Horticulture Magazine

12 Yellow-Flowering Shrubs For Bold Garden Colour

yellow witch hazel shrubs

Cultivate some cheer and charm in your garden with these yellow flowering shrubs.

There aren’t many colours that are brighter or more joyful than yellow. Whatever background it adorns, yellow seems to bring a burst of optimism and happiness to proceedings, which can make it an ideal addition to your back yard. Although it will slot in seamlessly alongside any existing colour scheme, it lends itself particularly well to the lush greenery of foliage and the dark brown of timber.

Shrubs are a great way to introduce some yellow into your garden, since they are generally quite resilient to the vagaries of the Great British climate, highly versatile in their shapes and sizes and bring a tiered aesthetic to their surroundings. The selection of yellow flowering shrubs below have been chosen for their aptitude for growing in the UK, their ease of cultivation and the various attributes they offer.

Twelve picks to add vibrant vim to your garden

1) Azalea

yellow flowering Rhododendron luteum
Rhododendron luteum

Azaleas are versatile shrubs that can be either deciduous or evergreen, depending upon the particular genus grown. They also offer a spectrum of different yellows which vary from species to species. The rhododendron luteum pictured above, for example, produces delicately yellow flowers with a tinge of green, while others like golden oriole take on a lemonier hue, sometimes inflected with flashes of orange or white.

Whichever azalea you plump for, remember that they do best in acidic soil and will enjoy a fair amount of sunlight. If growing in the south of England, however, you may wish to transplant them to a shadier spot of the garden, since excessive heat can be detrimental to their growth. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some non-native strains (such as sweet pontica) are considered invasive, meaning you’ll need to keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t encroach on its neighbours’ territory.

2) Cotton lavender

cotton lavender growing in large clumps
Santolina chamaecyparissus

Cotton lavender is quite the head-turner. The monochrome of its silver-green foliage, which will stay strong all year round, is perfectly set off by the bright yellow blossoms of late spring and early summer. What’s more, those blooms take the form of sponge-like globes, while the leaves can look different depending on the time of day; what resembled glistening metal in the midday sun can adopt an almost bluish hue at dusk, making it truly stand out from the pack.

Cotton lavender generally grows up to just over half a metre in height and just under a metre in spread, making it more of a ground cover solution than a privacy screen. It favours slightly alkaline soil (so areas which enjoy reduced rainfall) and prefers good drainage, which are two of the factors that make it resistant to drought. Having said that, it will still appreciate regular watering in its infancy to allow the roots to take hold.

3) Forsythia

forsythia bushes

One of the earliest blooming shrubs available, forsythia is a sight for sore eyes among the horticultural community, since its arrival signals the demise of winter. There are a wide variety of different types of forsythia available, though all are characterised by their long, spindly branches teeming with bright yellow flowers. The shrub does produce verdant foliage, as well, but the leaves are invariably preceded by the blossoms, affording you unobstructed visual access to them.

Forsythia are one of the more sizable options on this list and can grow up to three metres in height, which makes them perfect for those looking for a tree-like shrub to screen their garden or obscure a wall or fence. They aren’t recommended for use as a hedge, however, since they have a tendency to grow quite unruly. They’ll thrive in sunlight and require minimal maintenance, other than occasional pruning to keep that aforementioned unruliness in check.

4) Japanese rose

yellow Kerria japonica in spring
Kerria japonica

Despite the name, this impressive shrub doesn’t actually produce roses. Its blooms are none the poorer for that fact, however, with both single- and double-blossoming varieties available. The flowers themselves are much more delicate than a traditional rose, while the dainty green leaves which grow behind them are the perfect complement and will last all year round. If you do plump for a double-bloomer, ensure you prune after the first blossoms have withered away to create a more impactful display second time around.

Aside from their vibrant colour scheme, Japanese rose bushes are prized for the informality and creativity of its shape. It is possible to train the shrub into a hedge, but it’s not advised, since it will require a significant amount of hard work and negates the pleasure of watching the plant develop in its own, inimitable way. It can exceed even forsythia in size, however, so be mindful of its potential when planting.

5) Lydian broom

a wall of Genista lydia
Genista Lydia

This prolific flowerer is reminiscent of its cousin, the common broom (sometimes known as Scotch broom), which grows in plentiful supply throughout Scotland. Like its northern relative, Lydian broom can be considered invasive, so it’s imperative to make sure it doesn’t sprawl out of control. However, the rewards of proper maintenance are clear for all to see.

As the photograph above amply demonstrates, the blossoms on a Lydian broom are so plentiful that they actually crowd out almost all of the tiny green leaves behind them. The shrub never gains too much ground clearance – around half a metre, in general, which makes it ideal for use as ground cover or as part of a rockery. It’ll do best in sandy soils which drain quickly, since an overabundance of water will inhibit its growth (which is, incidentally, a top tip for bringing it to heel if it does start to encroach upon neighbouring plants).

6) Magnolia Yellow River

large flowers of Chinese Magnolia denudata
Magnolia denudata

This deciduous plant hails from China and is also known as Fei Huang. It is, strictly speaking, a tree, but can also be cultivated as a large shrub with careful pruning, and will produce dramatic displays of buttery yellow blossoms each spring. Like forsythia, magnolia yellow river blooms well before the foliage appears, meaning the goblet-like flowers provide a brilliant contrast to the naked branches as the seasons begin to turn. As well as being easy on the eye, they also produce a delightful fragrance, as well.

It thrives in both full and partial sun, though it doesn’t like to be depraved of UV radiation altogether. It’s fairly hardy and will handle most soils without a problem, while it can exceed four metres in both height and spread, so it’s a good idea to plant it in a location where it has the space to expand.

7) Mahonia

Mahonia x media in bloom
Mahonia x media

Mahonia is an eye-catching shrub that comes in many varieties. The mahonia x media strain pictured above is often known as Oregon Grape and produces distinctive holly-like leaves that fan away from its centre, while spiny stems bearing clusters of tiny yellow flowers burst upwards. The blossoms are followed by purple berries, as well, which are edible but carry an excessively sour taste that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Mahonia can reach up to four metres in height and a similar radius in spread, meaning it’s another yellow flowering shrub which likes its own space and doesn’t have much respect for that of others. Due to its size, it’s best used as a backdrop against a fence or wall, with some smaller plants in front to provide a pleasing contrast.

8) Potentilla

Potentilla fruticosa in a cottage garden
Potentilla fruticosa

Instantly recognisable by its buttercup-like blossoms and masses of stark green foliage, potentilla is another plant which comes in a wide variety of different types. It’s also known as shrubby cinquefoil and offers a more understated option for gardeners looking for a less ostentatious display, since the yellow of the flowers is far outnumbered by the green of the leaves. It should be remembered, however, that it’s a deciduous species, meaning it can look quite forlorn during the winter.

Potentilla is on the smaller side of the shrubs in this selection, meaning it’s ideal as part of a border which will add subtle accents but won’t hog all the attention. It’s also a great choice for UK gardens due to its ability to hold up even under the most inclement conditions and isn’t fussy when it comes to soil types, though it does demand decent drainage.

9) Rose bush

yellow roses growing in a garden
Rosa auspoly

A flower which needs little introduction, the humble rose is the darling of the gardening world. In horticultural language, yellow roses are supposed to signify joy and friendship, so planting them in abundance in your back yard should theoretically bring you plenty of both! There are, again, many strains to choose from, but all will impart a delicate beauty and a timeless charm to whatever surroundings they inhabit.

They’re deciduous creatures, flowering from late spring throughout summer and even into autumn, and it’s one of life’s most exquisite pleasures to witness a rose unfurl itself in all its loveliness come blooming time. As with all types of rose bush, it’s best to deadhead them regularly in order to promote continual displays, while careful pruning every spring will ensure they keep coming back every year.

10) St John’s wort

bright yellow Hypericum perforatum
Hypericum perforatum

If you prefer a medium-sized shrub with fewer (but larger) flowers, St John’s wort is likely the ideal choice for you. This dazzling specimen has dark green leaves topped off by a rich golden flowerhead, with delicate tendrils at its centre that draw the eye – and draw the attention of bees, butterflies and other pollinators. As such, it’s an excellent plant for encouraging biodiversity in your back yard.

Some varieties of the plant are prolific self-seeders and considered semi-invasive, so be mindful of staying on top of its cultivation to prevent it taking over your back yard. Having said that, not all species pose the same risks and given that the plant requires little in the way of encouragement, it’s a relatively hassle-free option that provides great contrast and colour.

11) Sun king

yellow hanging flowers of Sophora microphylla
Sophora microphylla

This tall, broad shrub is quite unique on this list due to the downward-facing nature of its flowerheads. The plant is characterised by sprouting stems, off which pairs of dark green glossy leaves spring, while the lengthy yellow anthers of the flower droop in the direction of the ground. It’s also a winter bloomer, which is yet another distinction from the majority of other yellow flowering shrubs, making it a great choice if you wish to spruce up your displays in the colder months.

As the name suggests, Sun king prefers full exposure to the sun and will struggle if it’s kept even in partial shade. It does best in light, sandy soil that enjoys excellent drainage, while it can be easily propagated by pruning and grafting towards the end of the calendar year. It’s capable of growing up to three metres in both height and spread, so position it in your garden accordingly.

12) Witch hazel

witch hazel flowers
Hamamelis x intermedia

This distinctive shrub is another early bloomer, with its flowers appearing at the tail end of winter or in the early spring. The blossoms themselves are quite unlike any other; instead of the oversized petals or plentiful clusters of some of the other plants mentioned above, witch hazel features reddish brown spheres, off which long, thin and curling petals emerge. It also carries its own “dry” scent, which can complement other, more potent aromas in the garden well.

Witch hazels carry something of a reputation for being tricky to cultivate, but as long as you plant them in a spot that receives plenty of sunlight, they should do well. They prefer soil that’s on the acidic side, but you can compensate for that by loading neutral terrain with organic matter. Some cultivars promise an excellent display during the autumn months, while the cuttings will look very attractive arranged in a pot indoors.

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