Anyone who has ever lived in Southern Illinois knows that the climate here can be hard on all living things, humans, animals and plants alike. That's why when we find a plant that thrives in hot, humid summers and warm, rainy springs, we're thrilled! And we plant it everywhere. However, there are lesser-known shrubs out there that are still as durable as your 'Knockout' roses, boxwoods and spireas. Consider adding a few of these tough cookies to your garden:
'Issai' Japanese Beautyberry Callicarpa dichotoma
This Japanese Beautyberry stays more compact than it's American cousin
(native to the southeast Missouri area), reaching a height and width of only 4'. It is perfect for foundation plantings. This plant has graceful arching branches that are filled with tiny, lavender flowers during the summer months. In early fall, when things in the garden are starting to die down, the beautyberry takes center stage. Clusters of small, dark purple berries cover the branches. The birds will love you! Full sun to part shade.
'Mariesii' Doublefile Viburnum Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum
This would be an excellent large shrub/small tree for the corner of your house or in a privacy planting. It reaches a height of 10-12' and a width of 12-15'. In mid-spring this shrub bursts with bright white flowers all along it's branches...and this shrub has a lot of branches! It will bloom for about two weeks. After that it remains a dense, green shrub until fall when the leaves turn a reddish-brown. Full sun or part shade.
'Sunburst' St. John's Wort Hypericum frondosum
Looking for a small, flowering shrub that requires very little maintenance? This little guy forms a nice, tight shrub with very little trimming, reaching a height and width of 3-4'. In Southern Illinois, hypericum will bloom in early to mid-June when it will be covered in bright yellow flowers. In extremely cold winters, this shrub may die completely die back to the ground, but don't worry, it will grow back from the roots when it warms up in the spring. Hypericum is native to Kentucky and surrounding areas. Full sun to part shade.
'Longwood Blue' Bluebeard Caryopteris x clandonensis
Caryopteris often gets forgotten, but it is a must-have for any butterfly garden. 'Longwood Blue' Caryopteris reaches a height and width of 2-4'. In the fall, when nothing else is blooming, all the butterflies in the neighborhood will be flocking to your yard to enjoy these beautiful flowers. The flowers are a true blue, hard to come by in landscape plants. The silvery-gray foliage is slightly fragrant. Full sun.
'Regent' Serviceberry Amelenchier alnifolia
If you are familiar with the native serviceberry tree, then you know about the multiple seasons of interest that the serviceberry posseses. This is a serviceberry shrub that reaches only 4-6' tall and 4-6' wide. It is one of the first few shrubs to bloom in the spring. It will be covered in clusters of white flowers. Come June, your shrub will be filled with delicious, blue/purple berries. Which are edible and quite tasty, if you can get to them before the birds do. Finally, in the fall, serviceberry puts on a nice show of orange fall color. Sun or shade.
Have a place in your garden for any of these wonderful plants? Maybe you have something that's just not working and one of the above plants might just make the perfect replacement. Your landscape designer can help you decide where would be the best place in your garden for these underutilized shrubs.