Flowering shrubs make beautiful additions to gardens and property landscapes, but choosing the right plants is essential for success in the southern Alberta climate. Not all flowering shrubs grow well in the local environment, and if you want to generate the best and most beautiful results, it’s a good idea to stick to options that take well to our arid summers and the cool nights they often bring.
The Local Planting Zone
Growing conditions for plants are classified in numerous ways, but the “hardiness zone” system is one of the best-known and easiest to understand. While the Canadian hardiness zone system has been adapted to our country’s cooler climate, it’s important to remember that it is only intended as a rough guide, particularly because of microclimate influences.
Microclimates are relatively small, localized areas within a broader region that have different climate characteristics. For example, higher-elevation regions of southern Alberta have a microclimate that differs from the microclimate found in lower-lying areas.
For your reference, remember that most of Calgary is in Zone 3, but parts of the region also dip down to Zone 2 or up to Zone 4.
Good Choices for Flowering Shrubs
Rather than relying solely on hardiness zone generalities, you can choose from any of these lovely flowering shrubs, which are known to thrive in Calgary and the surrounding area:
- Forsythia: These shrubs produce beautiful yellow flowers in early spring before growing brilliant green leaves during the summer. Prune old branches once the flowers fade to ensure solid growth year after year.
- Lilac: While lilac shrubs produce stunningly beautiful flowers beginning around late May, they are also a little more finicky and require more care. Full sun exposure is essential.
- Nanking cherry: Producing pink flowers in the spring, nanking cherry shrubs also grow edible fruit as the season continues. Create nutrient-rich soil that drains well to help ward off bacterial infections.
- Double-flowering plum: Full sun exposure and well-draining soil will help these shrubs produce their stunning billowy, double-pink flowers.
- Hydrangea: These highly durable shrubs are a good alternative to lilacs if you’re looking for something a little lower-maintenance. However, make sure you’re buying a Zone 3 hydrangea, as the Zone 4 variety probably won’t thrive in Calgary.
- Snowball: These large plants can grow up to 15 feet wide and 12 feet tall, producing puffy white flowers that look like snowballs. They are also easy to maintain, making them excellent for beginners.
- Spirea: Choose from spirea that bloom in spring or summer — both produce beautiful white, pink, and red flowers.
- Weeping caragana: A solid choice for yards that get sun as well as shade, weeping caragana is most beautiful in fall, when its leaves turn a brilliant yellow.
- Barberry: An outstanding choice for dry Calgary summers, barberry shrubs thrive in arid conditions and produce beautiful pink-burgundy flowers.
A Rose by Any Other Name…
While roses aren’t shrubs, strictly speaking, they are among the most popular garden flowers and many different types grow well in Calgary. If you want to add roses to your garden, experts recommend these varieties:
- Explorer roses: Named for famous explorers from Canadian history, like Cabot, Champlain, and McKenzie, explorer roses are hardy enough to survive harsh Calgary winters and bloom into full beauty when spring returns.
- Parkland Series roses: Prairie Joy, Morden Blush, and Winnipeg Parks are all good bets from the Parkland Series family or roses. Pro tip: choose “own root” plants instead of grafted roses. Chances are you’ll enjoy better results.
Landscaping Tips from the Pros
If you’re new to growing roses, here are some essential tips for beginners to keep in mind:
- Roses need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive.
- Make sure your soil is slightly acidic. Soil should also be loosely packed, with effective drainage.
- Give your roses at least six feet of clearance from the nearest trees.
- Plant your roses well apart from one another. This promotes good air circulation, and allows the rose leaves to dry more easily.
For more tips on growing great roses, refer to our previously published article on the topic, available here.
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