Early Spring Flowers to Wake up Your Garden

Spring weather is unpredictable, yet spring flowers are hardy enough to handle it. Your garden can be brimming with color almost as soon as the ground thaws.

The 11 perennial flowers showcased here will start blooming as soon as spring makes itself known. Many can be planted outdoors even before the threat of frost is past. Others may need a bit of coddling, to begin with, but cool spring weather is when they shine, so don’t miss out by waiting too long to plant them.​

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

Despite the tragic connotation, these flowers are like cheery little charms dangling down the length of each branch. Even the chubby-lobbed leaves are attractive, at least until the flowers start to fade.

Although Bleeding Heart is a welcome sight in the spring, you’d better look quickly. As the days lengthen and the temperature warms, bleeding heart starts to turn yellow and forlorn. It can even disappear entirely for the summer, as many spring ephemerals do.

Don’t let that stop you from growing it. Simply plant it near later emerging plants that will fill in the void as Bleeding Heart fades. Hosta, Astilbe, and ferns are great choices as companions for your bleeding hearts.

  • Growing Conditions: Bleeding Heart plants like a moist, rich soil, that is also well draining. Its roots can rot in soil that remains wet for a prolonged period of time.
  • Exposure: Partial shade is ideal, but it can handle a bit more sun if the temperature is cool and there is even moisture.
  • HardinessUSDA Hardiness Zones 2 – 9
  • Mature Size: 24-36 inches (h) x 18-30 inches (w)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis)

Bloodroot is more of a groundcover than a bedding plant, but its small, white flowers can really brighten a shady or woodland garden. After the flowers disappear, the blue-green leaves provide a nice foil for summer flowers and even make a nice carpet on their own. Don’t worry, bloodroot is not invasive and usually not even aggressive.

If can take several years for your bloodroot plants to become established and start to spread, but they are fairly long-lived. There are single and double-floweredvarieties. The doubles are more expensive, but they are gorgeous.

  • Growing Conditions: Bloodroot’s normal habitat is woodland, but you can make it at home by adding lots of organic matter to your soil. Leaf mold, the crumbly organic matter left by decayed leaves, is ideal for bloodroot. It will give the plant the moisture it needs, but the soil will still be well-draining, much as plants would get on the forest soil.
  • Exposure: Partial shade. Bloodroot can handle full sun in the spring, but it will need some shady cover during summer’s heat.
  • Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 – 9
  • Mature Size: 4 – 8 inches (h) x 1 – 12 ft. (w)

False Forget-Me-Not / Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla)

Lately, the heart-shaped leaves of Brunnera have been getting more attention than it’s brilliant blue flowers. Several new cultivars of Brunnera have beautiful, creamy variegation. Whether you grow it for its flowers or foliage, this is an easy plant to care for.

Because Brunnera emerges so early in the spring, the leaves can get a bit tattered in summer. Simply cut them back and new leaves will fill in. Brunnera is a slow growing plant, but it will eventually form a nice size clump. The species and stabilized varieties may self-seed, but the variegated varieties are slower to spread.

Brunnera tends to be short-lived. To keep it around longer, divide the plants every 3 years or so. This will reinvigorate them.

  • Growing Conditions: Either plant Brunner in your shade garden or under the shade of nearby taller plants. The blue flowers are very early in the spring, so by the time something like a daylily starts to grow, it won’t hide the Brunnera flowers, it will just protect the leaves.
  • Exposure: As with so many spring bloomers, Brunnera can handle full sun in the spring, but it will do best in partial shade.
  • Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 3 – 9
  • Mature Size: 12 – 20 inches (h) x 12 – 24 ft. (w).

Hellebore (Helleborus)

There’s a Christmas Rose and a Lenten Rose. Neither usually blooms on the holiday, except when El Nino is in full force. However, they do bloom as early in spring as they possibly can. Even the bearsfoot hellebore beats most other flowers.

These are slow growing perennials that can be very pricey to purchase. If you’re not particular about the color, you can find seed packets of mixed blends. You’ll have to wait a few years for seed grown hellebores to bloom, but once they are established they will be around for decades and they will slowly spread. They come in many shades of pink, purple, burgundy, and cream.

Many hellebores have nodding flowers that look somewhat sleepy and comforting in the garden. Hellebores are basically shade garden plants and they look fantastic paired with ferns and shiny-leaved plants such as ginger.

  • Growing Conditions: Give your hellebores a shady spot and they should be happy. The only growing conditions they really can’t tolerate are excessively dry and excessively wet soils.
  • Exposure: Partial shade to shade is ideal. If you plant them in a sunny spot, the leaves will dry and turn crispy when the temperature heats up.
  • Hardiness: USDA Hardiness Zones 5 – 9
  • Mature Size: 1 ½ – 2 ft. and spread 1 – 1 ½ ft. (w)

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