It has been said that a shrub should produce a fruit, a flower or a fragrance in order to win a place in the garden, especially when space is limited. These three shrubs all produce gorgeous flowers, and two of them are noted for their wonderful fragrances. They are all handsome plants that would be assets to the garden even without their other gifts.
Gardenia, also known as cape jasmine, can grow to a height of 6 to 8 feet and almost equal width. It has dark, shiny leaves and creamy white flowers beloved for their distinctive, sweet fragrance. Gardenia’s bloom season is fairly long, beginning in mid-spring and lasting through early summer. An interesting cultivar, ‘Prostrata,’ grows only 2 to 3 feet in height and spreads like a ground cover. Flowers are smaller, but equally fragrant. Gardenia thrives in moist, acid soil that is rich in organic matter and well drained. Partial shade to sun is suitable. Gardenias grow well in USDA zones 8 to 10 and should be planted where their outstanding fragrance can be enjoyed. Unfortunately, this lovely shrub attracts a host of sucking insects such as pesky whiteflies. Diligence is needed to protect plants from these garden pests, but fortunately they are easily controlled with oil or soap sprays.
Fragrant, colorful plumeria blooms are the flowers used in Hawaii to make leis. Also known as frangipani, the short, stocky shrub or tree is perfect to use as a container plant or as a lawn specimen in warm climates. Plant near entryways, porches or patios so that its heady fragrance can be appreciated on summer evenings. Hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11, plumeria drops its leaves when the temperature drops below 50 degrees. Gardeners in colder climates can avoid replacing plants each year by wintering them in greenhouses, which provides a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a touch of the tropics while winter rages outside. Plumeria requires a sunny location. It is tolerant of a variety of soil types, but much prefers rich soils with adequate moisture and good drainage. Color depends on variety, and many exotic choices are available.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, is one of the most striking flowering shrubs available for the garden. Though it does not provide a fragrance, its luxuriant foliage and magnificent flowers should not be overlooked. It will present a stunning picture wherever it is located. In frost-free environments, this large shrub, which can be pruned into tree form, can grow to 15 feet tall with corresponding spread. Flowering is continuous, but blooms last only a day or two. Hibiscus is hardy in USDA zones 9 and 10, but it may be grown as an annual or as a container plant in colder climates. Flowers are often 5 to 6 inches in width and may be single or double. Rich, saturated colors are the rule, with reds, pinks of various intensity, and peach to orange or yellow predominating. Plant hibiscus in sun or light shade for best performance. Slightly acidic, well-drained soil is ideal.
Flowering shrubs function well as foundation plantings or as soft, casual hedges in hospitable climates. Plant singly as a focal point where their natural shape can be appreciated, or prune to tree form and use on balconies, porches or patios. However they are used, flowering shrubs do double duty by providing luxurious foliage as well as a welcome burst of color; some contribute even more to the garden experience with unforgettable fragrances.