Most gardeners love a deliciously fragrant lilac or colorful mophead hydrangea but it’s a bit frustrating to grow these shrubs when they don’t bloom again all year. Growers have tried to solve this issue by hybridizing shrubs so that gardeners can enjoy blooms at least twice, sometimes three times, a growing season. Here are four cultivars you wouldn’t expect to rebloom but do.
Eternal Fragrance Daphne
There’s nothing like the enchanting fragrance of a daphne in early spring. When all else is dormant, these low evergreen shrubs with their whitish pink flowers come alive, casting a sweet scent far into the air. Now, ‘Eternal Fragrance’ (Daphne × transatlantica ‘Blafra’) will bloom in spring and in mid-summer. Sometimes, it has even bloomed for me again in early fall. It grows to about knee-height and will bush out sideways. I like ‘Eternal Fragrance’ because it looks leggy in youth and full in maturity, the opposite of most daphnes. Oh and by the way, I’ve transplanted mine, twice, with no problems (though I made sure to water right away and regularly afterward).
This is a fairly new introduction that I use a lot in client gardens. It’s a smaller lilac than the traditional Syringa vulgaris and has a tighter mass of leaves like making it prettier even when not in bloom. Beware it can grow to about 5 feet tall though. The Bloomerang Lilac (Syringa x ‘Penda’) sports small clusters of pinkish lavender flowers in May and then again in late summer. Likes full sun but can take part shade. It also reblooms better when the spent blossoms are cut back soon after it blooms. Deciduous.
Original Hydrangea, Endless Summer
Hydrangeas are known to bloom on the previous year’s growth, that’s why if you cut them back too far, you won’t get flowers. A good rule of thumb is to only give it a short haircut, cut back to the last set of leaves or the still-green stems if you want it to bloom the next season. If you don’t care about losing flowers and want to reduce height, you can cut back further. However, since hydrangeas are cane shrubs, picking out the oldest canes and removing them is the best way to prune. Anyway, the ‘Original’ hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Bailmer’) of the Endless Summer series was a big deal when released because it bloomed on both last year’s and the current year’s stems. It was advertised to repeat bloom all summer long but I’ve found you get flowers in June/July and if you water enough (and maybe fertilize), they bloom again in late summer. Otherwise, they can go dormant like a traditional hydrangea. Deciduous.
Autumn Royalty Azalea
There’s a whole line of Encore Azaleas that rebloom, all of which share the first name “Autumn,” to make them easy to spot. They come in a variety of colors: peach, red, purple, white, etc. But in particular, I like Autumn Royalty (Rhododendron ‘Conlec’) for its easy purple color and hardiness. It’s a bigger azalea, growing to about four feet wide and tall, but has pretty dark foliage that contrasts nicely with the bloom. Like any azalea, it prefers part-sun, preferably shade in the afternoon and looks good in a woodland setting with hostas and ferns. It’s especially nice near a chartreuse colored hosta like ‘Sum and Substance’ or a Gold Heart Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’). For it to bloom in April and September, I’ve had to make sure it’s well watered.