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8 Shrubs for Summer Cut Flowers

8 Shrubs for Summer Cut Flowers

By Kristina Howley for Proven Winners Color Choice
Photographs courtesy of Proven Winners Color Choice

There is an unmatched luxuriousness about summer. An abundance. A vast range in color and texture. One of the best parts about all that abundance is bringing it inside without creating a hole in the garden.

Many shrubs that are perfect for summer cut flowers even rebloom at some point in the season! The show doesn’t end then, though, as they’ll keep coming year after year. You’ll love these woody cut flower garden staples as they literally grow in size and abundance.

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Tips for gathering cut flowers in summer:

  • Go out in the morning, when it’s cloudy, or at dusk.
  • Only take branches that are pencil thickness or less.
  • Cut stems and branches straight across when you take them off the plant. This leaves a smaller wound on the plant, making it easier to heal. Before you put the cut stems into water, cut them again at an extreme angle. This enables the stems to draw in more water.
  • Put all stems into water as quickly as possible.

Here are eight shrubs that are sure to liven up any bouquet:

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1. Estrellita Little Star® Firecracker bush (Bouvardia)

Warm climate gardeners, rejoice! We have a long-lasting cut flower from a long-blooming shrub for any garden style, not just a cut flower space. You’ll love its vibrant red-orange coloring and the way each individual bloom matures to a soft pink. The blend of colors is so dynamic; you’ll be scheming up new ways to use them in every arrangement. 1.5-2’ tall/wide. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8-10.

Info: For longest vase life, remove as much foliage from the lower stem as possible. When properly prepared, a sprig of these star-shaped flower bursts can last up to two weeks in the vase.


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2. ‘Aphrodite’ Sweetshrub (Calycanthus)

When you see these flowers, they make you wonder why you haven’t had them in your garden all along. They are elegant and edgy at the same time. Their romantic dark burgundy coloring paired with a classic magnolia-like flower shape gives them the most captivating presence in the landscape and in a vase. Their ability to inspire an arrangement is unlimited, they look right at home amongst other blousy blooms, but they can also take the stage when paired with delicate foliage or flowers. 5-10’ tall/wide. Zones 5-9.

Info: Remove as much foliage as possible; the leaves are rather large and take a lot of water and energy to maintain.


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3. Kodiak Fresh® Diervilla (Diervilla rivularis)

Almost every arrangement benefits from the addition of some foliage filler, but it doesn’t have to be boring. If you like your supporting cast to have personality like your flowers do, you’ll love the range of coloring you can get with the Kodiak series of diervilla. They’ll happily grow in a much shadier spot than most of your other cut flowers, so you can have a lush backdrop for any arrangement without sacrificing precious sunny garden real estate. 2-3’ tall/wide. Zones 3-8.

Info: Be sure to remove any foliage that would be submerged in water. This saves the plant energy and prevents the water from getting icky as quickly.


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4. Incrediball® Smooth hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens)

Always a hit. Sometimes you don’t want to make complicated decisions about an arrangement. You want something that will be beautiful, no matter what. That’s a smooth hydrangea. They are effortlessly beautiful, whether you cut a few stems for a simple display or mix them in with other blooms. They look good with anything. 4-5’ tall/wide. Zones 3-8.

Info: Only gather these blooms when they are entirely open and mature. Do not gather budded flowers or flower heads that have both open and closed parts*. They don’t last very long and may never look good in the vase.

*A visual exception is a lacecap-style flower; they have fertile florets at the centers which look like flower buds. Just be sure all of the outer infertile florets are opened like a classic-looking hydrangea.


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5. Limelight Prime® Panicle hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)

For bold and leisure-loving gardeners, nothing could be easier than snipping a few massive blooms from a panicle hydrangea, popping them into a jar, and instantly wowing guests with luxurious beauty. The thick stems of all Proven Winners ColorChoice hydrangeas stand up reliably in an arrangement and can even help support weaker flowers. 4-6’ tall and 4-5’ wide. Zones 3-8.

Info: The advice about bloom readiness from the smooth hydrangea section above also applies to these hydrangeas.


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6. Let’s Dance Sky View® Reblooming hydrangea (Hydrangea serrata x macrophylla)

In the past, folks have been reluctant to cut into bigleaf and mountain hydrangeas for fear of diminishing future flowers, but not anymore! Let’s Dance reblooming hydrangeas actually rebloom. You aren’t doing any damage by gathering a few flowers, or an armful, from your plants. Thanks to their reblooming, they have a more dynamic habit than the perfectly rounded bigleaf hydrangeas of the past. This layered habit hides the inevitable little holes left behind when cuts are made. 2-3’ tall and 2-4’ wide. Zones 4-9.

Info: As with the other hydrangeas above, only gather flowers that are fully open and mature.


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7. Reminiscent® Coral rose (Rosa)

There’s a rose for every arrangement. They fit in perfectly with their big petals and wide range of colors. Adding a few roses to your palette breaks up the texture or provides constancy to the color scheme. (For example: The base color of the arrangement is pink, and you have a swath of pink roses to tie together the other pinks of the arrangement.) Look for roses that bloom on new wood, and if you miss a flush of them, you don’t need to deadhead in order for the plant to keep blooming. You’ll love how easy it is to keep this cut flower classic in your own garden! 2-3.5’ tall, 2’ wide. Zones 4-9.

Info: Remove any excess foliage so the stem only has to keep the flower looking good. And don’t forget about the potential of using rose hips in an arrangement later on in the fall!


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8. Bloomerang® Dark Purple Reblooming lilac (Syringa)

Get another taste of the freshest, most hopeful season with Bloomerang lilacs. Their ability to send out a second flush of flowers in the summertime will have you thinking there is suddenly a pleasant crispness in the air. And are those the first notes of birdsong you’ve missed all winter? Their petite size makes them perfect for tucking into a mixed arrangement or as a tidy centerpiece for a mantle or table display. 4-6’ tall, 4-6’ wide. Zones 3-7.

Info: Old wood buds (next year’s show) will be forming in the summertime, so try to gather cuts from different areas of the shrub. This will keep the plant looking even and ensure it’s ready for a handsome spring show in the future.

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