Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’

Spring’s Most Glorious Flowers

There is a good reason why we get so hyped up about spring! Feast your eyes on 10 spring shrubs that have been waiting in the wings to start blooming again. Make a point of planting them in your own garden, because we don’t want you to suffer from ‘FOMO’ (Fear Of Missing Out).

Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’

It is a wonderful sight when the lacecap-like white flowers of the snowball bush or Guelder rose appear on the bare branches of these spring shrubs. They start off as lime green, turn to creamy white, and may become speckled in a delicate shade of pink with age. When the flowers, which are very popular in the florist trade, have almost disappeared, the fresh green maple-like leaves unfold, turning to a glossy dark green in summer. As this is a deciduous shrub, you can expect another show of colour when the leaves turn to rich autumn shades before falling. Mature height is between 2 – 3m.

  • Full sun or partial shade
  • Rich, moist loamy soil that drains well
  • Frost hardy and suitable for cold climates
  • Can easily be propagated from hardwood cuttings in early spring before growth starts again.

Rhaphiolepis x delacourii ‘Kruschenia’

This rounded and dense garden cultivar is perfect for difficult coastal gardens as it is very wind and salt-spray tolerant. The leathery leaves are shiny and dark green, sometimes turning nearly black in cold weather. Young leaves sprouting in spring are a warm red colour. Masses of clear pink flowers start smothering the whole plant in August and are later followed by blue to black berries. This low-maintenance and easy-to-grow shrub can mature to 2 x 2m.

  • Full sun, although some shade will be tolerated
  • Cold and frost hardy
  • Any well-draining soil type that has been enriched with ample compost
  • Very water-wise when established
  • Slow growing, but regular feeding during summer will speed up growth and improve flowering
  • Pruning only required to shape the plant.

Mackaya bella

If you need graceful spring shrubs for shady spots, plant the indigenous and elegant forest bell bush, with its cascading branches covered in trumpetshaped white or soft lilac flowers with intricate pink throat markings. Blooming time is very generous, from spring until December. The foliage is evergreen, glossy and dark green. This is the perfect shrub for small gardens (size about 2 – 3m high with a spread of 2m), and offers a bushy, rounded growth habit. It is a good choice for pots on shady patios or in courtyard gardens.

  • Light or deep shade – any sun should be morning only
  • Can tolerate some cold and light frost, but not wind
  • Good loamy soil enriched with compost
  • Water regularly, especially in summer
  • Feed regularly in summer with a slow-release fertiliser
  • Prune lightly if needed after flowering.

Jasminum multipartitum

The starry wild jasmine is an indigenous evergreen scrambler, also utilised as a creeper, that starts blooming in late spring with lots of scented flowers. The heady fragrance is subtle at daytime but intensifies at dusk, filling the garden. The leaves are leathery, dark green and glossy, and the dark pink flower buds are carried singly on the tips of stems, opening up into large, white, star-shaped flowers tinged with pink on their undersides, which are followed by blackish fruit loved by birds. Use it as a background rambler against a wire fence, trained against a trellis framework, or as neatly pruned specimen plants in pots. They can be pruned after flowering into neat balls as the foliage is handsome enough to hold the fort when the plant is not in flower. Mature size is variable, but about 2 – 3m.

  • Full sun or light shade – avoid spots that can become too hot as the foliage can bleach or turn yellow
  • Suitable to climates with mild winters
  • Good, loamy soil enriched with compost
  • Water and feed regularly with a balanced fertiliser.

Loropetalum chinense ‘Plum Gorgeous’

‘Plum Gorgeous’ will go beyond spring as it has another flowering phase in autumn. Between these two floral performances, the very dramatic dark-plum foliage will retain its rich colour all year long. The growth habit is dense, slightly weeping and naturally rounded. The tassel-like flowers are a deep, vivid raspberry shade and appear in a mass. You can use it as fill-in spring shrubs in large beds, as an informal hedge, along pathways or as specimens in large pots. Size about 1.5 x 2m.

  • Full sun or light shade
  • Cold and frost hardy
  • Well-draining, compost-enriched soil
  • Regular watering until established and then only when dry. It can’t be left dry for prolonged periods
  • Feed regularly in summer
  • Light pruning after a flowering phase, if necessary

Brunfelsia pauciflora ‘Floribunda’

Wherever a yesterday, today and tomorrow grows there will be the sweet and unmistakable scent of spring. This is an indispensable shrub for lightly shaded, cooler spots like on the south side of the house, where spring-flowering azaleas and winter-flowering camellias also flourish. Brunfelsias are at their prettiest in spring, but also flower again in other seasons. The growth habit is dense with elliptical, leathery leaves with a waxy sheen. The five-petalled, sweetly scented flowers in shades of deep purple, lilac and white can change colour daily and will cover the plant in a spectacular display. These shrubs can grow 2 – 3m tall.

  • Light shade is best – full sun will also work, provided it is not too hot and baking
  • Acidic and moist soil enriched with lots of compost
  • Temperate climates with a high summer rainfall. Light frost and cold will be tolerated, but then the plant will be deciduous in the cooler months
  • Water regularly in summer
  • Feed every six weeks from spring to autumn with a potassium-rich fertiliser
  • Light pruning only for neatness after spring flowering phase
  • Beautiful flowering shrub to grow in large pots.

Spiraea cantoniensis ‘Flore Plena’

The Cape may (originating from China) is a mounding and spreading semi-deciduous shrub with cascading branches that are covered in tightly packed clusters of fluffy, double white flowers in early spring. During flowering, the ground around the plant is strewn with little petals like confetti, creating more enchantment. Some of the elliptical dull-green leaves may also be present at this time. The unfortunate thing about Cape may, however, is its winter appearance, when it is scraggly and bare-branched with sparse, discoloured leaves, tempting gardeners to prune it back harshly at the wrong time. This causes the plant to skip a spring-flowering season. If you are patient with its winter untidiness, you will be amply rewarded with its abundant spring blooms. Size: 2 x 3m.

  • Full sun or light shade
  • Very frost and cold hardy
  • Any soil type that drains well is good
  • Moderate watering when established
  • Correct pruning time is in summer after flowering.

Leptospermum scoparium ‘Cherry Brandy’

The dwarf tea bush ‘Cherry Brandy’ is a compact evergreen variety producing a mass of cherry-red flowers in spring, resulting in a blaze of brilliant colour that will transform any flower bed! The small leaves are aromatic and dark green in colour with wine-red tinges. New foliage growth is brilliant red, which means that this plant is almost always presenting some form of colour in the garden. Leptospermums should be planted with care so as to not cause any root disturbance, and no digging should ever be done afterwards around them. Otherwise they are easy to grow and problem free, requiring little maintenance.

  • Full sun
  • Hardy against cold and frost. Drought and wind tolerant
  • Sandy, well-composted soil with good drainage
  • Low watering needs once established
  • Prune lightly after flowering
  • Excellent container plant.

Rhododendron x ‘Encore’

These hybrid Azaleas are harbingers of spring and many of our country’s well-known open gardens are dedicated to them. There are many deciduous and evergreen species and ample hybrids of both, but a modern range named Azalea ‘Encore’ comes highly recommended. These spring shrubs have a dense, rounded and dwarf growth habit that makes them perfect for pots and small gardens. They are evergreen with a reblooming characteristic with semi-double flowers crowning the foliage in a lovely range of traditional azalea colours. The main flower flush is early spring with some flowers in summer and a second peak in autumn. Estimated size is 60 – 90cm x 60 – 90cm.

  • Thrives in full sun as well as partial shade
  • Cold-hardy, but heavy frost can damage the flowers
  • Plant in humus-rich soil that drains very well
  • Mulch with acidic pine needles or bark chips
  • Water regularly
  • Fertilise with a balanced, slow-release fertiliser straight after their spring blooming phase
  • Great for pots.

Coleonema pulchellum

These evergreen, indigenous spring shrubs have feathery, sweetly aromatic foliage and are erect, dense-growing shrubs. A profusion of pink star-shaped flowers appear during the winter, spring and early summer months. Once spent, the flowers scatter on the ground as would confetti at a wedding, hence the common name of confetti bush. Another species, Coleonema album, has dainty, small white flowers that are honey scented. These hardy plants make excellent coastal gardening subjects and are able to withstand strong coastal winds. Bees, butterflies, insects and birds are attracted to the flowers. The estimated mature size for both is 1.5 x 1.5m.

  • Full sun
  • Best suited to winter-rainfall climates. Not hardy to extreme frost and cold, and intolerant of high humidity
  • Well-drained sandy soil enriched with compost
  • Mulch with coarse compost or bark to protect their sensitive root systems – no digging around them
  • Water regularly until established. Can tolerate short periods of drought
  • Prune after flowering to neaten the plants and encourage new growth.
The Gardener