Best Flowers for Late Spring

  • 01 of 12

    Late Spring Blooming Flowers

    Spring Flower Display
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    Spring bulbs are such a welcome sight, especially after a seemingly endless winter. They signal it's time to rush out into our gardens and start cleaning and planting. This is often when garden centers start selling the flashier flowers of peak summer.

    While being drawn toward these prime season bloomers, it's easy to find your garden in a lull by late spring. Make sure you include a few of the following "bridge" plants that will help your flower border move seamlessly from spring into summer. Most don't even require much maintenance, after planting.

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  • 02 of 12

    Allium (Allium species and hybrids)

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    Although technically a bulb, the large-flowered alliums bloom later than daffodils and tulips. These are ornamental members of the onion family, grown for their beauty rather than their flavor.  In colder climates, they are planted in the fall. Warmer zones can get away with planting them in the spring.

    Alliums range in size from 4 – 6 inches to 6 ft. The larger varieties generally bloom in shades of white, pink and purple and many are perfect globes, like 'Purple Sensation' shown here. Others, such as 'Alium 'Shubertii' look like 4th of July fireworks.

    Animals don't seem to like the bulbs or the flowers. Their only drawback is that the foliage can sometimes start to yellow before the flowers have finished blooming, so be sure to interplant them with emerging flowers that will camouflage the allium leaves.

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  • 03 of 12

    Bleeding Heart (Dicentra species and hybrids)

    Bleeding Heart Flowers
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    Some flowers go in and out of style but bleeding heart has stood the test of time. Dicentra spectabilis is the species that gave the plant its common name. It's easy to see why. It now comes in a pure white variety that is eye-catching in a shady garden.

    While Dicentra spectabilis is ephemeral and can disappear for the summer, shortly after flowering, the fringed-leaved varieties not only stick around, they repeat bloom throughout the summer and gradually seed themselves throughout the border, but never aggressively so.

    Bleeding Heart plants can take full sun in the spring but prefer partial shade when temperatures get hot. They also like a moist, but well-draining soil. Keep them happy and they will thrive in your garden for years.

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  • 04 of 12

    Brunnera (Brunnera macrophylla)

    Brunnera macrophylla 'Dawson's White'
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    Some gardeners complain that they don't have enough sun to have a flower garden. There are a lot of advantages to working in a shade garden, including the respite from the hot sun and the delicate looking plants that grow there. One of the loveliest is Brunnera macrophylla, also known as  Siberian Bugloss, Heartleaf Brunnera or False Forget-Me-Nots. In mid- to late spring the plants send up sprays of brilliant blue flowers that do resemble forget-me-nots, although a bit more vivid in color.

    Although the flowers are short-lived. The heart-shaped leaves stay fresh all season. There are several recent introductions that offer enchanting variegation and add even more interest to a woodland garden. In moist soil, the plants will self-seed and spread. In drier soils, you will want to keep an eye on them during hot spells, or the leaves will dry out.

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  • 05 of 12

    Columbine (Aquilegia x hybrida)

    Columbine Flowers
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    The native columbineAquilegia canadensis, with its nectar-rich flowers, seems to be disappearing from gardens. That's a shame because it is not just a lovely plant, it is very attractive to pollinators and hummingbirds.

    In its place is an endless series of hybrids, each a more intriguing color than the last. These are deceptively delicate looking plants. They can handle all kinds of weather and will gladly seed themselves around the garden. If you have more than one variety, be prepared for a lot of cross-pollination and surprising colors.

    Although the filagreed foliage can remain attractive throughout the season, Columbine is prone to leafminers. If you catch them early and remove the infested leaves, you can limit the damage.

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  • 06 of 12

    Geranium (Geranium species and hybrids)

    Geranium "Rozanne"
    ClaraNila / Getty Images

    Many of us hear the word "geranium" and think of the free-blooming red plants that look so good in window boxes. While great plants, these are not really geraniums, they are in the genus Pelargonium. The geraniums referred to here are the genus of true hardy geraniums.  Theses start blooming in late spring and many of the new hybrids, like the phenomenal 'Rozanne', will keep repeat blooming until frost. These are low growing, mounding plants that like to spread out and intermingle with neighboring plants, giving a garden a sense of maturity.

    True geraniums are ideal for growing under plants with "ugly knees" like roses, or for disguising the fading foliage of bulbs. Some can be a bit more aggressive than others, depending on your growing conditions, but they are easy enough to lift and move elsewhere.

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  • 07 of 12

    Hellebores (Helleborus species and hybrids)

    Helleborus Orientalis Moment/ Getty Images

    British gardening books can have you lusting after large swaths of hellebores. Large groupings of hellebores were hard were accomplish for the average gardener when plants were selling for upwards of $30 a plant, but prices have been steadily dropping and while it can still be a bit costly to instantly fill your border with them, if you start with 3 to 5 small plants, they will eventually start to fill in. It is worth the wait because there is something almost painterly about these flowers.

    For the best price, you can purchase hellebores in a mix of colors. If you want a particular cultivar, expect to pay more. The blooms start off facing the ground, making them "belly plants" because you have to get down there to see them. But save your knees the trouble and be patient until the plants grow a little taller and you can enjoy the view while standing.

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  • 08 of 12

    Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum and cultivars)

    Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium)
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    So many late spring flowers are old standards. Perhaps that's why they so often get overlooked. However, it's hard not to appreciate Jacob's Ladder, when it's in bloom. The plants hold their flower stalks high above the ladder-like foliage.

    Most common varieties bloom in shades of purple or purplish-blue, but there are cultivars that bloom in white, pink and yellow. These are hard to find and may not be as hardy, or it might be that the purple and blue varieties became so popular because they are so enchanting.

    Although this plant is not much to look at, after flowering, when a large clump ignites in bloom in late summer, it doesn't seem to matter that the display is only temporary.

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  • 09 of 12

    Lilac (Syringa)

    Lilac Flowers
    Guerrier Nathanael / EyeEm / Getty Images

    The fragrance of lilac flowers announces itself long before you spot the plants. Lilacs are long-lived shrubs that are relatively low maintenance in the garden. Deadheading the flowers shortly after blooming, will allow the plant to put its energy into growing strong roots and healthy top growth. It's also beneficial for setting even more blooms the following year. Established plants benefit from pruning out about one-third of the older stems each year, to keep new growth coming in.

    Although they are called lilacs for the familiar color of their flowers, lilacs also come in shades of pink, white, and yellow. The strength of the fragrance can vary. It helps to see the plant in flower before you choose a variety for your yard.

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  • 10 of 12

    Lily of the Valley

    Lily of the Valley Flowers
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    Gardeners tend to love or hate Lily-of-the-Valley. The plants form a dense mat of wandering roots and are considered invasive in some parts of the United States. That trait also makes Lily-of-the-Valley a good choice for spots where you want a ground cover that will help keep the soil in place.

    And then there is their heavenly scent. For such a tiny, low-growing flower, the fragrance totally permeates the air for days on end. These are rugged little plants that can handle the dry shade under trees. White is the most common color, but there are also pink varieties. The pink flowering Lily-of-the-Valley plants tend to be less vigorous and more expensive.

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  • 11 of 12

    Pansy (Viola tricolor var. hortensis)

    Jan Van Ter Meij / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Pansies and other violas are beloved for their cheerful colors and the bright eyes of the "faces" on the petals. Pansies can handle light frosts and chilly winds at both ends of the growing season. Older varieties tend to fade away in summer's heat but may perk up again in the fall. Newer introductions are better able to handle the heat.

    Pansies are often the first plants you will see for sale in garden centers in the spring. They make an excellent choice for planting among spring-blooming bulbs. As the leaves of the bulbs start to yellow and dry out, the pansies will fill in and keep your flower bed attractive and colorful.

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  • 12 of 12

    Primrose (Primula)

    Primrose in Bloom
    ClaraNila / Getty Images

    Primroses are far from prim. They tend to flower in brilliant shades of yellow, pink, and purple which are all the more striking because they grow in woodland and shady settings. The flowers stay in bloom for weeks and most will happily self-sow throughout your garden, although not to the point of being invasive. If you plant more than one color flower, expect some cross-pollination and surprising colors the following season.

    For the most part, the primroses you will find for sale will be the modern hybrids (Primula x polyantha) but look for some of the other interesting species such as the drumstick primroses (Primula denticulata) that have round balls of flowers held high on straight stems.