6 Showy Shrubs to Beat the Heat in Iowa Summers

Our summers are notoriously hot and dry, but our winters are freezing cold, so you need shrubs that can handle both extremes.



It’s amazing how quickly our weather can change from mild to scorching hot in a matter of days! Summers in the midwest are notoriously warm and dry, so if you want a lush, green landscape that doesn’t need to be fussed over, you should opt for heat-tolerant plants. We put together this list of hardy shrubs that can handle high heat without throwing a fit, so you can have a picture-perfect landscape without needing to put in too many extra hours. 


Our Favorite Full-Sun, Heat-Tolerant Shrubs for Zone 5

Shrubs have so many uses in the landscape! They add structure to your garden and create borders between properties. Some make excellent privacy screens, while others stand alone as statement plants, brightening the scenery with their vibrant blooms and foliage. Here are six varieties that are hardy to Zone 5 but can still withstand full sun during our peak summer months without succumbing to the heat. 




A summer-blooming shrub with fluffy clusters of blooms, spirea is a must-have for low-maintenance gardens with full sun. High heat and lots of sunshine keep them blooming brightly for months. Most spirea shrubs have bright pink or creamy white flowers, but there is a lot of variation among their foliage features between varieties. We particularly love the “Double Play Red” and ‘Rainbow Fizz’ varieties. 



Wallaces Garden Center - Shrubs to beat the heat in Iowa - rose shrubRoses

You might be surprised to hear that roses are heat-tolerant, and while some varieties may not fare well in extremely high heat, many hybrid varieties have heat-resistance superpowers! Roses love full sun, and while they’re a bit more high-maintenance than some other shrubs, they’re well worth the effort. Those fragrant, dramatic blooms are second to none!  For low maintenance color and fragrance, try the shrub rose ‘At Last’ from Proven Winners. 


Wallaces Garden Center - Shrubs to beat the heat in Iowa - juniper shrubJuniper

Easily one of the best heat-tolerant evergreen shrubs, junipers bring fabulous texture and lasting color to the scenery. Some varieties have a rich blue tint that complements cool-toned palettes, others have lovely sunny golden tones to match warm palettes, and some feature classic emerald green for everything in between. In spring, they develop inconspicuous flowers—usually yellow or green—which produce berries and cones. The berries are a terrific food source for our local wild birds, so if you’d like to support our avian populations, plant some juniper shrubs in your yard!


-Many people like barberry because its lush foliage is full of tiny thorns, so it’s effective in keeping rabbits and deer out of your yard if you use it as a border shrub_Barberry

This mega-popular shrub produces bright, cheerful blooms in spring, but its distinctive foliage definitely gets the most attention! Add a splash of color to break up the sea of green foliage in your landscape with an ultra-vibrant barberry shrub. Some varieties have bright lemon-lime leaves, others are rich cherry red, and some have a spectacular prismatic effect with pops of deep purple and emerald green. Barberry thrives in the heat and, once established, is exceptionally drought-tolerant. Many people like barberry because its lush foliage is full of tiny thorns, so it’s effective in keeping rabbits and deer out of your yard if you use it as a border shrub. 



Wallace's Garden Center-Shrubs to Beat the Heat in Iowa--butterfly bushButterfly Bush

A bonafide pollinator magnet, butterfly bush looks just as amazing as it smells! Its long panicles of richly colored blooms appear in spring and continue through summer. They have a sweet aroma that butterflies, bees, and birds can’t resist. As long as you plant it somewhere with healthy, well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight, your butterfly bush will grow beautifully, even in extreme heat. You won’t even have to fertilize it




This heat-tolerant shrub is popular for commercial landscaping due to its low-maintenance nature and long, profuse bloom period. Cheerful flowers cover this dense, compact shrub from late spring to fall. While they may appear delicate, potentillas are sturdier than they appear and thrive in areas with little to no shade. However, for this shrub to establish properly, careful watering during its first season is a must. Add a layer of mulch across the soil around the base of the plant to prevent soil moisture from evaporating and water the shrub deeply and regularly to stop it from drying out. Be sure the soil is loose and well-draining to prevent root rot from developing.  


There are plenty more heat-tolerant shrubs in Iowa, both small and large! Visit Wallace’s Garden Center to explore our entire collection, and our knowledgeable staff will be happy to provide you with proper planting instructions. 

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