General gardening topics

10 Beautiful Yellow Flowering Shrubs

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As a professional gardener and nurseryman with over 20 years of hands-on experience, I’ve noticed yellow flowering shrubs have always been a popular request. This is especially true in Spring when shrubs like Forsythia, Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’, and Kerria japonica can appear to be the only shrub flowers along with stunning spring bulbs.

mahonia japonica ideal for screening and autumn winter colour
Mahonia is perfect for planing in a shady position

With this in mind, in this guide, I thought I would focus on shrubs that bring warmth and brightness to any landscape: yellow flowering shrubs.

I’ve always said that shrubs are the centre of a well-structured garden. In this guide, I’ve included some of my favourite evergreen varieties, such as Berberis ‘Darwinii’, a perfect choice for hedging or as a large shrub.

Magnolia 'Yellow Bird' in  my garden
Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’ in my garden

However, some of my favourite yellow flowering shrubs aren’t limited to evergreens. I am particularly fond of some of the earlier flowering shrubs like Forsythia, which also makes a great hedge or large shrub; Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, perfect for a shady position; and Kerria japonica, which is perfect for bridging the gap between the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. Many of these yellow flowering shrubs offer the first glimpses of colour, just as the spring bulbs, including daffodils, are coming into their own.

Azalea mollis luteum - spring flowering yellow flowering shrub for small gardens
Azalea mollis ‘Luteum’.

In my guide, I’ll also talk about some of my other favourite yellow-flowering plants, including the majestic Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’, a stunning tree that is a focal point in my own garden. Alongside, the silver-foliaged Santolina chamaecyparissus, the vibrant Azalea mollis ‘Luteum’.

1. Forsythia

Forsythias are part of the olive family and regardless of the species you choose, you can find beautiful, and overwhelming bright yellow flowers which make a hedge stand out in any garden but also work well as a specimen shrub.
Forsythia
  • Growing Conditions: It’s a low-maintenance, hardy plant ideal for adding reliable spring colour. Adaptable to a variety of well-drained soils, including clay, sandy, and loamy soil, and tolerates a range of pH levels. While drought-tolerant, once established, it benefits from consistent moisture for best growth and flowering.
  • Position and Aspect: Best flowering when positioned in full sun, but can still thrive in partial shade with potentially fewer flowers. Forsythia works well as a specimen shrub, in borders, or even as a hedging shrub.
  • Eventual Size: Grows to 1-2.5 meters (3-8 feet) in height and width, with a fast growth rate.
  • Pruning and Care: Prune immediately after flowering to maintain shape and ensure flowers for the following year, as they flower on the previous year’s growth.

Forsythias are deciduous flowering shrubs that have long branches, each of which will overflow with yellow blooms in the spring. They offer a very cheerful backdrop to any garden and when they reach peak maturity they grow to be incredibly tall but only ever so slightly wide. This makes them perfect for areas in the garden where you want a tree-like shrub and any area that is in full sun.

They require well-drained soil and they are tolerant of acidic to alkaline soil levels so you won’t need to modify your existing space very much. The flowers actually precede the leaves, meaning you will get beautiful yellow flowers long before the leaves give you a vibrant green shade.

Given that there isn’t much particularly astounding about the plant after the yellow flowers, it is best to have it paired with other late bloomers that can compensate when the yellow flowers have fulfilled their seasonal existence.

Forsythia
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2. Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’ – Oregon Grape

evergreen shrub is known for its bright yellow flowers which are sometimes fragrant which are followed by black or purple berries. It's an evergreen shrub with spine-toothed thick leathery leaves so provides all year round interest and growing to around 1.5 meters tall doesn't grow too large. It does prefer well-drained soil but does grow well in clay so the soil may need to be improved a little to ensure adequate drainage.
Mahonia x media ‘Charity’ (Oregon grape)
  • Growing Conditions: Prefers moist, well-drained soil and can adapt to a variety of soil types, including clay, sandy, and loamy soils. It tolerates a range of pH levels from acidic to alkaline. This Mahonia variety is known for its low maintenance needs.
  • Position and Aspect: It thrives best in partial shade but can tolerate full sun if the soil remains consistently moist. ‘Winter Sun’ is an excellent choice for shaded underplantings or woodland gardens, offering bright colour in winter when few other plants are flowering.
  • Eventual Size: Typically grows to about 1.5-2.5 meters (5-8 feet) in height and 1.2-1.5 meters (4-5 feet) wide. Its upright growth habit makes it a striking specimen plant.
  • Pruning and Care: Minimal pruning required. If needed, lightly prune after flowering to shape or maintain size. Benefits from a mulch layer to retain soil moisture and protect roots in colder positions. An annual application of a balanced fertilizer in late winter or early spring can support vigorous growth and abundant flowering.

For stunning yellow and green foliage, the Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ (commonly known as Oregon Grape) is an evergreen shrub that offers leathery leaves adorned with fragrant yellow flowers and followed thereafter with purple berries.

It is an upright evergreen shrub and each of the leaves it produces is composed of spine tooth leaflets and the subsequent cup-shaped flowers. As such, it will easily fill a large space, both in height and width.

The Mahonia can reach up to four metres in height and spread by the time it reaches full maturity so it is recommended to plant them in an area where you can allow it to grow properly. It does best in partial shade or full sun. In the autumn (to spring) it produces yellow flowers and will add some interest when not much else is happening. It grows best in smaller gardens in flowerbeds towards the back with some smaller contrasting plants in front.


3. Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’

Magnolia yellow river which is a yellow flowering shrub/small tree
  • Growing Conditions: Magnolia ‘Yellow Bird’ prefers moist, well-drained, acidic to neutral soil. It can be planted in soil types, including loamy, sandy, and clay soils, but thrives in rich, fertile conditions. Regular watering is important, especially when buds are developing in spring during dry spells.
  • Position and Aspect: Grows best in full sun and partial shade. A sunny position encourages the best display of flowers. It’s suitable for use as a specimen tree.
  • Eventual Size: Grows to about 10-12 meters (30-40 feet) in height with a spread of 6-8 meters (20-25 feet). Its upright and pyramidal growth habit makes it a prominent feature in the garden.
  • Pruning and Care: Minimal pruning is needed to remove dead or damaged branches and maintain their shape and size. Pruning should be done after flowering to avoid cutting off next year’s buds. Mulching helps retain soil moisture and protect the roots.

This particular variety of deciduous tree brings with it a buttery yellow flower, not as bright as other options on this list, but still stunning. These softer yellow flowers are upright and goblet-shaped with a sweet fragrance.

As they open and reach full maturity, the flowers can grow up to 15cm in size and look very similar to lilies. They fade to a softer cream colour at the tips with time but maintain a rich, buttery yellow at the base. It does bloom late in the season, so you don’t need to worry about late frost damaging any potential blossoms. It will reach up to 5 metres tall and wide and grows best in slightly acidic, rich soil. A stunning, unusual tree.


4. Santolina chamaecyparissus – Cotton Lavender

For those of you interested in adding yellow colour to your garden but maintaining a unique colour spread in an otherwise monochromatic green world the rest of the year, the lavender cotton plant is the perfect solution.
Santolina chamaecyparissus (Cotton lavender)
  • Growing Conditions: Prefers well-drained soil and is tolerant of poor soils. It thrives in a dry, low-fertility environment and is highly drought-tolerant once established.
  • Position and Aspect: It thrives in full sun and is well-suited for a sunny border, rock garden, or as part of a Mediterranean or drought-tolerant garden design.
  • Eventual Size: Grows to about 30-60 cm (12-24 inches) in height and spread. Its compact and rounded habit makes it an excellent choice for edging paths, forming low hedges, or creating mass plantings for ground cover.
  • Pruning and Care: Pruning is essential to maintain its dense, compact shape and to encourage new growth. It’s best pruned in early spring before new growth begins or immediately after flowering to keep it tidy. Minimal watering is needed once established, and it requires little to no feed.

For those interested in adding the colour yellow to your garden but want to maintain a unique colour spread in an otherwise monochromatic green world the rest of the year, the Cotton Lavender plant is the perfect solution.

The Santolina is favoured in many Mediterranean gardens because it is not only evergreen with bright yellow flowers, but it produces silvery grey-green foliage throughout the year. It produces its eye-catching flowers in late spring to the early summer; each yellow flower is bright in colour and shaped similarly to a button. It can reach up to 60cm tall and 90cm wide which makes it better suited for creating dense mounds and not necessarily tall privacy screens. Being evergreen, it’s also perfect for ground cover.


5. Azalea mollis Luteum – Sweet Pontica Azalea

Azalea mollis luteum - spring flowering yellow flowering shrub
Azalea mollis luteum (sweet pontica azalea)
  • Growing Conditions: Azalea mollis ‘Luteum’ prefers moist, well-drained, acidic soil. It thrives in humus-rich soil and benefits from a layer of mulch to retain soil moisture and protect the roots. Regular watering is essential, especially in dry conditions, to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged to help bud development early on.
  • Position and Aspect: Grows best in partial shade but can tolerate full sun if the soil is moist. Perfect for woodland gardens, mixed borders, or as a specimen plant, providing vibrant colour and fragrance in spring. It also grows well in pots and containers.
  • Eventual Size: Typically grows to about 1.5-2.5 meters (5-8 feet) in height and spread.
  • Pruning and Care: Minimal pruning is needed. Remove dead or diseased branches and maintain shape. Pruning should be done immediately after flowering to avoid removing next year’s buds. Fertilize annually in early spring with an ericaceous plant feed to promote healthy growth and vibrant blooms.

This particular Azalea is given its name because of the beautiful yellow flowers it produces, along with its sweet fragrance. The small flowers take on a funnel shape and offer beautiful colour in the springtime.

The flowers themselves are very small, but the bush can grow to be 4 metres tall. The foliage colour changes throughout the autumn so that after the yellow flowers have run their course, you will still get a beautiful mixture of reds, purples and oranges throughout the remainder of the year. This is considered an invasive, non-native species so you will need to take care that it is correctly pruned annually.


6. Kerria japonica – Japanese Rose

Kerria Japonica - The Japanese rose does not actually produce roses but the yellow flowers it offers grow out in a spindly form across multiple branches and look like small cotton balls of yellow. The yellow flowers produced in the springtime and subsequently in the summer can bloom for weeks on end before the second blooming season begins.
Kerria Japonica (Japanese Rose)
  • Growing Conditions: Prefers well-drained, moist soil and can be grown in a variety of soil types, including loamy, sandy, and clay soils. It tolerates different pH levels, from acidic to neutral to alkaline. It thrives best in moist soil but is relatively drought-tolerant once established.
  • Position and Aspect: Thrives in full sun to partial shade. While it can grow in full sun, Kerria japonica often thrives better and has more vibrant flowers in partial shade.
  • Eventual Size: Grows to around 1-2.5 meters (3-8 feet) in height and spread.
  • Pruning and Care: Prune to maintain its shape and encourage healthy growth. It’s best to prune immediately after flowering, removing old wood to stimulate new growth that will produce next season’s flowers.

The Japanese Rose doesn’t produce roses; the yellow flowers it offers grow out in a spindly form across multiple branches and look like small cotton balls. The yellow flowers produced in the spring and summer can bloom for weeks before the second flowering season begins.

What is most exciting is not just the yellow flowers that you get, but also its natural shape. It grows in very loose, informal structures so it makes for a wonderful specimen shrub but is not necessarily effective as a formal hedge. The amount of pruning required to shape this bush into a hedge would detract from the enjoyable natural shape it likes to assume.

The blooms produced in spring are on old wood, so you need to prune just after the spring flowering comes to an end. However, remember that a second flowering later in the season is not unusual. If this happens and you have yet to prune, you will need to wait until the following season to do so.


7. Hypericum Hidcote – St. John’s Wort

Growing Hypericum Hidcote
Hypericum Hidcote (St. John’s Wort)
  • Growing Conditions: Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ thrives in well-drained soil in various soil types, including clay, sandy, and loamy soils. It prefers full sun to partial shade.
  • Position and Aspect: Grows best in full sun to partial shade. Ideal for borders, cottage gardens, or as a low-growing hedge flowering from mid-summer to early fall.
  • Eventual Size: Typically reaches a height and spread of about 1-1.5 meters (3-5 feet).
  • Pruning and Care: Prune in early spring to remove any dead or damaged wood and to maintain shape. Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ is relatively low maintenance, requiring minimal care once established.

Anyone looking for larger flowers and a medium-sized bush rather than clusters of smaller flowers would do well to consider Saint John’s Wort. The St. John’s Wort produces yellow flowers whose shade doesn’t have the golden brassiness of shrubs like Forsythias, and instead, it takes on a lighter, richer golden yellow that not only manifests in the form of the five petals but the centre of the flower that not only draws the attention of your eye but also to many wonderful guests to the garden like bees and butterflies.


8. Berberis darwinii – Darwin’s Barberry

Berberis darwinii can be light pruned after flowering in spring to remove dead flowers
Berberis darwinii (Darwin’s Barberry)
  • Growing Conditions: Berberis ‘darwinii’ thrives in well-drained soil in a wide range of soil types, including clay, sandy, and loamy soils. Prefers full sun to partial shade and tolerates a range of pH levels, from acidic to slightly alkaline.
  • Position and Aspect: Grows best in full sun, produces vibrant yellow flowers and can also grow well in partial shade. It is ideal for hedges, screens, or as a specimen plant, offering year-round interest with its evergreen foliage.
  • Eventual Size: Grows to about 2-3 meters (6-10 feet) in height and spread. Its dense, spiny branches make it an effective barrier plant for security or as a privacy screen.
  • Pruning and Care: Prune in late winter or early spring to shape or maintain size and to remove any dead or damaged branches.

Standing tall and proud with its unique shape and colour, Darwin’s Barberry is an evergreen bush that gets smothered with clusters of tangerine buds growing on red stems that open into the form of vibrant orange-yellow coloured flowers. The foliage remains dark green, offering a very striking floral design.

The flowers grow in clusters that hang downwards, taking on the shape of a bell or an urn. They are small in shape but very shiny. At its full maturity, this plant will reach a height of 1.5 metres with a spread of 1.2 metres on average.

It requires full sun or very light shade, and once it gets established, it is exceptionally drought tolerant. It will attract bees, birds and butterflies with its early spring flowers, and it is resistant to deer.


9. Potentilla ‘Goldfinger’ – Shrubby Cinquefoil ‘Goldfinger’

The potentilla Goldfinger is not nearly as ostentatious in terms of its flowers as some of the other plants on this list so it is ideal for a more reserved garden space where you still want yellow flowers but yellow flowers that are spread out across the vastness of the plant and not clustered together in dense groups.
Potentilla ‘goldfinger’ (shrubby cinquefoil ‘Goldfinger’)
  • Growing Conditions: Prefers well-drained soil in a variety of soil types, including sandy, loamy, and clay soils. It grows well in both acidic and alkaline pH levels. Drought-tolerant once established and thrives with minimal care, making it suitable for low-maintenance gardens.
  • Position and Aspect: Grows best in full sun but can tolerate partial shade, but flowers best in a sunny position. Ideal for mixed borders or as a low hedge, providing bright yellow flowers from late spring into early autumn.
  • Eventual Size: Grows to about 0.9-1.2 meters (3-4 feet) in height and spread. Its compact, bushy habit makes it a good choice for various planting scheams.
  • Pruning and Care: Pruning is best done in late winter or early spring to shape the plant and encourage bushier growth.

The Potentilla Goldfinger is not nearly as ostentatious in terms of its flowers as some of the other plants on this list, making it ideal for a more reserved garden space where you still want yellow flowers, but yellow flowers that are spread out across the vastness of the plant and not clustered together in dense groups.

This is a versatile shrub that is small in size. The green foliage grows in a mound shape, and the flowers are buttercup yellow. It is the perfect shrub to use as a colourful accent to your border and requires full sunlight. It also makes an excellent groundcover shrub, however, it is worth noting that it is deciduous so will look rather bare in winter.


10. Rose ‘Golden Wedding’

  • Growing Conditions: Thrives in rich, well-drained soil, preferring loamy soil. Prefers full sun to get the best flowering display and healthy growth. Regular watering is important, especially when grown in pots.
  • Position and Aspect: Best planted in full sun to encourage the most vibrant golden yellow flowers and healthy foliage.Perfect for rose beds and borders.
  • Eventual Size: Typically reaches a height and spread of about 0.75-1 meter (2.5-3.3 feet).
  • Pruning and Care: Prune in late winter or early spring, cutting back to strong buds to promote vigorous growth and flowering. Deadheading flowers that have finished encourage more flowering. Feed with a balanced rose feed in early spring and again in midsummer to support repeat flowering. Mulching with farm manure around the base helps retain moisture, suppress weeds, and enrich the soil.

The Golden Wedding rose is a floribunda type and produces a mass of perfectly-formed, bright golden yellow flowers. The flowers will maintain their shape throughout the growing season so they will stand upright rather than drooping over like some of the other plants, and with a little deadheading, you can keep them flowering all summer. For those who prefer roses in their space and are not looking to add yellow flowers simply for a hedge or privacy screen, the Golden Wedding rose is the plant to choose.

The good thing about roses is that you need to prune them back once a year and feed them every spring, and they will stay looking fantastic year after year.


Photos credit: Shutterstock.

Last update on 2024-06-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at john@pyracantha.co.uk

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