For those of us who experience harsh winter temperatures, the first signs of spring color are a sight for sore eyes. After months of barren, bland landscapes, the sudden pops of vibrant hues remind us that underneath the frozen ground, nature has been hard at work. Here are some flowers you can plant for an early spring bloom that will make the weariest winter warrior breathe a sigh of relief.
Spring-color bulbs need to be planted in fall to ensure the right amount of dormancy before they can bloom. Throughout the winter, they gather up their energy and then burst through by the time spring rolls around. Most bulbs are perennials that will continue to show up three to five years after planting.
If your region has already experienced a freezing of the ground, planting bulbs in time for spring color is out of the question, however, some people will plant bulbs in medium sized planter pots, cover with soil, and keep in a cool, dark place like a garage or basement until the ground is workable again. The bulbs won’t know the difference, as long as they have enough time to overwinter.
Crocuses are the first flowers that pop up their little heads through the snow. They grow lower to the ground (2-5 inches tall) and have smooth, vibrant petals that erupt in beautiful crown-like glory. Not only do they get our attention, they also entice the bees out of their winter slumbers with their strong scent.
Daffodils are one of the earliest flowers to show off signs of spring as well, but unlike crocuses, they grow tall, some up to 16 inches. They are top-heavy with uni-colored petals that open up with a trumpet-like “corona” bursting from the middle. They are most commonly found in yellow or white, but not exclusively. They make excellent cut flowers towards the end of their bloom.
Hyacinths will blossom in a variety of single, bright, pastel colors along dense, ribbon-like petals. They are very unique looking, yet quite a common sight in spring gardens. They grow on average around 10-12 inches high, and their fragrant, puffy blooms will last a few weeks. They can be planted in bunches or on their own.
Tulips and their many hybridized forms come in so many different varieties now that they can bring color to your garden from early to late spring if you plant different kinds. The most common variety is uni-colored and grows around 8 inches tall, with cup-like petals that look up to the sky. Like daffodils they can become top-heavy, and are best planted toward the middle or back of gardens.
There is a wide array of autumn-planting bulbs for spring color, so don’t feel like you have to limit yourself to the popular ones listed above. While they are tried and true, consider planting other bulbs like allium, scilla, anemone, and snowdrop.
Since annuals have to be planted every year, have fun changing up varieties—or feel good sticking with the flowers that you know will bring you joy. If you are unsure of what to plant, take a look at this list below.
Pansies are technically an annual, but many can remain evergreen throughout the winter. These cold-loving plants can survive light frosts, making them an easy choice for late autumn and early spring planting. Pansies have tiny, bi-colored flowers, and boast deep purples and crimsons, as well as pastel yellows and blues. A hardy plant to connect the change of seasons, pansies are anything but fragile.
Like the pansy, dianthus have smaller flowers and look great in planters or at the front of garden borders. They prefer spring temps and while some varieties are sold as annuals, there are perennial varieties that will continue to come back year after year. Check your zone to see if dianthus is best grown as an annual or perennial.
These cool-weather plants will bloom until summer comes along, offering cheerful yellow flowers from the daisy family. Often mistaken for marigolds, these no-fuss plants will grow 8-24 inches high, and are a wonderful way to welcome spring.
Like pansies, don’t be fooled by their dainty name—petunias are hardy plants that prefer cooler temps. Be careful, however, as they will not tolerate frost. Once the coast is clear, plant these medium-sized flowers in containers or at the front of gardens. They come in solid or bi-colored petals, and boast a variety of colors.
A striking single or double bloom from the African daisy will bring dynamic shades to your spring garden. The flowers come in an array of bold colors and can grow up to three feet tall. They may bloom well into summer if they are kept out of extreme heat or blazing sun. Consider planting in partial shade if your summers get hot.
Other Spring Annuals
Dusty Miller’s silver foliage can tolerate a bit of frost and will continue to grow well through the summer garden and in planters. Geraniums can tolerate cooler temps, as can snapdragons and alyssum.
Perennials are wonderful ways to get spring color that comes back every year. Unlike bulbs, these plants listed below can be sown directly into the garden when spring comes around. Some only flower for a few weeks at a time, so planning according to bloom times will bring about the most reward.
These regal flowers extend upward, with bright, ruffled blooms that sit atop long, green stems. The most common colors are white and purple, however there are many different varieties to add different shades to your spring garden. They are technically a rhizome, not a bulb – and, one planting will bring you years of bloom. Various types of irises can take over gardens, and remember that some are deadly to cats.
Many people believe these petite flowers to be annuals, however, they are quite cold-hardy and can even withstand snow. They are from the same family as pansies, and are often mistaken for them. They tend to wilt during the high heat of summer, and may die off in full sun, so try planting them in partial shade or in containers that can be moved out of the heat.
As their name suggests, these vine-like flowers produce tiny heart-shaped petals that droop downward into a tear-drop shape. They will only last until the final days of spring, but will bring delightful color to your emerging spring garden.
These perennials showcase small, bell-like white, pink, or blue flowers alongside spotted green leaves. They do well in shade which makes them a popular choice if you have areas that don’t get a lot of sun. They won’t last long, but provide the spring shade garden with a nice boost of early color.
A native species to North America, this zealous spring-bloomer will bring the first signs that winter is over. Not overly flashy, its yellow flowers extend from a tall green stalk that can grow as high as three feet. They are also wonderful first sources of nectar for bees and insects who need energy.
There are a variety of ways to get some spring color into your garden: plant bulbs in the autumn, plant annuals in the spring, and plan your perennial garden for spring bloom. Many try their hand at all three methods, so feel free to get creative and let your intuition guide you. While the salad days of spring are still a ways away for most, planning what to plant for an early spring bloom can be a great way to spend a gray, wintry day.