When you’ve endured a cold, dark winter, few things lift the spirits like the sight of bright flowers bursting out from an otherwise dormant garden.
If you’re looking to incorporate the new season into your outdoor space, or even just a windowsill, the lively blooms available at this time of year across a wide range of plant types mean you can create a vibrant display even in the earliest days of spring.
Traditionally, these low-growing annual plants were found near streams and on slopes, featuring cream-colored flowers with yellow centers. Cultivated varieties include pinks, blues, and reds.
They thrive in sun or partial shade, in well-drained, slightly acidic soil in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 8. Expect them to bloom when temperatures start to average 50 degrees at night. Sow seeds indoors in mid-summer, then plant them in late winter. Primroses need to be watered as soon as their soil becomes dry.
This member of the Rosaceae family provides vivid coral-colored flowers on stark, spiny winter branches and is guaranteed to bring some cheer to early spring mornings. Flowering quince has the added appeal of autumnal fruit and additional winter blooms as the year progresses.
Expect this shrub to grow up to ten feet in height and width. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9 and requires a long period of temperatures below 41 degrees to put on the best show as the weather warms up.
Despite the name, Lenten roses are a type of hellebore — close relatives of the buttercup. Their pink-white flowers appear on thick stems in early spring or even late winter. These perennial plants will grow up to 18 inches tall even in full shade, in nutrient-rich well-drained moist soil. As they’re poisonous, approach them with care if you have pets or young children.
The Lenten rose will grow best in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9 and should start to flower once temperatures reach around 45 degrees.
These vividly patterned perennials grow to around six inches in height and will add an interesting pop of color each spring, especially when grown in small groups near the front of borders. In the fall, plant the bulbs a couple of inches deep in most types of well-drained soil, in a spot with plenty of sunlight.
They thrive best in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8 and will flourish once daytime temperatures start to approach 50 degrees.
Cultivated hybrids of the viola family are available in just about any color; these ones have five distinctively marked petals that look like friendly faces.
Pansies are great for locations with unpredictable weather; they can withstand frost or even snow, blooming in early spring once the weather reaches around 45 degrees overnight.
Buy young plants and site them in full sun and well-drained soil in early spring, and water them moderately. They work best as annuals or biennials, depending on the variety and your location, and suit USDA hardiness zones 2 through 10.
Many people see the delicate, woodland-dwelling snowdrop as the first sign that spring is on the way. These tiny perennial plants flourish throughout USDA hardiness zones 3 through 7 once temperatures start to rise above 50 degrees.
Plant the bulbs in partial shade in late spring, in well-drained loose, moist soil for flowering the next year. Once established, you can propagate them with ease by dividing up clumps a year later and subsequent late springtimes and re-planting them.
Like a sudden burst of sunshine, this gold-flowered shrub in the olive family seems to signal to the garden that spring has arrived. It appreciates full sun and moist, well-drained soil within USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8.
Most forsythia will bloom best in their second year, from January through April, when temperatures reach above 55 degrees.
This low-growing herbaceous perennial provides a wonderful carpet of pink or purple blooms. Creeping phlox likes full or partial sun, moderate amounts of water and rich, well-drained, slightly acidic soil. It thrives within USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9 and flowers as temperatures start to rise above 50 degrees.
As it tends to grow as a large mat, you may want to dig up, divide and replant clumps every couple of years.
This low-growing member of the Iris family includes the sativus variety, which is the source of saffron. The perennial is great for those with limited time, as it comes up reliably every spring in bold brushstrokes of purple, gold, and white.
Plant the corms in the autumn in well-drained soil, preferably in full sun, in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8. Ensure your plants have cold ground conditions for at least three months if you want them to flower that year.
If any flower epitomizes springtime, it’s the daffodil. With its 2-foot-high stems and cheery yellow funnel-shaped blooms, you can create a sunshine-colored sea of springtime optimism. This member of the amaryllis family is best planted as bulbs in early fall. It prefers soil that’s well-draining but moist, in either full sun or partial shade. Embrace this option if you live in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 8; it will start to bloom when temperatures reach around 50 degrees.
After flowering, deadhead your daffodils but leave the foliage to die back naturally. This ensures they will come back year after year.