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What Are Ephemerals?
True to their name, spring flowering ephemerals are plants that last only a brief time. Spring ephemerals don't die, but they do go dormant and disappear from view for shortly after they stop flowering.
Spring ephemerals are triggered to grow with the first hint of warm weather. Once warmer weather takes hold, ephemerals usually die back on top, but their roots continue growing under the soil, although there will be years when some plants that are usually ephemeral decide to surprise you and... stick around.
The natural habitat for most spring ephemerals is a woodland, particularly damp areas like stream banks. Not all ephemerals are widely dispersed and your area may have its own distinct wildflowers, but here a few popularly grown spring ephemerals to consider for your garden.Continue to 2 of 20 below.
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Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva Pursh)Continue to 3 of 20 below.
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Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis )
Bloodroot is named for the dark red sap in the leaves and stems of the plant. Bloodroot loves damp soil, but it can be naturalized in the dryer areas under trees if kept well watered in its first year. The key to making these woodland plants happy is providing rich soil, spring moisture, and summer shade.Continue to 4 of 20 below.
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Calypso Orchid (Calypso bulbosa)
Calypso orchids are most at home on the forest floor, popping out from a carpet of ferns and moss. They go by many common names, including Fairy Slipper, Lady Slipper, and Venus Slipper. The flowers climb about 6 inches above the ground and come in shades of pink, white, purple, and flecked combinations of all three colors.Continue to 5 of 20 below.
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Celandine Poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)
Celandine, or woodland poppies, are relatively tall wildflowers that can grow to a height of 2 ft. They are one of the few ephemerals that start quickly from seed and one of the easiest ephemerals to cultivate, as long as you have a damp, shady site.Continue to 6 of 20 below.
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Dogtooth Violet (Erythronium dens-canis)
Dogtooth violets are no relation to the common violet. They are named for their color and their bulb, which resembles a dog's canine tooth. The flowers open in the morning and close as evening approaches. Although dogtooth violets love the dampness of spring, they don't like to sit in wet soil while dormant.Continue to 7 of 20 below.
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Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)
With lacy foliage and dangling white flowers shaped like old-fashioned pantaloons, Dutchman's Breeches always bring a smile to your face. Despite their delicate appearance, they are extremely hardy and undemanding. Give them a rich soil and they will return every year and probably seed themselves about.Continue to 8 of 20 below.
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Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)Continue to 9 of 20 below.
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Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens)
As pretty as their Easter-colored flowers and soft fuzzy leaves are, they are rivaled by the wild silky seed heads that last even longer than the flowers. Pasque flower is a grassland perennial that blooms about the same time as crocus. Thes are nectar-rich flowers that help feed the bees before many other flowers have opened.Continue to 10 of 20 below.
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Rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)
These are small but charming spring flowers that top out at 4 to 6 inches tall. The foliage is a lovely blue-green which makes the white flowers even brighter. Rue anemone are slow to establish but will eventually spread to about 12 inches. Mulch or side dress annually with compost or shredded leaves.Continue to 11 of 20 below.
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Sagebrush Buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus)
Sagebrush buttercup is remarkably hardy down to USDA Zone 2. The buds emerge with a purplish tinge and open to a cheery sunshine yellow. These are tiny plants, with most reaching only 3 to 4 inches tall. They tend to grow in carpets and make a much bigger impact.Continue to 12 of 20 below.
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Shooting Star (Dodecatheon pulchellum)
Shooting star is a short-lived perennial, but you can usually count on it to self-seed. The flowers bloom around May in shades of white and lavender-pink. The swept-back petals are what give it its common name of shooting star. The flower stems can lift the flowers a foot or taller above the plants.Continue to 13 of 20 below.
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Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)
These delicate pink-striped flowers surrounded by grassy foliage are adaptable to woodlands, meadows, and even rock gardens. They look best in mass plantings, but you can get them started with a handful of plants. The tubers of Spring Beauty are edible and used like potatoes, which gives them their other common name "fairy spud".Continue to 14 of 20 below.
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Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis)
Squirrel corn is a diminutive relative of bleeding heart, with finely cut leaves and white flowers. It got the name squirrel corn because it has small yellow tubers that look somewhat like a kernel of corn, and squirrels, as well as other small rodents, find them tasty.Continue to 15 of 20 below.
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Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)
Cutleaf toothwort blooms for about 2 weeks in early spring. The fragrant white or pink flowers never fully open, staying in an elongated bell-shape until going to seed. The pretty lobed leaves are not what gives it the name cutleaf, but rather it is the leaf scars or tooth-like projections on the stems.Continue to 16 of 20 below.
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Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)
Trilliums have three leaves and three petals. There are over 40 species of trilliums, but you had better be patient if you intend to start them from seed. Trilliums can keep you waiting up to 7 years before they flower! Luckily they are becoming more available as plants in nurseries.Continue to 17 of 20 below.
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Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)
Trout lilies very much resemble their cousin the Dogtooth violet, with their swept-back petals. While trout lilies are very early bloomers, they are more famous for not blooming. Usually, that is because the soil is too rich and they are happy to spread out and grow lush foliage. Cut back on the leaf litter, if you have trouble getting yours to bloom.Continue to 18 of 20 below.
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Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)
Twinleaf's flowers resemble bloodroot, but the leaves are joined at a joint that makes them look like butterfly wings. The plant is named for Thomas Jefferson and he did, indeed, grow them. Twinleaf is hardy, but slow to fill out.Continue to 19 of 20 below.
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Yellow Fritillary (Fritillaria pudica)
Although yellow fritillary or "golden bells" is hardy enough to bloom through snow, it is very particular about where it grows. You may not be able to get this flower established in your garden unless you can give it conditions that mimic a grassland or ponderosa.