Waxy, flowering shrubs add colour and texture to the landscape. With a variety of hues, and sometimes fragrances, flowering shrubs enliven a garden during the growing season. Some species also attract beneficial pollinators, such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The gloss of waxy foliage adds an element of shine. Before planting any ornamental shrubs, determine the plants' light, soil and moisture requirements, as well as the lowest annual average temperature they tolerate as defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's plant hardiness zone map.
Sites with soil pH less than 7.0 are considered acidic. Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) flowers from April to May with white, showy blossoms. This evergreen shrub has waxy, broadleaved foliage and grows to 20 feet tall with a 10-foot spread. The cherry laurel can be grown as a hedge or screen and grows in sites with sun to shade and rich, acidic soil. Cherry laurels tolerate salt spray and are hardy in zones 5 to 9.
The dusty Zenobia (Zenobia pulverulenta) has waxy, grey-green foliage that turns yellow to purple in autumn. This deciduous shrub blooms with bell-shaped, fragrant white flowers in spring and grows to 6 feet tall with a similar spread. The dusty Zenobia is hardy in zones 5 to 9 and grows in sun to light shade and acidic, moist soil.
Choose shade-tolerant shrubs for those hard-to-fill dark spots. The blue or merserve holly (Ilex x meserveae) has waxy, spiny, evergreen leaves that turn from bronze to blue-green as they mature. These shrubs bloom profusely with white flowers in spring and more sparsely in fall. Blue hollies grow to 8 feet tall with an equal spread and thrive in full sun to full shade and moist, well-drained and acidic soil. They are hardy in zones 5 to 8.
The shrubby podocarpus (Podocarpus macrophyllus var. maki) has waxy, dark green needles that grow in a spiral. This evergreen grows to 35 feet tall with a 12-foot spread and blooms with small, white flowers followed by white to purple berries. The shrubby podocarpus tolerates drought, prefers sun to shade and requires well-drained soil. They are hardy in zones 7 to 11.
Some shrubs tolerate a range of sun exposures and soil types. The Japanese euonymus (Euonymus japonicus) has glossy, waxy green leaves. An evergreen, this fast-growing shrub grows to 15 feet with a narrow, 6-foot spread and is hardy in zones 7 to 9. Japanese euonymus bloom with green to white flowers, followed by pink and orange berries. These shrubs tolerate sun to shade and a range of soils.
The Chindo viburnum (Viburnum awabuki "Chindo") has leathery, waxy evergreen foliage and blooms with clusters of white flowers. This shrub grows quickly to 15 feet tall and is hardy in zones 7b to 9. Plant Chindo viburnum in sun to partial shade and any site except for poorly drained.
Well-drained sites do not hold excess water. The Winterthur smooth witherod (Viburnum nudum "Winterthur") has waxy, glossy leaves and grows from 6 to 8 feet tall. The smoother witherod shrub produces clusters of white flowers followed by multicoloured fruits. Plant the Winterthur in sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. They are hardy in zones 5 to 9.
The Chinese hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) has 6-inch long, leathery and waxy foliage. This deciduous shrub blooms with white, pink, yellow and red flowers that can grow up to 8 inches in diameter. The Chinese hibiscus grows to 8 feet tall and prefers full sun and well-drained soil. They are hardy in zones 8 to 11.
- Washington State University; Cherry Laurel; Charles Brun
- Ohio State University: Ilex x Meserveae
- North Carolina State University; Podocarpus Macrophyllus var. Maki; Erv Evans
- North Carolina State University; Zenobia Pulverulenta; Erv Evans
- North Carolina State University; Euonymus Japonicus; Erv Evans
- North Carolina State University; Viburnum Awabuki 'Chindo'; Erv Evans