Three Flowering Shrubs You Wish You’d Planted Last Year

It’s a cool, breezy Spring here in Anchorage, with partly cloudy skies and not much rain. The upside is that the flowers are holding their blooms longer and plants are growing strong and sturdy. And the light is good for capturing great flower pictures. Some plants just seem to glow!

By now you’ve seen the beautiful flowering shrubs around town. You probably wish you had one on your property, since they are one of the first things to bloom here. The good news is that these all these plants I will mention should be available at local nurseries now. You may find potted plants from last year’s stock or look for bare-root plants (this is plant material that has not been potted up). Bare rooted plants are often on sale because there was no labor involved in potting them up.


The yellow plant that you have seen is the Forsythia, named after William Forsyth, a Scottish gardener who became superintendent of the Royal Garden of Kensington Palace. The most common pronunciation is for-SITH-ee-uh, but you may hear for-SIGH-thee-uh. When your flowering shrubs become large enough, you can prune them to shape it in late Winter and bring the cut branches inside for forcing in a vase of water. (See my previous post on this topic, Forcing Spring.)

With Alaska’s cool Spring this year, the Forsythias have held their blooms beautifully!

Forsythia ssp. There are several varieties.

Nanking Cherry

The second plant I have in mind is the Nanking Cherry (Prunus tomentosa). I have been growing mine for many years. It is a vigorous bush with small light pink flowers that turn into delicious slightly tart cherries which my family makes into jam for scones. Taken with a hot cup of coffee or tea in the winter, it’s a taste of summer, sunshine. It’s Winter hardy here in Zone 4 USDA, moderately fast-growing, and native to China, Japan, and the Himalayas. I see it around town peeking over fences like a pink cloud.

Flowering Almond

The third bush I have in mind is the Flowering Almond, Prunus triloba, aka Rose Tree of China, aka Flowering Plum. Years ago, one of the oil companies handed these out on Arbor Day as a “liner” in Anchorage, so now you see the beautiful pink flowers all over Anchorage. A liner is a small, single, rooted stem. From 12–24 inches tall.

All three of these shrubs can be planted as a hedge or a single specimen plant. Flowers last for up to two weeks in ideal conditions.

Flowering Almond (Prunus triloba). Picture from Pinterest.

All of these shrubs should be planted this summer for blooms next Spring. Remember you can cut woody branches in late Winter and force them into bloom indoors.

Patrick Ryan is an Alaska Master Gardener and the Education Specialist for the Alaska Botanical Garden. A retired elementary school teacher, Patrick is a member of the Anchorage Community Forest Council and sits on the board for Alaska Agriculture in the Classroom.

5 comments on “Three Flowering Shrubs You Wish You’d Planted Last Year

  1. Arun kottur

    Are the plants advisable for pune india

  2. Patrick Ryan

    Great conversations! Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  3. It’s interesting indeed to get a look at gardening in other parts of the world. I’m not familiar with the last two shrubs mentioned but down here in Virginia forsythia is a terrible pest as it was been widely planted in older neighborhoods and spreads relentlessly from one plant to a larger and larger cluster. To combat that (I guess?) many people with small gardens keep them clipped into balls or cubes, which eliminates the attractive fountain shape shown here.


  4. Nicholas & Margaret Bartenhagen

    Hear hear, Marianwhit !! ( Abbreviation for formal parliamentarian, “Hear, all ye good people, hear what this brilliant and eloquent speaker has to say! )

  5. marianwhit

    I hope everyone learns to “know thy plant” before running out and buying one when reading an article like this…do a little research before plunking out money and effort. Look up the words “native to”, “natural habitat”, and “invasive” after researching the Scientific name. If you know where it comes from, you know how much (or little) it will contribute ecologically to where you live. If you know its natural habitat, you will get a good idea where to plant it that it will thrive. If you know it is invasive, or has characteristics that don’t work for you, you will save yourself a lot of effort.

    Forsythia is a yellow flowered shrub that is (more often than not) hybrid bred for “pretty” and sterile for the convenience of not having to pull seedlings rather than “functional” for pollinators or birds that might eat the seeds…so the pretty yellow flowers call the pollinators in but produce no pollen. Their branches also become weighed down with snow, and root to the ground making the plant extremely difficult to kill/remove when you decide you might want more than one to two weeks of bloom per year.

    You might want to plant something else some day (like a plant that actually supports the ecology by being “normal” ie with edible leaves, fruit, or pollen). You might find a native plant like Service Berry (Amelanchier spp.) that gives you a longer season of interest and is native. You might get too old to do battle with the spreading Forsythia shrub that has less than the ecological value of a rock, because its loud foodless flowers distract pollinators from their evolved food supply.

    Try a search for native shrubs and see if one of those will fit your needs AND that of the natural world before buying the loud “one-trick shrub”. Prioritize native plants. You will be rewarded with more than flowers and serving the ecology in a constructive way. I am on year three of trying to remove several Forsythia…it is an awful job. There is so much more biomass there than I imagined! Native plants need some effort to control too, but no more than the forsythia. They also serve birds and pollinators in a normal way without wasting their time and energy, and your garden becomes a more fascinating place that is alive with birds.

    Have a few exotics if you must, but if you love animals, consider the genetically aberrant shrubs (most of which are clones)as the exception rather than the rule.

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