Spring is right around the corner for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, and as the warm months get closer many of us are eager to see the first flowers blooming in our gardens. Coming out of the darker, colder winter, we’re all waiting for spring and all the life that it brings. While many of our favorite flowers bloom throughout the spring and summer, some start earlier than others and can give your garden a much-needed burst of color and joy. Let’s talk about some early spring flowers—plants that bloom early in the season—and how you can bring them into your own garden space.
Early spring flowers come from a variety of plant families, and while different flowers may be better suited to your hardiness zone, here are some general suggestions that should work for most gardeners in the US and Canada:
- Daffodils are a member of the narcissus family, and one of the best-loved garden plants for early spring blooms. Their beautiful flowers—generally yellow, but other colors are available—are a wonderful way to welcome spring. These plants prefer rich, well-drained soil and a fair amount of sun, but will tolerate partial shade. Please note: Daffodils are toxic to people and pets, so be careful with small children and animals.
- Pansies prefer cool weather, and thrive as early spring flowers in many gardens around the world. These are short-lived annuals, so bear that in mind when planning your garden layout for the spring. However, their brief and colorful lives make them perfect for starting the garden in the spring and particularly for getting the most out of small spaces.
- Hellebores of various kinds and colors are mostly winter or spring blooming perennial shrubs, making them an ideal addition to landscaping. Their colors range fairly widely, from white and pink through to purple and even green. Their multilayered flowers add depth to any small garden and bursts of early color to larger spaces.
- Crocus are beautiful and very early blooming thanks to their hardy corms, which winter below the soil. Hardy across a dizzying range of zones—3a to 8a—and available in a wide variety of sizes and colors, these low-maintenance plants are a great early bloomer and a reliable perennial in most spaces. They do multiply and spread on their own, so take that into account when planting them!
- Witch Hazel may have a spooky name, but they bring a welcome burst of color from mid-winter through spring via their striking, spider-like yellow blossoms (we said it was kinda spooky). Tolerating a wide range of conditions from full sun to partial shade across zones 4a to 9b, Witch Hazel grows as a shrub but can get larger if left un-pruned. The flowers of witch hazel also offer a lovely scent, traditionally used in many perfumes and colognes.
- Lenten Rose makes a nice addition to an early spring garden. While these plants aren’t roses—they’re actually more closely related to hellebore—with a wide variety of colors and a height of between 18 to 24 inches (45-60 cm), they add visual interest to any garden and thus pair well with lower lying plants like pansies and the smaller varieties of crocus.
There are many, many more options—as always we recommend talking to your local garden club or county extension office for site-specific information—but this is a good general list to get started with. It’s not too late to for many of us to plant or start early spring flowers, so get out there and get gardening if you can. And if you do have an early blooming garden, send us some pictures—we love to hear from you!