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11 Sparkling Shrubs for Today’s Yards

Shrubs have come a long way since the days of "blink and you'll miss seeing it bloom" forsythias. Advances in plant breeding have resulted in some outstanding woody plants worthy of a choice spot in your garden. Here are some sparkling shrubs to consider.

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Strawberry Sundae HydrangeaPhoto courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Strawberry Sundae Hydrangea

Strawberry Sundae is a compact Hydrangea paniculata growing 4 to 5 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. It is similar to the larger Strawberry Vanilla hydrangea (which is 6 to 8 feet tall) in that it features creamy white flowers in midsummer, changing to pink and then strawberry red as cooler temperatures arrive. The evolving color lasts well into fall. It grows in sun to part shade and is hardy in Zones 3–8.
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Amber Jubilee NinebarkPhoto courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Amber Jubilee Ninebark

Amber Jubilee ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius 'Jefam') really stands out in a garden. And it's no wonder. One look at the glowing orange, yellow and gold foliage and you can tell this one belongs on an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful. With such great foliage, you might not even care that this ninebark also has clusters of delicate-looking white blooms in spring and fall. It grows 5 to 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide and has its best color in full sun. Amber Jubilee is hardy in Zones 2–7.
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'Otto Luyken' English LaurelPhoto courtesy of Monrovia

'Otto Luyken' English Laurel

This dwarf English laurel grows just 3 feet tall but spreads out up to 6 feet—so it's a great groundcover, short hedge, or background plant. The lush-growing evergreen has year-round interest in mild climates, with fragrant creamy white flower spikes set against glossy green foliage in spring. It also has small black ornamental fruit in summer. 'Otto Luyken' is hardy in Zones 6–9.
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Golden Jackpot WeigelaPhoto courtesy of Monrovia

Golden Jackpot Weigela

Move over, Wine & Roses! There's a new superstar weigela in town. Golden Jackpot (Weigela florida 'MonRigney') might be the brightest weigela yet. The brilliant gold leaves hold their color and look great with or without the deep pink spring blooms. Golden Jackpot grows 4 to 6 feet tall and wide. It is hardy in Zones 4–8.
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Purple Magic CrapemyrtlePhoto courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Purple Magic Crapemyrtle

Purple Magic is a dense, shrub-form crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia) that grows 6 to 10 feet tall and wide, so it goes where taller crapemyrtles dare not tread. Purple Magic features dark purple flowers against glossy green foliage in early summer. Resistant to foliar diseases that sometimes afflict crapemyrtle, Purple Magic will bloom again in late summer if deadheaded. It is hardy in Zones 7–9.
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Sparkling Sangria LoropetalumPhoto courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Sparkling Sangria Loropetalum

Sparkling Sangria fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum) is a shrub of many talents. From hard-to-miss electric pink flowers in spring to handsome purple foliage throughout the growing season, it's a star performer. It also features attractive arching branches, but can be trimmed and grown in a container. Sparkling Sangria grows 10 feet tall and wide and takes full sun or part shade. It is hardy in Zones 7–9. Make sure you haven’t planted these spreading shrubs in your garden.
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Sugar Tip Rose of SharonPhoto courtesy of Luke Miller

Sugar Tip Rose of Sharon

This easygoing rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) steals your heart with its creamy white and green variegated foliage. Then loads of pink double flowers arrive in midsummer and you fall in love all over again. Sugar Tip grows 8 to 12 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide, so it makes a great hedge or background plant in a border. It also reacts well to pruning, so you can keep it compact and even grow it in a container. (See more on pruning shrubs.) It is hardy in Zones 5–8.

And here’s an exact guide on how to prune roses.

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Ember Waves Western Arborvitae in SummerPhoto courtesy of Monrovia

Ember Waves Western Arborvitae in Summer

This evergreen isn't necessarily evergreen. And that's okay. In fact, it's kind of nice. Ember Waves western arborvitae (Thuja standishii x T. plicata 'MonPin') starts out with bright yellow foliage, maturing to chartreuse and finally bright green. But the real show starts in fall. (Stay tuned for the next image!)
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Ember Waves Western Arborvitae in WinterPhoto courtesy of Monrovia

Ember Waves Western Arborvitae in Winter

And here is the explanation for the name Ember Waves. As the weather cools in late fall and early winter, it transitions to deep gold, with glowing orange to russet red tips. Who ever thought an evergreen would have so much color? Ember Waves grows 25 feet tall and 8 feet wide, making it a fine candidate for a screen or hedge. It is hardy in Zones 5–8.
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Cinnamon Girl DistyliumPhoto courtesy of Bailey Nurseries

Cinnamon Girl Distylium

If you're looking for an alternative to boxwood, Cinnamon Girl distylium might be a good bet to spice up your garden. It has plum-purple new growth, turning blue-green as foliage matures. A compact grower, it reaches just 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide. Cinnamon Girl is more cold hardy than other distyliums, suffering less winter burn. It is hardy in Zones 7–9.
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Golden Nugget Barberry

Golden Nugget Barberry

This colorful dwarf Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) grows slowly to just 12 inches tall and 18 inches wide, so it's perfect for compact gardens. The attractive golden orange foliage retains its color for a long period without fading in the sun and makes a great complement to burgundy barberries. Golden Nugget is heat- and drought-tolerant and is hardy in Zones 4–8. Photo courtesy of Monrovia

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.