Virginia has three main regions: the mountains and valleys to the west that fall within USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 6; the piedmont area, a combination of Zones 6 and 7, running through the center of the state; and the eastern coastal plain, which is in Zone 7. A small section in the southeast corner of the state falls within Zone 8. Virginia's temperate climate allows for the cultivation of many beautiful flowering shrubs.
Azaleas and Rhododendrons
Several varieties of azaleas and rhododendrons are native to Virginia, so they are well-suited to the state's climate and soils. Plant them in filtered sunlight or afternoon shade. Recommended azaleas include 'Gumpo White,' 'Hershey Red,' Ghent hybrids and the native flame azalea. Good rhododendron varieties are 'P.J.M.,' 'Roseum Elegans' and 'Nova Zembla,' which is particularly heat and cold tolerant.
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The butterflybush (Buddleja) is sometimes called summer lilac since the blooms resemble those of lilac. Plant this bush in a sunny location and fertilize well. Virginia's long growing season will keep it flowering for months if you deadhead spent flowers. Good varieties for Virginia include the dark purple 'Black Knight' and the variegated 'Harlequin.'
Several different types of hydrangea do well in Virginia's rich soil and moderate winters. The common mophead and lacecap varieties vary from rose to dark blue, depending on the variety and soil pH (acid soil encourages blue flowers). H. arborescens 'Annabelle' has large white flower heads and does well throughout the state. H. quercifolia, the oakleaf hydrangea, has beautiful white flowers in the spring and flaming scarlet leaves in the fall. Hydrangeas do well in filtered shade.
Viburnums also are native to Virginia. These versatile shrubs offer three-season interest: beautiful spring flowers (often heavily scented), berries for the birds in summer and fall, and brilliant reddish autumn color. 'Mohawk' is an early spring bloomer with globes of spicy white flowers; it also has intense orange-red fall color. Doublefile viburnums, especially 'Shasta,' bloom later in spring, their horizontal branches coated with pure white flowers. The leaves turn purplish-red in fall.
Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is prone to powdery mildew in Virginia, but the Korean lilac 'Palibin' performs well throughout the state. It blooms in April or May and needs full sun for maximum flowering. It is a smaller, neater shrub than the common lilac.
Crapemyrtles (Lagerstroemia) do particularly well in Virginia's warmer Zones 7 and 8 areas, where they thrive in the intense August heat. Grow these summer bloomers as a large shrub or a multi-stemmed tree. Peeling bark adds winter interest. Flowers are white, pink or purple. Crapemyrtles can be late to leaf out in the spring, so be patient.
Few shrubs shout spring as loudly as forsythias. These sprawling shrubs are covered in bright yellow blooms in very early spring, and their branches can be forced during winter for a touch of brightness indoors. Prune immediately after flowering. Renew old shrubs by cutting a third of the old branches to ground level each year for three years. They are best in full sun.
Virginia has an excellent climate for growing roses if you choose disease-resistant varieties. The Richmond Rose Society suggests these types as being particularly suited to Virginia: Knockout Roses, Livin' Easy and Baby Love. Shrub roses also thrive and are trouble-free.