11 Best Perennial Flowers for Early Spring

Blooms to Brighten Your Landscape Right After Winter

Illustration of early spring flowers

The Spruce / Katie Kerpel

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

  • 01 of 11

    Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)

    Bleeding heart flowers in garden.
    Michael Wheatley / Getty Images

    Despite the name, 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 hearts are a welcome sight in the spring, you had better look quickly. As the days lengthen and the temperature warms, bleeding heart starts to turn yellow and forlorn. They can even disappear entirely for the summer, as many spring ephemerals do. But don't let that stop you from growing them. Simply plant them near later-emerging plants that will fill in the void as your bleeding hearts fade. Hosta, astilbe, and ferns make great companions for bleeding hearts.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, rich, well-draining
  • 02 of 11

    Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis)

    Bloodroot, one of the earliest Spring Wildflowers
    Ed Reschke / Getty Images

    Bloodroot is more of a ground cover than a bedding plant, and 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. Unlike many ground covers, bloodroot is not invasive and usually not even aggressive.

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

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade; can tolerate full sun in spring (not summer)
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, acid
  • 03 of 11

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

    brunnera blossoms

    BambiG / Getty Images

    The heart-shaped leaves of false forget-me-nots (also called Siberian bugloss) often get more attention than its brilliant blue flowers. Several cultivars have beautiful, creamy variegation. But whether you grow it for its flowers or its foliage, this is an easy plant to care for.

    Because this plant emerges so early in the spring, the leaves can get a bit tattered by summer. Simply cut them back and new leaves will fill in. It is a slow-growing plant, but it will eventually form a nicely sized clump. The species and stabilized varieties may self-seed, while the variegated varieties are slower to spread. This species tends to be short-lived. To keep them around longer, divide the plants every three years, or so, to reinvigorate them.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 04 of 11

    Hellebores (Helleborus)

    Spotted Hellebore Flowers
    Garden Photo World/Georgianna Lane / Getty Images

    The Helleborus genus includes a Christmas rose and a Lenten rose (among other plants), and neither usually blooms on their respective holy days, except when weather is wacky, like when El Niño is in full force. But these hardy flowers 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 are not particular about the color, you can find seed packets of mixed blends. You will 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.

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

    • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9
    • Color Varieties: Pink, purple, burgundy, cream
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Not too wet or dry, neutral to slightly acid
    Continue to 5 of 11 below.
  • 05 of 11

    Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

    lungwort
    Friedemeier/Getty Images

    This plant may not have the prettiest name, but it is a fabulous early spring flower. It also gets a lot of attention for its flashy foliage, with its leaves that are dotted, speckled, and splashed with white and silver. The only bad news is that the plants tend to be ephemeral and fade away in the summer.

    Lungwort flowers hold their own intrigue. The white flowers remain clear white while in bloom. In addition, there are flowers that start off pink and turn blue after they are pollinated. So you have two different color flowers on one plant.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, pink, blue
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline
  • 06 of 11

    Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

    creeping phlox
    okyela/Getty Images

    Creeping phlox has probably caught your eye. It forms a colorful carpet of flowers that often spills across lawns or pours over rock walls. It is usually planted in large masses, making a big splash that literally turns heads. Creeping phlox comes in a few different pastel colors as well as bold pinks and pure white. The flowers do not last terribly long, but they put on quite a show when they arrive.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Variations: Pink, red, white, blue, rose, lavender, purple
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, evenly moist
  • 07 of 11

    Pig Squeak (Bergenia cordifolia)

    bergenia
    49pauly/Getty Images

    Pig squeak is not flashy, but it's certainly not a wallflower, either. It more than makes up for the tininess of its flowers by having an abundance of them and holding them high above the glossy, leathery leaves on burgundy stems. While Bergenia is an early spring bloomer, the leaves can stay good-looking all season. In the fall, they turn a really nice bronze-red.

    This plant spreads via rhizomes but not quickly enough to become a nuisance. It is called pig squeak because that is the sound it makes when you rub its leaves between your fingers. Try it. It is practically guaranteed to make you laugh.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Variations: Pink, white, red, violet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained
  • 08 of 11

    Primrose (Primula)

    Primrose Blooming In Garden
    Nalin Nelson Gomes / EyeEm / Getty Images

    It is hard to categorize primroses. There is the common primrose (Primula vulgaris); cowslips (Primula veris) in buttery yellow; the exotic candelabras (Primula japonica) that hold their flower clusters on tall, straight stems; and the saturated colors of English primrose (Primula acaulis). They all vary a bit in shape and size, but they all look best in large clumps, particularly when spreading out under trees.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Color Variations: White, amber-orange, blue, pinkish-purple, purple, red, several bi-colored varieties
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained, slightly acid
    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum)

    Fragant Solomons seal flowers - Kaiserstuhl Germany
    Eric Ferry / Getty Images

    Solomon’s seal is eye-catching in a shade garden, with its arching stems and dangling flowers. And after the bloom is over, the glossy black seed pods add visual appeal. Because it is a short plant that flowers downward, Solomon's seal looks best in large swaths that can spread out naturally in your garden bed.

    Solomon’s seal spreads via rhizomes. Most are low growing plants, but there are “giant” Solomon’s seals (Polygonatum biflorum var. commutatum) that can get as tall as 5 feet.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade
    • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, neutral to slightly acid
  • 10 of 11

    Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)

    Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)
    Marie Iannotti

    Twinleaf is a demur North American native that is often mistaken for bloodroot because the two plants' flowers are very similar. Twinleaf was named in honor of Thomas Jefferson and, yes, he did grow it. What is wonderful about twinleaf flowers is that they can bloom even before the leaves fan out.

    The twinleaf is so named for its sets of two leaves shaped somewhat like butterfly wings. Its flowers are fleeting, but its interesting leaves stick around all summer. The plant also has unique seed pods.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 6 to 8
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained, limestone
  • 11 of 11

    Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

    Virginia Bluebell, Mertensia virginica.
    Carol Mellema / Getty Images

    Many folks believe that spring has not arrived until they see the bluebells in bloom. Much like lungwort, the flowers do not actually start out blue. They begin as pink buds and turn blue later. And there’s no denying their charm with their dangling clusters of tubular blue flowers.

    The bluebell is yet another spring ephemeral that disappears shortly after it flowers. It has done its job for the season and needs the downtime to recover its strength. As the bluebells disappear, they make room for other plants to shine.

    • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8
    • Color Varieties: White, lavender, pink
    • Sun Exposure: Part shade to full shade
    • Soil Needs: Evenly moist, well-drained, sandy

It's All in the Timing

When planning your garden, mix the early spring flowers with your later bloomers to prevent bare spots after the early birds are done. Also think about which early bloomers die back early (like ephemerals) and which maintain robust foliage for the remainder of the growing season. The latter can create a backdrop for later, lower-growing flowers.