11 Great Trees and Shrubs With White Flowers

Jun 28, 2019advice

Here’s an informative article by Vanessa Richins Myers on tree and shrub ideas for The Spruce.

11 Wonderful White-Flowering Shrubs and Trees

One of the most glorious sights you can behold is a tree or shrub that has burst into a profusion of white flowers. It brightens up the landscape and signals that spring has finally arrived.

Each of these 11 trees and shrubs has at least one cultivar that will bear white flowers each year. One hint that a cultivar may have white flowers is when the botanical or common names include words like alba, snow, or snowball.

American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)

The American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) is a large shrub that is native across much of eastern North America. It prefers boggy, wet soil and is ideal for large rain gardens. It is a sprawling shrub that spreads by suckering, and it will require pruning to keep it in control. Lemon-scented white flowers appear in clusters in June and July, which are very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. Because of its tendency to spread, American elderberry is best planted where clustering is desired.

  • Latin name: Sambucus canadensis
  • Family: Adoxaceae
  • Other common names: Pie elder, black elderberry, American elder, elder-blow, sweet elder, or simply elderberry
  • Native to: Eastern North America
  • USDA zones: 3 to 10
  • Size: 10 to 15 feet tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade
 White Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia spp)

Angel’s trumpet (Brugsmania candida, Brugmansia suaveolens, and other species) are a group of small- to medium-sized shrubs with multiple stems and large, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. They are tropical plants that must be grown in containers and brought indoors in cold climates. It usually blooms from mid-summer to fall, with large, sweet-smelling flowers up to 12 inches long. Angel’s trumpet can be used as an accent shrub in warm climates, or as a container plant for decks and patios north of zone 9.

  • Latin name: Brugmansia spp.
  • Family: Solanaceae
  • Other common names: Angel star, Brugmansia, and tree datura
  • Native to: South America
  • USDA zones: 9 to 11
  • Size: 6 to 20 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide
  • Exposure: Full sun is best with some afternoon shade in the hotter regions

Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)

Native to eastern North America,  black chokeberry is a smallish, suckering shrub that produces clusters of white, small-petaled flowers in May, followed by berries that ripen to black in fall. Leaves turn an attractive purple/red in fall. It is most often used in group or mass plantings, where its suckering tendency is not a problem. This shrub has a good tolerance for wet conditions.

  • Latin name: Aronia melanocarpa
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Other common names: Aronia, aroniaberry, chokeberry
  • Native to: Eastern North America
  • USDA zones: 3 to 8
  • Size: 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, can be 10 feet wide
  • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Bridal Wreath Spirea (Spiraea prunifolia)

Bridal wreath spirea has a wispy growth habit, with branches that fill with masses of small, double flowers in early spring just before the leaves sprout. It is ideal as a foundation plant or for border plantings. Many varieties turn an attractive shade of yellow, orange, or gold in fall.

  • Latin name: Spiraea prunifolia
  • Family: Rosaceae
  • Other common names: Bridal wreath spirea, popcorn spirea, bridalwreath spirea, shoe button spirea, or just bridalwreath
  • Native to: China, Korea, and Taiwan
  • USDA zones: 5 to 9
  • Size: 4 to 8 feet tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush, native across much of North America, is a medium- to large-sized shrub with an open, rounded growth habit. It produces unusual pin-cushion flowers in June that are attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. It has a good tolerance for moist and wet soils, making it a good choice for rain gardens and around water features. It is also popular for naturalizing in woodland garden settings.

  • Latin name: Cephalanthus occidentalis
  • Family: Rubiaceae
  • Other common names: Jazmin, pinball, crouperbrush, crane willow, river-brush, rosa de Juan, Spanish pincushion, swampwood, an, little snowball, pond-dogwood, button-willow, button-wood, common button-bush, riverbush, globeflowers, honey-bells, and common buttonbush
  • Native to: North America
  • USDA zones: 5 to 10
  • Size: 3 to 20 feet tall and 4 to 14 feet wide
  • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Carolina Silverbell (Halesia carolina)

Native to the Southeast U.S., the Carolina silverbell is a small- to medium-sized landscape tree that produces small bell-shaped white flowers in April, just before or simultaneously with the leaves sprouting. Fall foliage is an attractive yellowish-green but drops early. Azaleas and rhododendrons grow well beneath a Carolina silverbell.

  • Latin name: Halesia carolina
  • Family: Styracaceae
  • Other common names: Silver bell, little silverbells, snowdrop-tree, opossum-wood, common silverbell , and mountain silverbell
  • Native to: Southeastern United States
  • USDA zones: 4 to 8
  • Height: 15 to 60 feet tall, more commonly to 35 feet
  • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Fringe Tree (Chionanthus virginicus)

Fringe tree is a shrub or small tree native to the Eastern U.S. It produces 4- to 6-inch-long clusters of creamy white flowers with fringe-like petals in May and June. The flowers give way to bluish-black fruits in mid-summer, which attract birds. The spear-shaped leaves turn yellow in fall. Fringe tree prefers moist soils, but tolerates most soil types. This is a low-maintenance tree that has a good tolerance for air pollution and urban environments. Fringe tree is often grown in small groups, or as an individual specimen tree in the lawn.

  • Latin name: Chionanthus virginicus
  • Family: Oleaceae
  • Other common names: White fringe tree, old man’s beard, and Grancy Greybeard 
  • Native to: Eastern United States
  • USDA zones: 3 to 9
  • Size: 12 to 20 feet tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Giant Dogwood (Cornus controversa)

Giant dogwood, as the name suggests, is one of the larger Cornus species. Native to Japan and China, it produced flattened clusters of creamy-white flowers in May and June, giving way to bluish-black fruit that ripens in late summer. The fall foliage is not notable. Giant dogwood is normally used as a lawn tree.

  • Latin name: Cornus controversa
  • Family: Cornaceae
  • Other common names: Wedding cake tree
  • Native to: China, the Himalayas, Japan and Taiwan
  • USDA zones: 5 to 8
  • Size: 20 to 50 feet tall and 20 to 40 feet tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
  • Growing profile for the giant dogwood

Kobus Magnolia (Magnolia kobus)

  • Kobus magnolia is a small tree (or large shrub) that produces its 4-inch cup-shaped white flowers in March, well before the leaves appear. This is a slow-growing plant that is pyramidal in shape when young but grows gradually to a spreading, rounded form. Seed pods open in fall, and birds are attracted to the seeds as food. The fall foliage is unremarkable. Kobus magnolia is most often grown as a small specimen tree in the lawn, but because it grows slowly, plants are sometimes grouped in screen hedges on large properties.

    • Latin name: Magnolia kobus
    • Family: Magnoliaceae
    • Other common names: Kobushi magnolia and northern Japanese magnolia
    • Native to: Japan
    • USDA zones: 5 to 8
    • Size: 25 to 30 feet tall (occasionally 40 feet)
    • Exposure: Full sun to partial shade


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