Get the most out of your garden by choosing plants for spring blooms that will give you color - and joy - from early spring until early summer. All of these shrubs, perennials, and bulbs are easy to grow and come back each year.
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One of the goals of any of my garden beds, no matter how big or small, is to have something blooming in each season. I also like to have things to cut to bring inside all the time, as well as enjoy the view.
I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this, which is why I've spent time creating lists of flowers that bloom in different seasons, like what to plant for August blooms (and notoriously tricky time to have blossoms), flowering plants for fall, and beautiful summer flowers to grow.
So of course we'd need a list of plants for spring blooms, right? I went through photos of our ranch-to-cottage garden taken in spring to find the shrubs, perennials, and bulbs that grew for me year after year with little care, but provided lots of flowers.
I've included information on sun needs, the zones they do best in, as well as if they're deer resistant or not, since that's high on my list at our new place - and I know it is for many of you, too. I've also separated the plants into early, mid, and late spring so you can choose something from each to have continuous blooms.
I hope you find something (or some things!) on this list to add to your garden and give you that sweet joy that comes from seeing flowers bursting into life after a barren winter.
Plants for Spring Blooms
Early Spring Blooming
Japanese Andromeda, Lily-of-the-Valley Shrub, Pieris japonica, zones 5-9, part sun.
This is a shrub that blooms early spring with drooping clusters of white flowers. New growth is a pretty red that shows off agains the evergreen leaves.
It eventually grows 9 to 12 feet tall with a spread of 3 to 6 feet (though there is a dwarf variety), making it nice for the back of borders and along fence lines. It likes sun to partial shade and is deer resistant.
Grape Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, zones 4-8, full to part sun.
This plant grows from small bulbs with grasslike foliage and purple triangle shaped flowers held above the foliage in March and into April. Growing 8 to 12 inches tall they are good for the front of beds as well as containers.
They naturalize, but in a good way, clumping into larger patches that can be divided if you want. In my garden, the deer generally leave the blooms alone, but may nibble on the foliage.
Because grape hyacinth bloom on tall stems, they are wonderful for cut flowers at a time when usually only daffodils are blooming. I love cutting both the foliage and stems and filling a small clear glass vase with them - so pretty.
Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles, zones 5-9, full sun (best) to part shade.
I love flowering quince because the flowers covering the branches in early spring are so beautiful, probably because they are related to roses.
But they made it on my list of plants to not grow again because the older variety I grew had large thorns and the plants suckered and spread pretty aggressively. This older variety would be perfect for an edge-of-the-property hedge that could be allowed to grow as tall and wide as you'd like.
However, they now have a thornless series (yay!) that doesn't need pruning (double yay!) called Double Take, that grows to about 5 feet. There's a pretty color called 'Peach', and a red one called 'Scarlet Storm.' They are also deer resistant and drought tolerant once established.
Forget-Me-Not, Myosotis (also called Scorpion grasses), zones 5-9, part shade.
While there is a perennial forget-me-not (M. scorpiodes) most of the forget-me-not flowers we're familiar with are the annual M. sylvatica that grows from seed - and then reseeds prolifically. (The perennial version is also known as Water Forget-Me-Not and is considered a noxious weed in a number of states for it's tendency to take over wetland areas and riverbanks, which is probably why it's not sold much.)
This reseeding "prolifically" is why I have a love-hate relationship with this pretty little purple flower. On the plus side, they are one of the first plants to bloom - sometimes in late winter in a mild weather year - and they thrive in shade and under trees if the soil is moist (pretty easy for us to have in the spring here in the PNW). Plus, they bloom for a long time, putting on a beautiful show.
But, oh my gosh can they take over in conditions they like. I've spent many hours pulling the forget-me-nots from the beds as they finished blooming and the seed heads cling to everything. And I mean everything. But left alone, they would take over a bed, so pull you must.
Since I do love their sweet early blooms, I've found it best to plant them in areas they will bloom in spring, but NOT take over - typically dry shade areas.
There is another option, too, if you like them like I do: grow one of my favorite plants of all time: Jack Frost Brunnera.
NOTE: There is also a Chinese Forget-Me-Not that is related to myosotis, Cynoglossum amabile, that has more upright blooms in a similar color but blooms in late summer.
Primrose, Primula vulgaris, zones 4-8, part shade.
There are taller varieties of primrose, but the most popular are the shorter, colorful perennials we see at the stores as the first plants of spring (along with pansies). With pretty little flowers on 4 to 10 inch tall plants, they are semi evergreen and bloom sometimes up to 2 months or more.
I know many people plant them in early spring in pots and treat them as annuals, throwing them out when they stop flowering. But if you plant them in moist areas with partial shade, they will come back stronger each year, putting on their colorful show.
The primrose pictured above is more than three years old and started out in a pot on our porch. There's something so happy about seeing a row of colorful primroses in the garden in early spring, so plant the where you can enjoy them.
Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose, Hellebore orientalis, zone 5-8, shade to part shade.
This beautiful late winter-early spring perennial is semi-evergreen and comes in drooping white blooms as well as shades of pinks, some of which now have double flowers.
It likes shade to semi shade and after blooming, it's palm-like glossy leaves provides a nice 2 feet by 1 foot backdrop to shorter summer annuals or perennials. It's drought tolerant after establishing, so is good for drier shade areas.
I had both a pretty pink hellebore and a classic white hellebore like the one pictured in my previous garden (the white petals age to a soft pink). I also love the dark purple "black" variety and will definitely be planting one or more in our new garden.
Lungwort, Pulmonaria, zone 4-9, full to partial shade.
This is a sweet little 8-12 inch tall perennial shade plant that works well with the other shade plants here, though it does need more moisture than the dry-shade tolerant creeping phlox and brunnera listed below.
Blooming early to mid spring, it comes in colors like the pink-salmon pictured as well as white and purple. Unique to the plant are the spotted, slightly hairy leaves which can be evergreen or not, depending on where you live. Deer resistant.
Tulips, Tulipa, zone 3-8 (though in mild winter areas, only certain varieties will do well), full sun.
Depending on the variety, you can have tulips blooming from mid spring to early summer. Many lose vigor with each year which is why I always plant a Darwin variety. They are a "perennial" tulip that increase in vigor each year and have large blooms in mid-spring.
The Darwins are also more suited to my zone 8 garden where we often have mild winters, though we do have at least a few weeks of below freezing temperatures to give the bulbs the cold they need. (If you are in warmer climates, consider trying species tulips, too.)
This pink variety shown above, Guinevere Jumbo Tulip, is one of my favorites (there are other colors, too). But since the deer LOVE tulips, I will only try planting these in pots on the porch at the farmhouse!
Huckleberry, Vaccinium, zone 7-9, part shade.
This is an evergreen shrub with delicious fruits in the summer and sweet flowers between April and May. It likes damp soil in semi-shade and grows 4 to 6.5 feet tall and is found all throughout the woodlands of the PNW and other like areas. Picking wild huckleberries is something most of us do in August if were in the woods.
I thought it would be fun to grow a few plants to be able to pick our own without having to go into the woods. Then I realized they have a pretty spring flower, too.
Bridal Wreath Spirea (similar), S. prunifolia and S. Vanhouttei, zone 5-9, full sun.
While described as a medium sized shrub, I found it was a large shrub in my garden growing to 8-10 feet tall with arching branches 12-15 feet long.
To be honest, out of bloom (meaning for most of the year, lol) this is a ho-hum shrub, but in bloom it is STUNNING. Really a show stopper in the garden - just place it at the back of the garden!
With its arching habit, this is a plant that needs plenty of space, and when it has room to grow, it should need no pruning or maintenance other than trimming up or cutting off dead branches. Nice against fences or a backdrop to other flowers and is listed as deer resistant.
'Jack Frost' Brunnera, Brunnera macrophylla, (also called Siberian bugloss), zone 3-8, part to full shade.
This is probably my favorite spring plant on this list! At just 1 foot high and wide, it's perfect for the front of beds and - my favorite application - under trees where it thrives in dry shade.
The glowing leaves of silvery 'Jack Frost' are pretty all season, and the tall spikes topped with purple-blue forget-me-not like flowers are so pretty mid-spring, blooming almost 2 months through April and May.
Unlike the common brunnera macrophylla (which has the same blossoms, but with plain green leaves) 'Jack Frost' doesn't spread rapidly (the common brunnera was almost invasive in my zone 8 garden), just naturalizing at a nice pace. Deer and rabbit resistant, too!
I know I'm not alone in my love of this shade-lover, since it is the best selling shade ground cover on the market today.
Late Spring Blooming
Low growing, perennial, and semi-evergreen, creeping phlox plants can be completely covered with flowers in shades of pinks, purples, and white for 4 to 6 weeks in late spring/early summer. The photo above was taken in late April and you can see all the buds just waiting to burst into bloom.
It grows only 4-6 inches high but can spread up to 2 feet. The older branches do become woody and then don't bloom, so cutting those out yearly will keep it blooming.
While the two phloxes mentioned above are often both called "creeping phlox" I found out the major differences in my yard:
- P. subulata likes full sun and has the somewhat poky needle-like leaves usually associated with creeping phlox (and is pictured above).
- P. stolonifera, (sometimes called 'woodland phlox,' but not the same as P. divaricata) had been planted by previous owners under a large fir tree in our backyard. The stolonifera, with softer, wider leaves thrived in this dry shade area, putting on a show with light pink blooms 6-8 inches tall in May and June that visitors always commented on.
So if you have dry shade areas like this I would take the time to search out the stolonifera variety for sure. They were amazing every year (you can see them in action in this article on shade loving plants).
Oriental Poppy, Papaver orientale, zone 3-9 (though not hot-humid areas of the south), full sun.
Blooming late May into June, Oriental poppy's crepe-paper-like blossoms are big and beautiful, although fleeting. Thankfully on an established plant, there should be quite a few of them to prolong the flowering.
They are a good flower for the gap between spring bulbs and summer perennials. I find the buds are pretty, too, with their hairy skin and leaves rising above the garden bed's early spring growth.
After blooming, poppy leaves die back, so it's a good idea to have things planted around it that will fill in. They come back stronger every year and require little care other than cleaning up the dead leaves (they don't like to be moved, though). My favorite of all time are the salmon colored poppies.
Bearded Iris, I. germanica, zones 3-9 (iffy in hot, humid areas, though), full sun.
While I have to admit that bearded iris is not my favorite flower, they do have a number of things going for them that have made me love them more and more:
- First, they are a hardy perennial that comes back year after year, naturalizing in an area nicely.
- Second, after being established, they do not need watering, though giving extra water does help with browning leaves.
- Finally, they come in a huge number of colors and bi-colors that bloom in May and June, nicely bridging the gap between spring and summer.
- Add to this, they are rabbit and deer resistant.
These traits make them nice to add to areas that aren't as easy to reach with hoses or that don't get regular maintenance. For example, a row of these grew in a bed that lined the side of our previous house, pictured above. The purple variety looked so pretty against the yellow siding when it was blooming.
Want to know what I liked best about all these blooms?
Since they are all perennials, bulbs, or shrubs (or the one annual that keeps reseeding...), I planted them once and then they bloomed for me every year with only minimal maintenance, usually just cutting dead foliage back. Oh, and papering and mulching the soil.
So of course you'd guess these are my favorite kind of plants!
What plants do you like for spring blooms?
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