15 Great Plants for Spring Blooms

Creeping phlox plants with bright pink and light purple flowers

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

The first flowers to bloom in spring are treasured tokens of winter's end. Your garden should not only include spring-blooming delights but should also create visual interest and extend the spring blooming season. You can do this by selecting plants that offer diversity: a variety of bloom times, bloom colors, types of foliage, flower forms, and heights. You can find early bloomers in the following types of plants:

Here are 15 great recommended plants for early spring blooms, ranging from ground-hugging groundcovers to towering trees.

Tip

Spring-flowering plants can be especially susceptible to damage from unseasonably late frosts, which can kill flower buds and cause plants to miss their bloom season entirely. Make sure to plant cultivars that are rated to be dependably hardy in your USDA cold hardiness zone.

  • 01 of 15

    Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

    Creeping phlox with light purple flowers and orange centers in ground

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova


    This early bloomer (March to May), is a good ground-hugging, massing ground cover for slopes and rock gardens. Plants rarely grow more than six inches tall, spreading up to two feet in width. Phlox will sometimes rebloom if sheared back after the first flowers fade.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Red-purple, purple, pink, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    • Soil Needs: Prefers humusy, medium moisture soil, but tolerates rocky, sandy soil
  • 02 of 15

    Common Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

    Vinca minor ground cover in bloom.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu


    Like creeping phlox, common periwinkle is a creeping ground cover, but this vining plant blooms somewhat later, from May to June. Plants grow no more than six inches tall with an 18-inch spread, with blooms that are a vibrant lavender-blue or white. Periwinkle makes a good cover plant for spring bulbs, which typically have faded by the time periwinkle blooms. Periwinkle can be somewhat invasive is some areas, but it is not particularly difficult to remove.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Lavender blue, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium, well-drained soil
  • 03 of 15

    Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

    Winter jasmine blooms.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Most spring-blooming gardens can make use of a versatile climber, and winter jasmine fits the bill nicely. The flower buds of Jasminum nudiflorum are yellow and red but reveal pure yellow flowers when they open in March and April. Provided with a sturdy structure, winter jasmine can climb up to 15 feet; otherwise, it will sprawl along the ground. Wherever the branches make contact with the soil, they'll root, which is handy if you want the plant to serve as a ground cover. If spreading doesn't fit into your landscape plan, keep the plant pruned back.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 6 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Prefers a well-drained, sandy loam
  • 04 of 15

    Amur Adonis (Adonis amurensis)

    Winter aconite in bloom pushing through snow.

    Wilfried Martin / Getty Images

    A member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family, Amur adonis is a perennial species that grows no more than one foot tall and is among the first flowers to bloom in spring. Several named cultivars are available, offering different shades of pale yellow, bright yellow, or deep yellow-orange. It flowers very early, from February to March, depending on location.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pale yellow to red-orange
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average, moist soil

    Warning

    Like other members of the Ranunculaceae family, this plant is toxic to some farm animals.

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Winter Aconite (Eranthus hyemalis)

    Yellow winter aconite flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Another member of the Ranunculaceae family, winter aconite is a bulb that blooms in early spring (March or April), sometimes emerging through snow cover. It grows only 3 to 6 inches tall with a similar spread. It is ideal for massing in front of shrubs, or for naturalizing in woodland gardens.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: Bright yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

    Warning

    As a member of the Ranunculaceae family, every part of winter aconite is toxic to humans and animals.

  • 06 of 15

    Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica)

    Virginia bluebell plant with tiny blue flowers and purple buds

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) grows up to 2 feet tall, blooming in March and April. It is an ideal woodland plant for shady locations, but the foliage will die back and vanish by mid-summer. It is best planted in conjunction with summer shade plants, such as hostas or ferns, which will cover space as the bluebells die back.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue with pink
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium, well-drained soil
  • 07 of 15

    Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucallaria)

    Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

    Scott T. Smith / Getty Images

    Ideal for shady gardens, Dutchman's breeches has white to pinkish blooms and grows six to 12 inches tall and wide. The pantaloon-shaped blooms generally appear in March. This plant has feathery foliage that is similar to that of bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis), to which it is related. Like Virginia bluebell, this plant is best suited for woodland gardens where other plants can offer cover when the plant dies back in summer.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White to pink
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil
  • 08 of 15

    Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

    Lenten rose with light pink and yellow flowers on stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Helleborus orientalis, commonly known as lenten rose or hellebore, flowers in February to April with sepals of red, pink, lavender, purple, blue, yellow, or even green. Because this color occurs on sepals (not the petals), it's quite long-lasting. Add to this the shiny, leathery, evergreen leaves, and you have a perennial that offers interest beyond the initial early blooming period. Lenten rose, so named because it flowers near the season of Lent in some regions, grows to about 18 to 24 inches tall and wide. It is a good plant for woodland locations or planted beneath shade trees or large shrubs.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, cream, yellow, pink, rose, purple, maroon with yellow stamens
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade in summer; part sun in winter
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Pasque Flower (Pulstatilla vulgaris)

    Pasque flower with purple cup-shaped petals in silvery-green stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Pulsatilla vulgaris is a compact perennial (8 to 12 inches) that will eventually spread. Like Lenten rose, its common name alludes to a religious holiday of early spring—Easter, which is Pasque in Old French. The lavender flowers that appear in April to May are so fitting for an Easter color scheme. But happily, the Easter bunny will leave them alone because the pasque flower is rabbit-proof

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pale to dark violet; occasionally white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Gritty, well-drain soil
  • 10 of 15

    Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)

    Snowdrop plant with tiny white drooping flowers on thin stems

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Galanthus nivalis is almost synonymous with the earliest flowers to bloom in spring, appearing in February, often through snow cover. A short perennial bulb plant (three to six inches), it will naturalize over time and spread to fill in an area. But its white flowers are small, so for the best impact, plant them in masses or drifts in areas where they can be allowed to naturalize.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White with green markings
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average moisture, well-drained soil
  • 11 of 15

    Spring Crocus (Crocus vernus)

    Crocus blooms in early spring, even if there's still snow.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu

    Crocus vernus and related plants are bulbs (more accurately, corms) that flower early in spring. Spring crocuses are generally slightly smaller, just three to six inches tall, than Dutch crocus (Crocus flavus) and they flower earlier, usually in April. Species varieties are generally purple or white, but cultivars are available in shades of yellow or gold. Birds and ​rabbits eat crocus bulbs, so the bulbs need to be protected with wire mesh if you want to guard against loss. For best impact, plant them in large groups or naturalized drifts. Rabbits are also quite fond of eating crocus foliage.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Purple, white, yellow, gold
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil
  • 12 of 15

    Witch Hazel (hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise')

    Witch hazel tree branches with yellow fringe-like flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    This deciduous shrub is a named cultivar of a hybrid cross between Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica) and Chinese witch hazel (H. mollis). Growing 12 to 15 feet tall, 'Arnold Promise' flowers in February to March, before any other flowering bushes except some early-blooming magnolias. The vase-shaped growth habit with spreading branches makes this a good plant for borders, screens, and woodland gardens.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil
    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)

    Forsythia branch in bloom.

    The Spruce / David Beaulieu


    When its cheerful yellow flowers grace the arching branches of Forsythia intermedia, we know winter has fully retired for another year. The 'Sunrise' cultivar of this shrub stays more compact than many other types, reaching four to six feet in height, with a spread of three to five feet. Forsythia is best used when grouped in shrub borders, but can also be a good hedge shrub. These plants can grow somewhat rampantly and might require occasional rejuvenation pruning. The general rule of thumb is that forsythia starts to bloom when the soil temperature reaches 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 8
    •  Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil
  • 14 of 15

    Dwarf Flowering Almond (Prunus glanulosa)

    Dwarf flowering almond with pink flowers clustered on branches

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    Prunus glandulosa is a dwarf version of flowering almond, a shrub that matures at about three to five feet tall with a similar spread. As is true of many spring flowering shrubs, the flowers precede the foliage. The pink flowers generally appear in April. Don't confuse flowering almond with the plant that bears almond nuts (Prunus dulcis). Flowering almond is a good choice for shrub borders and woodland gardens.

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil
  • 15 of 15

    Magnolia Trees (Magnolia spp.)

    Magnolia tree branch with small pink blooms and closed flowers

    The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

    The Magnolia genus is a large group of plants including dozens of species that offer good choices for home landscapes, ranging from compact shrubs to towering trees. Magnolias are among the earliest trees and shrubs to produce spring flowers; many types produce their blooms before the large, leathery leaves appear. A good choice for a landscape tree is star magnolia, which stays shorter (15 to 20 feet) than saucer magnolia (20 to 25 feet) and blooms the earliest. Star magnolia has white flowers, unlike the saucer magnolia and Jane magnolia, both of which bloom in pink. Jane magnolia (10 to 15 feet tall and 8  to 12 feet) wide can be grown as a shrub or tree. 

    • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 10, depending on species
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, yellow, cream
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained loamy soil
Article Sources
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  1. “Guide to Poisonous Plants – College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences – Colorado State University.” Colostate.Edu, https://csuvth.colostate.edu/poisonous_plants/Plants/Details/77

  2. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/eranthis-hyemalis/