thanks to the elegant, mounding shape of the Coastal Serenade Cape Cod, it's easy to find the perfect spot to display it in a landscape with acidic soil. Flowers are pink when the soil is neutral to alkaline.

2. Autumn Coral azalea (Rhododendron hybrid)

Do you remember when Azaleas were a hit wonder? Their bright flowers graced our gardens for a few glorious weeks in the spring, and then we waited 11 months for them to repeat the show. But in the early 1980s, Robert “Buddy” Lee, a grower from Independence, Louisiana, began developing the Encore® revival azalea series.

Fall coral is a densely branched plant whose warm coral pink flowers are the first to appear in spring. And it tolerates more sun than typical azaleas. It is known for its heavy regeneration in autumn on new wood from summer. This azalea works beautifully as a foundation plant or short hedge. Although it does not require regular pruning, it can be pruned lightly after the first round of blooms in spring.

3. Magical Gold Forsythia (Forsythia x Intermedia)

Forsythias are the harbingers of spring, starting the new season with golden yellow flowers covering the upright branches. Magical® Gold packs a ton of flower power onto a small plant and is the first forsythia to bloom on both old and new growth.

If you've ever pruned a forsythia in the fall, you know that doing so usually removes the flowers that will have set buds the following spring. Magical Gold Forsythia guesses when to prune. Prune it immediately after flowering in the spring, and it will bloom the entire length of the branch the following spring. Prune it in the fall and it will bloom on new growth in early summer.

4. Little Devil Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Have you ever noticed how a dark background can make all the colors in front of it pop? A narrow hedge of the deep purple leaves of Little Goddess Ninebark will do just that when paired with colorful perennials in your landscape. The more sun this shrub receives, the darker the color.

Ninebark is a powdery mildew-resistant, low-maintenance shrub that makes its own in landscapes. Many cultivars grow quite large, but dwarf selections require little pruning to stay in range. Substitute your native non-native barberry (Berberis thunbergii) for a similar look without the thorns.

5. 'Orchid Annie' Butterfly Bush (Butleja hybrid)

Once you grow a butterfly bush, you know how it got its name. This shrub has such a magnetism that butterflies will find it wherever it blooms—in a pot on your deck or in a garden bed. Pollinating bees and hummingbirds are also frequent visitors.

Part of the Humminger® series, 'Orchid Annie' is a full-round shrub that blooms with orchid-purple panicles 8 inches long from top to bottom. Its sweetly scented flowers appear weeks earlier than many other varieties; Secondary shoots continue to color until autumn.

6. Bloomerang Dwarf Lilac (Syringa Hybrid)

Few floral scents are as nostalgic as lilac. Many of us remember them from our childhood homes, where they grew in large, towering masses and scented the entire yard in the spring. Whether your garden is small or a sunny balcony is the only option, you can recapture some of that magic in your current home.

Like encore azaleas, bloomerang lilacs are also strong revivalists. They bloom profusely on old wood in the spring and produce another, if not profuse, bloom on new growth from summer through fall. Although the plant does not require pruning to rebloom, if you wish to do so, it can be done once the spring blooms have faded – an easy task on such a small shrub.

7. Little Lime Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

'Limelight' is one of the most widely planted panicle hydrangeas in the world, but it grows 6 to 8 feet tall and wide, making it too large for most small gardens. You get a similar look to its dwarf cousin, the Little Lime®, which is half as mature. This makes it perfect for growing as a short hedge around your deck or tucking under windowsills.

For a more compact habit, cut back all of its stems by a third each year in early spring. Since they don't set until early summer on new growth, you don't run the risk of removing any flower buds.

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