10 of the best spring flowering plants for your garden

Spring flowering plants

Spring is the time of renewal and hope being rewarded and, in my opinion, the spring flowering plants featured in this post are responsible for a lot of positivity we feel in Spring.

As a gardener I long for Spring to come and spend hours scanning my garden in late winter for the first signs of Spring – buds swelling, snowdrops, crocuses and the spears of daffodil foliage breaking through the soil.

The great thing about Spring is that it comes in with all guns blazing. Spring flowering plants burst into flower as soon as they can. They are keen to soak up the light before the leaves in the trees block it out and put on displays to attract the early pollinators so they can set seed and secure the next generation.

This means that Spring flowering plants are bright and beautiful and light up our gardens when we need it most.

You’ll be familiar with most, if not all of the plants on this list. And they are familiar precisely because they are such fantastic plants. They are always popular and never fail to do a great job of lifting our spirits after the dark days of winter.

But, whilst you know the plants, you might not know about the different varieties of these plants that are available. So, I’ve included details of some of the best cultivars to look out for.

1. Tulips (Tulipa spp.)

Tulip Queen of the Night
Tulip ‘Queen of Night’

Tulips are the quintessential spring flower, known for their bright and varied colours and elegant shapes. Planting tulip bulbs in the fall/autumn results in a spectacular display from early to late spring.

Tulips come in many varieties, including single, double, fringed, and parrot tulips, each offering unique textures and shades. Tulips originated in Turkey and thrive in well-drained soil and full sun, making them perfect for borders and pots.

Here are some suggestions for tulips to grow:

  • Tulipa ‘Queen of Night’: This cultivar has deep maroon, almost black flowers, giving it a dramatic look. It grows up to 24 inches tall and is a mid to late spring bloomer.
  • Tulipa ‘Angelique’: This double-flowered tulip resembles a peony and displays soft pink petals tinged with white. It reaches about 16 inches in height and blooms in mid-spring.
  • Tulipa ‘Spring Green’: A viridiflora tulip with white petals and green stripes. It’s a unique and elegant choice, growing up to 18 inches and flowering in late spring.

2. Daffodils (Narcissus spp.)

Narcissus Ice Follies
Narcissus Ice Follies by 阿橋 HQ is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Daffodils are hardy, reliable perennials that signal the beginning of spring with their cheerful yellow, white, or orange trumpets. They are incredibly easy to grow, requiring minimal care once planted. These bulbs naturalise well, meaning they return year after year in greater numbers, creating a more stunning display as time goes on. Daffodils are resistant to most pests, making them an excellent choice for organic gardens.

  • Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’: This miniature daffodil has bright yellow blooms and grows only about 6-8 inches tall, making it ideal for borders or pots. It flowers in early spring.
  • Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’: Large-cupped with white petals and a frilled, lemon-yellow cup that fades to cream as it matures. It grows up to 14 inches and blooms in mid-spring.
  • Narcissus ‘Pheasant’s Eye’: Late blooming with white petals and a small, red-rimmed yellow cup. It reaches about 14-16 inches and flowers late in the spring season.

3. Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis)

hyacinths
“Hyacinthus orientalis ‘Pink Pearl’ 2019-04-06 01” by Agnieszka Kwiecień, Nova is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Hyacinths are a popular choice for those who want to add fragrance and colour to their spring garden. Their flowers have a strong scent and dense flower spikes that make them stand out. Hyacinths are available in various colours such as blue, purple, pink, white, and yellow. It is best to plant them in groups in borders or containers. They thrive in rich, well-drained soil and require full to partial sun. In addition to their beauty, hyacinths make an excellent choice for cut flowers that can be brought indoors.

  • Hyacinthus ‘Blue Jacket’: Sporting deep blue flowers with darker stripes, this hyacinth is highly fragrant and grows up to 10 inches tall. It blooms in mid-spring.
  • Hyacinthus ‘Pink Pearl’: Bright pink flowers with a strong scent define this cultivar. It reaches about 10 inches and blooms in early to mid-spring.
  • Hyacinthus ‘Carnegie’: This cultivar produces pure white, star-shaped flowers and is known for its robust fragrance. It grows up to 12 inches and flowers in early to mid-spring.

4. Crocuses (Crocus spp.)

Crocus vernus 'Pickwick'
Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick by Benutzer:Grower is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the first signs of spring, crocuses push through the snow with their cup-shaped blooms in purple, yellow, white, or striped patterns. These small, low-growing plants are ideal for naturalising in lawns, under trees, or in the front of flower beds. Crocuses prefer sunny spots and well-drained soil, and they often bloom when little else in the garden has awakened.

  • Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’: Large, striped purple and white flowers characterise this cultivar. It grows about 4-6 inches tall and blooms in early spring.
  • Crocus chrysanthus ‘Blue Pearl’: Pale blue flowers with a yellow throat. This species is shorter, around 3-4 inches, and blooms early in the spring.
  • Crocus sieberi ‘Firefly’: Noted for its soft lilac flowers with a bright yellow center. It reaches about 3-4 inches and flowers in early spring.

5. Primroses (Primula spp.)

primula vulgaris flowers
Primula-vulgaris-plant1” by null is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Primroses come in a rainbow of colours and are key to a lively spring garden. These perennial plants bloom early in the season, offering clusters of flowers above rosettes of green leaves. Primroses thrive in moist, well-drained soil and partial shade, making them excellent for woodland gardens or shady borders. Their vibrant blooms are perfect for lifting spirits and adding early spring colour.

  • Primula vulgaris: The common primrose, with pale yellow flowers, is a robust and natural-looking species that blooms early in spring and grows about 4-6 inches tall.
  • Primula veris: Known as the cowslip, this species has clusters of drooping, yellow flowers. It grows about 8-12 inches and blooms in mid-spring.
  • Primula ‘Wanda’: With deep mauve flowers and a yellow center, this hybrid is sturdy and compact, reaching around 6 inches in height and blooming in early spring.

6. Forsythia

Forsythia x intermedia 'Spectabilis
Forsythia x intermedia Spectabilis by A. Barra is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Before even the leaves appear, forsythia bushes light up the garden with their brilliant yellow blossoms. These deciduous shrubs are fast-growing and easy to care for, needing only full sun and well-drained soil to thrive. Forsythia is ideal for creating a hedge or a splash of early colour in mixed borders. Their flowers can also be cut and brought indoors to brighten up the home.

  • Forsythia x intermedia ‘Spectabilis’: This is one of the most widely grown forsythias, known for its large, bright yellow blooms. It can grow up to 8-10 feet tall and flowers in early spring.
  • Forsythia ‘Mini Gold’: A dwarf variety suitable for small gardens, with vibrant yellow flowers. It grows up to 2-3 feet and blooms in early spring.
  • Forsythia x intermedia ‘Gold Tide’: Another compact cultivar, it spreads wider than it is tall (about 2-3 feet high and 4-5 feet wide) and has with bright yellow flowers in early spring.

7. Pansies (Viola x wittrockiana)

Viola x wittrockiana Majestic Giants II Blue & White
Viola x wittrockiana Majestic Giants by Photo by David J. Stang is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Pansies are valued for their charming, expressive faces marked with unique patterns and bright colours. These hardy plants can tolerate a late spring frost, making them a versatile addition to the garden. Pansies are perfect for containers, borders, and ground covers, thriving in full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.

  • Viola ‘Majestic Giants’: This series boasts large, colorful blooms with a wide variety of patterns. They reach about 8 inches in height and flower from early to late spring.
  • Viola ‘Matrix’: Known for uniform growth and a wide range of colors, these pansies perform well in both cool and warmer spring weather. They grow to about 8 inches and flower throughout spring.
  • Viola ‘Delta’: A series with a wide color palette and notable for its overwintering ability, perfect for early spring blooms. They grow up to 6-8 inches.

8. Cherry Blossoms (Prunus spp.)

Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan'
“Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan'” by klara is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The ephemeral beauty of cherry blossoms is legendary, with their delicate pink and white flowers creating a soft, romantic atmosphere in any garden. They even give rise to a whole season of celebration in Japan.

Cherry trees range from compact varieties suitable for small gardens to majestic trees ideal for avenues and larger spaces. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil and are best appreciated as specimen trees or in groups. There are hundreds of varieties of ornamental cherries. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • Prunus ‘Accolade’: An ornamental cherry with pink, semi-double flowers. It grows to about 15-20 feet tall and blooms in early to mid-spring.
  • Prunus serrulata ‘Kanzan’: Known for its vibrant pink, double flowers, this cherry tree is a standout in any garden, reaching up to 25-30 feet and blooming in mid-spring.
  • Prunus x yedoensis ‘Somei-Yoshino’: Perhaps the most famous cherry, with delicate pale pink to white flowers. It grows up to 20-25 feet and blooms in early spring.

9. Magnolias

Magnolia x soulangeana
“Magnolia x soulangeana” by briweldon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Spring gardens are often graced by the magnificent blooms of magnolias, with their large, cup-shaped flowers in shades of white, pink, purple, and yellow. Magnolias were one of the first flowering plants to develop and, if you look closely at the flowers, you can see that there is something pre-historic about their size, shape and simplicity.

Magnolias can be deciduous or evergreen and thrive in moist, well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade. They are perfect as focal points in a garden.

  • Magnolia x soulangeana: This popular magnolia features large, saucer-shaped flowers that are pink on the outside and white inside. It can grow up to 20-25 feet tall and blooms in early to mid-spring.
  • Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’: A compact variety with star-shaped, fragrant, white flowers. It reaches about 10-15 feet and blooms in early spring.
  • Magnolia ‘Ann’: Known for its late bloom (avoiding frost damage), it produces purple-red flowers and reaches about 8-10 feet.

10. Rhododendrons

Rhododendron 'Nova Zembla'
Rhododendron Nova Zembla by Jean-Pol GRANDMONT is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Rhododendrons are spectacular shrubs that bloom profusely in the spring with clusters of large, colourful flowers. They come in a vast array of colours and sizes, suitable for almost any garden setting.

Preferring acidic, well-drained soil and part shade, rhododendrons are excellent for borders, woodland settings, or as standalone plants. Here are some recommendations from among the hundreds of varieties available.

  • Rhododendron ‘PJM Elite’: A hardy variety with lavender-pink flowers, it is smaller than some, reaching about 4-6 feet, ideal for smaller gardens. Blooms in mid to late spring.
  • Rhododendron ‘Nova Zembla’: Known for its ability to tolerate cold, it produces large red flowers and can grow up to 5-8 feet, blooming in mid-spring.
  • Rhododendron ‘Golden Lights’: Part of the Northern Lights series, this plant offers fragrant, golden-yellow blooms and is extremely cold hardy. It grows about 4-5 feet tall and blooms in late spring.

Quick planting tips for spring flowering plants

To ensure a vibrant spring display, consider the following tips:

  • Plan for Succession Blooming: Plant a mix of early, mid, and late-spring bloomers to maintain continuous color.
  • Soil Preparation: Amend the soil with compost or well-rotted manure to improve drainage and fertility.
  • Bulb Planting: Plant bulbs in the fall/autumn at the recommended depth on the packaging for best results.
  • Watering Needs: Keep newly planted areas moist, especially during dry spells, to help establish roots.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.

Conclusion

Spring flowering plants add vibrant beauty and stunning colour to any space. But they also play a pivotal role for early pollinators that are re-emerging from their winter hibernation. By incorporating a selection, or even all, of these top ten spring flowering plants, your garden can exemplify the hope and optimism that comes with the arrival of the new season.

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