Even after a colorful summer of roses, marigolds and zinnias, shrubs that flower in late summer are still a treat.
These shrubs present such wonderful masses of flowers and those flowers are held high above the ground.
Two familiar summer-blooming shrubs are rose-of-Sharon and smokebush. Although lackluster the rest of the year, rose-of-Sharon's branches are now studded with small hibiscus-like blossoms in colors from white to red to violet.
Smokebush blossomed earlier this summer but masses of stalks that held those flowers now look like puffs of smoke among the branches. Both shrubs grow 10 or 15 feet high and thrive in any reasonably good soil in full sun or partial shade.
Another shrub blooming now is peegee hydrangea. The coarse stems bend over at their tips like a fountain from the weight of the pompom blossoms which will turn pink, then brown. That is how they will hang on the plant into winter.
Less commonly grown for late summer bloom are staunton elsholtzia, devil's walkingstick and summersweet clethra. Staunton elsholtzia grows 5 feet high and is covered with purplish pink flowers on half-foot spikes. It's in the mint family and has the characteristic square stems and fragrance of its kin.
With just a few thick stems rising from ground level and armed their length with thorns, devil's walkingstick is more interesting and ominous than beautiful. These coarse stems are capped with doubly compound, glossy green leaves, giving the plant a mysterious tropical air. Whitish flowers that froth over the ends of the branches are followed by sinister-looking blue blackberries. Devil's walkingstick is not finicky at all about soil or light conditions and it spreads by underground runners.
Summersweet clethra is worth planting not only for its show of white flowers, but also for the flowers' delightful fragrance. The varieties 'Pink Spires' and 'Rosea' have pale pink blossoms. The shrub itself grows about 5 feet high and wide and does best in moist, acidic soil in full sun or partial shade.
After the summer fragrance of the flowers pass, summersweet clethra further earns its keep as its leaves turn golden yellow.
All of these shrubs that bloom in late summer form their flowers only on new shoots. Therefore, prune them in late winter, before growth begins, to stimulate new growth.
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