Shrubs with white flowers are plentiful. Shrubs that brighten early spring gardens with white flowers are less common. Most of those with early white blooms flower before their leaves arrive. Gardeners choosing them sacrifice later-blooming bushes' refreshing combination of crisp white blossoms and green foliage. Having leafless shrubs covered with white flowers as early as March to pair with crocuses, daffodils and other early spring bulbs, however, is its own reward.
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White forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) is a fragrant shrub native to Korea. Its purple buds unfurl to reveal tubular, white March and April blooms. Green-leaved white forsythia performs best in sun to partial shade and averagely moist, well-drained soil. Winter honeysuckle (Lonerica fragrantissima), a 6- to 10-foot, rounded shrub, has white, early spring blooms. They open before its blue-green foliage emerges. Red summer berries add more ornamental appeal. Winter honeysuckle likes a sunny to partly shady site with good drainage and moist soil.
Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) 'Low' n White' is a March- and April-blooming, rose family shrub. The up-to-4-foot plant's glossy, green leaves emerge after its white blooms. Its greenish-yellow fruits ripen in autumn. This shrub flowers most heavily in full sun, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden. It prefers well-drained loam with average moisture. Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustfolia) is a multiple-branched, 4- to 10-foot shrub. Its five-petaled, white blooms arrive in March before the bright green foliage. Summer-ripening yellow or red plums follow the flowers. Chickasaw plum tolerates sun or partial shade. It thrives in moist, well-drained soil. Fruit from these trees makes tasty preserves.
Shrubs for Shade
Deciduous honeyberry (Lonicera kamtschatica) is a march-blooming, 4-foot-high and -wide shrub with greenish-grey leaves and white flowers. The edible, blue berries for which it's named ripen in May. Their sweet flavour is good right off the plant or in preserves, notes the Missouri Botanical Garden. This shrub likes partial shade and well-drained, moist soil. Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) is a 6-inch to 1-foot, evergreen shrub. It has peeling, red bark and curled leaves. Foliage progresses from spring's greenish-yellow to summer's green and autumn's purple. Hanging clusters of delicate, white or pink blooms emerge between March and June. The red berries they produce provide winter food for birds and wildlife. Bearberry grows in sun to shade and acidic, sandy or rocky soils.
Shrubs for Full Sun
March- and April-blooming bridal wreath spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia) stands from 4 to 8 feet high and wide. Its clusters of small, double white flowers precede the shrub's 1 1/2-inch, glossy, elliptical green leaves. Multihued yellow, orange and red autumn foliage adds a third season of interest. Bridal wreath likes a well-drained spot in full sun. Redroot (Ceanothus herbaceus) has dense, narrow, glossy, yellow-veined green leaves and March-to-July blooms. The white or blue flowers open in rounded clusters at the ends of the 2- to 3-foot shrub's twigs. Their nectar attracts butterflies. Redroot flourishes in full sun and well-drained, alkaline loam or clay.
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- Missouri Botanical Garden: White Forsythia
- University of Illinois Extension; Selecting Shrubs for Your Home: Fragrant Honeysuckle
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Japanese Quince 'Low 'n' White'
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Chickasaw Plum
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Honeyberry
- Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Bearberry