15 Recommended Plants for Spring Blooms

Mix Colors, Sizes for Best Springtime Pop

a white magnolia flower

Helen Yin / Stocksy

The first flowers to bloom in spring are treasured tokens of winter's end. Your plant selection should aim not only at including such delights in your garden but also at achieving good variety—either by using different colors or by growing plants of different heights. You can find early bloomers in every category of plant, including:

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

  • 01 of 15

    Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

    Creeping phlox flowers with pink in middle and white at edges.
    okyela/Getty Images
    • USDA Growing 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

    This early bloomer (March to May), is a good ground-hugging, massing ground-cover for slopes and rock gardens. Plants rarely grow more than about 6 inches tall, spreading up to 2 feet in width. Phlox will sometimes rebloom if sheared back after the first flowers fade.

  • 02 of 15

    Common Periwinkle (Vinca minor)

    Vinca minor ground cover in bloom.
    David Beaulieu
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Lavender blue, white
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Dry to medium, well-drained soil

    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 6 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.

  • 03 of 15

    Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum)

    Winter jasmine blooms.
    David Beaulieu
    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 10
    • Color Varieties: Yellow
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Prefers well-drained, sandy loam

    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 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 wish to use the plant as a ground cover. If such spreading doesn't fit into your landscape plan, keep the plant pruned back.

  • 04 of 15

    Amur Adonis (Adonis amurensis)

    Winter aconite in bloom pushing through snow.
    Winter aconite blooms so early it sometimes pushes through snow.

    Wilfried Martin/Getty Images

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

    A member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family, Amur adonis is a perennial species that grows no more than 1 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.

    Warning: Like other members of the Ranunculaceae family, this plant contains poisonous substances. Skin contact with the oils can cause rash; ingestion can cause dizziness and vomiting, or in severe cases, spasms and paralysis.

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Winter Aconite (Eranthus hyemalis)

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

    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.

    Warning: As a member of the Ranunculaceae family, winter aconite contains poisonous substances that can cause a variety of symptoms, from skin rashes to spasms and paralysis.

  • 06 of 15

    Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica)

    Mass of Virginia bluebells flowering in the woods.
    Virginia bluebell is a woodland flower.

    Dennis Govoni/Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Blue
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium, well-drained soil

    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.

  • 07 of 15

    Dutchman's Breeches (Dicentra cucallaria)

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

    Ideal for shady gardens, Dutchman's breeches has white to pinkish blooms and grows 6 to 12 inches tall and wide. The pantaloon-shaped blooms generally appear in March. This plant has feathery foliage that are similar to that of to 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.

  • 08 of 15

    Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

    Lenten roses with light-pink flowers.

     aimintang/Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 9
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, or rose-purple with yellow stamens
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained soil

    Helleborus orientalis, commonly known as lenten rose or hellebore, the flowers appearing in February to April have 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.

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Pasque Flower (Pulstatilla vulgaris)

    Pasque flowers partially opened.

    Svetl/Getty Images

    • USDA Growing 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

    Pulsatilla vulgaris is a short 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 color of the flowers that appear in April to May fits right into an Easter color scheme. But happily, the Easter bunny will leave them alone because pasque flower is rabbit-proof

  • 10 of 15

    Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)

    Closeup of snowdrop flower.

    Laszlo Podor/Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7
    • Color Varieties: White
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Average moisture, well-drained soil

    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 (3 to 6 inches), it'll naturalize over time and spread to fill in an area. But its white flowers are small, so for best impact, plant them in masses or drifts in areas where they can be allowed to naturalize.

  • 11 of 15

    Spring Crocus (Crocus vernus)

    Crocus blooms in early spring, even if there's still snow.
    David Beaulieu
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: Purple, white, yellow, gold
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

    Crocus vernus and related plants are bulbs (more accurately, corms) that flower early in spring. Spring crocus are generally slightly smaller 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. At just 3 to 6 inches tall, crocus stays short, as do snowdrops. Birds and ​rabbits eat crocus, 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.

  • 12 of 15

    Witch Hazel (hamamelis x intermedia 'Arnold Promise')

    Witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia 'Aurora') flowers in yellow and orange.

    Sue Bishop/Getty Images

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

    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 bushes except some magnolias. The vase-shaped growth habit with spreading branches makes this a good plant for borders, screens, and woodland gardens.

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Forsythia (Forsythia x intermidia)

    Forsythia branch in bloom.
    David Beaulieu
    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 8
    •  Color Varieties: March to April
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

    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 4 to 6 feet in height, with a spread of 3 to 5 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 they may require occasional rejuvenation pruning.

  • 14 of 15

    Dwarf Flowering Almond (Prunus glanulosa)

    Flowering almond in bloom.

    JTGrafix/Getty Images 

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

    Prunus glandulosa is a dwarf version of flowering almond, a shrub that stays to about 3 to 5 feet tall with a similar spread. As is true of many magnolias, the flowers precede the foliage on these shrubs. 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.

  • 15 of 15

    Magnolia Trees (Magnolia spp.)

    Star magnolia in bloom.
    Star magnolia is a small flowering tree.

    Whiteway/Getty Images

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 10, depending on species
    • Color Varieties: White, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Well-drained loamy soil

    The Magnolia genus is a large group of plants including dozens of species with good landscape uses, 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.