White is the lightest colour, associated with all manner of noble concepts like innocence, sacrifice, cleanliness, and purity.
From the White Cliffs of Dover to the proud white granite facades of famous buildings of antiquity, the colour holds a special place in our culture. It also occurs frequently in nature, with some of the most beautiful plants and flowers boasting crisp white petals and blooms.
If you’re looking for white flowering shrubs and bushes to grow in your garden, it can be an overwhelming task. The Royal Horticultural Society’s (RHS) plant finder tool lists over seven hundred options for plants with those criteria, for example. With this in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the prettiest and most rewarding white flowering shrubs. After browsing the list below you should have a firmer idea of which options are available.
How we chose
We wanted to include a selection of plants that would appeal to as many gardeners as possible. In the list you’ll find some common names, but you’ll also find flowers less familiar to the beginner gardener.
While reading, try to get a feel for what you’re looking for in your garden. Do you want a pure white bloom to stand alone and invite the gaze? Or do you want a textured white backdrop to set bring out the best in a medley of colourful plants growing in front of it? Depending on your vision for the space, the properties and palette of the flowers most suited to your needs will vary.
Each of the white flowering bushes in this list has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM), indicating particular suitability for growth in British gardens. We wanted our list to be practical and actionable, rather than abstract. So instead of beautiful white flowers that don’t have a chance of actually growing in your garden, below you’ll find thirteen candidates that can not only grow, but thrive in the UK.
1. Paeonia lactiflora / Peony ‘Whitleyi Major’
These proud white-cupped peonies are eye-catching and undeniably attractive. Centred around bold yellow stamens, the white petals really come into their own. Sometimes it takes a strong colour to bring the best out of white petals, and peony ‘Whitleyi Major’ is a perfect example. In the spring you’ll also enjoy a red tint to the foliage, lending another visual element to these fine flowers.
This peony likes full sun or partial shade, and will grow to height of around a metre over a few years. It’s not fussy with soil type or acidity, but prefers moist, well-drained conditions. Be aware that this plant is toxic to humans, and cause gastrointestinal upset if eaten!
2. Hydrangea serrata ‘Beni-yama’
Hydrangeas are a familiar site in British gardens, with blue, pink, and white being the prominent colour palette. While we love them all, it’s hard to deny the subtle charm of the Beni-yama. Here you’ll find flat open flowers in a perimeter around a smaller cluster of closed ones. Taken together, it’s an inviting and thought-provoking bloom.
This plant flowers in late summer and early autumn, extending the season of visual interest in spring- or summer-heavy gardens. It’ll thrive in full sun or partial shade, sheltered from the elements, and in clay or loam. Moist, well-drained soil is important too, and avoid alkali soil. Over a period of five or so years, your hydrangea bush should reach its full height of about a metre squared.
3. Rhododendron ‘Dora Amateis’
Another common contender in British gardens, rhododendrons come in an exciting array of colours, shapes, and sizes. Dora Amateis takes the cake for white rhododendrons, however. In spring your bush will erupt into a fanfare of white, whose brevity more than makes up for its beauty. Combined with another later-flowering white bush, this rhododendron variety will make a fantastic visual contribution to your garden.
For best results, grow in partial shade and ensure the plant is sheltered from the worst of the weather. Avoid chalky soil, as well as neutral or alkali planting locations. The timeframe and eventual size is similar to the Hydrangea above: Five years or so to reach a maximum size of about a meter squared.
4. Cotoneaster conspicuus / Tibetan cotoneaster ‘Decorus’
Each summer, every bough of your Tibetan cotoneaster will burst forth with hundreds of tiny white flowers. Then, as summer fades away and autumn sets in, wildly bright red berries will take their place. Combined, the two provide a majestic visual. If you’re looking for a white bush that provides a large volume of flowers, this is a good option.
Grow in full sun or partial shade, and enjoy working with a plant that’s not too fussy with soil conditions, as long as it’s well-drained. Your wait time for a full sized plant is a little longer than others in this list: It’ll take at least ten years to hit full size, probably a few more.
5. Argyranthemum / Marguerite ‘Donington Hero’
If you enjoy the wildflower aesthetic, with lots of intrepid white flowers poking forth from a dense green bush, then you’ll love the Donington Hero. Each flower is a line-up of white petals dancing around a vibrant yellow centre, simultaneously bringing to mind calmness, peace, sunshine, and many other things you’ll want to define your garden.
This plant loves full sun and a well-sheltered position, and will be happy in any soil except chalk, provided it’s sufficiently drained. Compared to the previous couple of plants, this will get established quickly. Expect to wait a year or two for a full-sized plant.
6. Rhododendron ‘Loder’s White’
Another rhododendron, this time with flowers which sometimes boast a delicate pink tint alongside their characteristic whiteness. We’ve included this flower in our list because it’s a great reminder that real beauty in gardens is often achieved when colours are used to draw out the best in each other, creating striking harmonies between different shapes, sizes, colours, and hues. Seeing such displays dance gently in the wind, maybe with a few bees and butterflies thrown into the mixture for good measure, is what gardening is all about. And Loder’s White is exactly the kind of flower that performs well in such ensembles.
This flower likes partial shade and good shelter, and won’t grow too well in chalk soil. It prefers acidic soil that’s moist and well-drained, and will take about 15 years to grow to its full size.
7. Enkianthus campanulatus
If big, brash flowers aren’t up your street, then perhaps you’ll enjoy the dainty and intricate bloom of the Enkianthus campanulatus. These lantern-like flowers hang in small clusters beneath rich green leaves, with light green stems creating a balance between the two. It’s a treat to behold. Then, in spring, summer, and autumn, you see little flourishes of orange, red, and yellow. All in all, this is a beautiful and rewarding plant.
This bush can grow to a full size upwards of four metres, and will take at least twenty years to get there – perhaps one or two decades more! Make sure to consider this fact when planting the bush, as you’ll be in it for the long haul.
8. Tulip ‘Lady Jane’
Tulips are one of the most popular flowers for a reason. Their striking beauty and delicate scent encapsulate everything a flower should. Lady Jane is a fantastic choice for gardeners looking to bring the magic of tulips into their garden, for several reasons: They’re fairly easy to grow, distinctly characteristic, and moving through a series of captivating hues centred around a brilliant white.
Plant in full sun with shelter against the worst of the weather and ensuring well-drained soil, and you’ll be quickly rewarded by a wonderful white bloom.
9. Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’ / Red guelder rose
The guelder rose is neither a rose, nor are its flowers red. The name refers to a region of the Netherlands where a popular cultivar, the snowball, was developed. This cultivar achieves a stunning bloom of white flowers, nestled against each other in a compact globe. It’s a sight to behold, and what better place to behold it than in your own garden!
In autumn, the white flowers will give way to a striking burst of bright red berries whose size and shape resembles cranberries. This beautiful bush isn’t fussy with aspect, exposure, sunlight, soil type, or pH. Little wonder it’s received the RHS AGM, as it’s a popular choice for beginner gardeners looking for something pretty but easy to grow.
10. Magnolia stellata / Star magnolia ‘Centennial’
Another common name in lists of popular flowers, magnolia carries a certain amount of star power at the best of times. This variety, the star magnolia ‘Centennial’, condenses the astral appeal of the plant: Bright, illuminating white blooms that stand aloft on tall branches, casting their radiant glow onto everything beneath. And while we may be taking liberties with grand poetic descriptions of plants, the white flowers of this magnolia cultivar will definitely hold up to scrutiny.
In full sun or partial shade, and with shelter against the elements, the Centennial will grow to a size of around 2.5 by 4 metres, over a period of about 15 years.
11. Hyacinth ‘L’Innocence’
L’innocence alludes to white’s associations with innocence, purity, and similar concepts. The airy white flowers with light dustings of yellow in the centre grow vertically around a central core, creating an inviting and appealing aesthetic. While the season of visual interest is short – just one bloom in spring – hyacinths can be replanted to encourage ongoing growth year after year. Their scent is something to behold, too: It announces, without any ambiguity, that spring has arrived, and is here to stay.
This variety of hyacinth grows best in full sun or partial shade, with good shelter. It’s not fussy with soil type or acidity, as long as the soil is well-drained.
12. Erica lusitanica / Portugal heath
Another plant with a strong vertical aesthetic, Portugal heath enjoys showy clusters of lantern-like flowers, draping languorously from green boughs. Their listless, lilting energy are the perfect visual accompaniment to a warm, hazy spring day, where there’s nothing more appealing than sitting, basking in the sun, and watching the world go by.
Thriving in full sun, this plant definitely aligns well with spring. Growing well in anything except chalky, acidic soil, Portugal heath will take between five and ten years to reach its maximum spread of 2.5×1 metres.
13. Spiraea nipponica / Tosa spirea ‘Snowmound’
The clusters of white flowers that make snowmound so charming are a pleasure to behold. Densely packed but not cramped, and nestled amongst deep green leaves, it’s a bush with a lot to offer visually in your garden. This variety is favoured by bees and other pollinators, meaning you’ll get to enjoy watching their buzzy business unfold whenever the weather allows for it. For us, flowers that invite life to your garden are amongst our favourites. They’re a reminder that gardens are more than just sideshows to look at – they’re rich, active ecosystems where flora and fauna interact and support each other in a beautiful dance.
In a spot with full sun or partial shade, where soil is anything but chalky, this plant will take hold in a British garden. Over a decade or so, the plant will approach its full size of about 2.5 metres squared.
It’s going to be all white
Thanks for reading our guide. By this point, you should feel inspired by the wide array of beautiful white shrubs and bushes on offer to UK gardeners. Whether you go for a bold and majestic rose or peony, or something a little more unusual like a Tibetan Cotoneaster, your garden is sure to benefit from the clean, crisp aesthetic that white flowers bring.
Whether you create an all-white flower bed, or employ white as a neutral backdrop to provide the contrast that will set other colours alight in your garden, we guarantee you’ll be able to achieve some truly gorgeous arrangements.
And remember: If a plant isn’t included in this list, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good fit for British gardens. We wanted to provide a starting point to inspire gardeners. A list of plants that could act as a springboard into the hundreds of plants available. If you didn’t find anything in this list to fit with your gardening goals and vision, then keep looking! The perfect flower is out there somewhere, waiting for you to discover it.