After winter’s dreary gray and brown hues, it’s exciting to see those colorful early spring flowers pop up. Perennials, annuals, and shrubs will all start to show their finest come springtime, and this is how you know winter is gone for the season. Mother Nature may be much more fickle than we’d like in March and April, but many early spring flowers can handle a frost or two, and they’ll even survive a late spring snowstorm. Some spring flowers like grape hyacinths have to get planted in the fall to bloom in the spring, but you can plant a large majority of them in early spring.
However, before you buy them, read the plant description or tag and make sure that you can give them the correct growing conditions. Full sun requires six to eight hours of bright sunlight per day, and partial sun is roughly half this. Shade plants, on the other end of the spectrum, need to be in a space that doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight. Even a tiny plant will grow, so you need to leave space for it to spread so you don’t crowd your other plantings. Also, make sure that your perennials or shrubs, that come back each year, are suited to survive in your region.
Once you do, you’ll be able to go through this list of early spring flowers and see which ones you can use to add a pop of color to help chase away the winter blues.
1. Bleeding Heart
Bleeding heart is an early spring flower that offers arm-like branches that support rows and rows of dangling red or pink blossoms. The blossoms look like inverted, split hearts that have a white teardrop shape with a yellow tinge. This plant is airy and ephemeral, and it offers feathery foliage that dies to the ground after the plant blooms.
This plant prefers to be in a location that gets full sun to partial shade, and the soil should have a neutral pH with very good drainage. The height will range from one to three feet, and it offers shrub-like growth that makes it a fun stand-alone specimen plant. It does best when you plant it in zones three to nine.
Bleeding Hearts by Greg / CC BY-ND 2.0
2. Carolina Jessamine
This early spring flower is actually a native vine that offers very showy blossoms that come in a trumpet shape with a strong scent and a pretty yellow color. Carolina Jessamine has lanceolate foliage that is very shiny. It prefers to be in a location with full sun where it can spread out along the ground, or it grows nicely up and over a pergola, fence, or trellis. It can easily get between 12 and 20 feet long at full maturity, and it thrives in zones 7 to 10. In cooler zones, the foliage is semi-evergreen, and it’s evergreen in warmer areas.
Columbine is an early spring flower that is an ephemeral plant that will die back to the ground and vanish after it blooms. The blossoms are pink, orange, red, purple, yellow, white, or bicolor. You’ll see an inner ring of petals that has star-shaped, spurred sepals that make it look like a very strange insect. The foliage is very fern-like and delicate.
Columbine is a plant that does wonderfully if you plant it in full sun to partial shade, and it needs well-draining, average soil with a neutral pH level. This is a smaller native plant, but there are also large hybrids available to make the height range from 8 to 18 inches. You should plant different colors apart if you want them to remain true to color because cross-pollination will cause color changes. Columbine grows in zones three to nine, and it works well in borders and beds, or you can use it as a specimen plant for small-space gardens or cottage gardens.
Trio by Art G. / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The Crocus is a classic early spring flower that grows from a bulb, and it grows well when you plant it in zones three to eight. They come in shades of purple, pink, orange, yellow, and white. This plant will quickly naturalize to form thick carpets of color as the years go by. Along with being a spring bloomer, you can find autumn varieties that do well in zones 6 to 10.
Give your plants a location with partial shade to full sun and organically-rich soil that is very slightly acidic. Also, good drainage is essential. It’s frost-tolerant and reliable, and they get between three and six inches tall. You can even find this early spring flower peeking up from the snow. You can mix them in mass plantings in borders, beds, drift, containers, or window boxes.
Crocus by Manuel M.V. / CC BY 2.0
Daffodils are a very sturdy trumpet-shaped early spring flower that is best known for having a very cheerful, bright yellow color. There are 13 divisions of the Narcissus group, and there are many varieties. You can find them in shades of white, pink, and two-tone colors. There can be more than one flower per stem, or a single or double row of tepals. This term is used to describe sepals and petals that are indistinguishable.
They grow in clumps and tend to naturalize very well, and they have little to no appeal to any foraging wildlife. The foliage has leaves that are strap-like and narrow, and ideal planting conditions include a spot with full sun to partial shade with soil that drains well, has a neutral pH, and is organically rich. It’s common to interplant daffodils with hyacinths, snowdrops, or tulips in containers, borders, and mass plantings. It does well in zones four to eight.
Daffodils by Bill Dickinson / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
6. Dutchman’s Breeches
This native wildflower has an upright, arching growth habit. If you look at the stems, you’ll find small white flowers with yellow tips suspended from the stems, and the flowers look like inverted pants. Dutchman’s Breeches is another ephemeral plant that has flowers and foliage that vanish after they bloom because they die back to the ground.
The foliage on this plant is very deeply divided, and it looks slightly like Italian leaf parsley. It grows from very fleshy rootstock, and it does best in full to partial shade where the soil is slightly acidic, organically rich, and drains well. It can get up to a foot tall when you grow it in zones three to seven. You can tuck this plant underneath trees and shrubs and spot it as you walk through the yard in early spring.
Dutchman’s Breeches by Shanthanu Bhardwaj / CC BY-SA 2.0
7. Dwarf Flowering Almond
When you plant this early spring flower, you’ll get a riot of white or pink single or double-petal blossoms on several stems. Once it blooms, you’ll see light green serrated deciduous leaves. This shrub will grow very well in partial shade to full sun as long as the soil drains well and is organically rich. The pH can be neutral to slightly acidic. One of the most popular varieties is Rosea Plena. It is a double pink flower that has a freeform shape. The plant gets between four and five feet high, and it grows well in zones four to eight.
Prunus glandulosa (Dwarf flowering almond) by Amy / CC BY-NC 2.0
8. Flowering Quince
Flowering quince makes a wonderful hedge tree, and this early spring flower is a deciduous shrub that produces smaller greenish-yellow fruit that is edible. You can use it to make jelly, jam, or preserves. The blooms are very similar to what you’d see on a cherry tree, and they have red to salmon-pink single or double petals. The foliage has oval, shiny leaves that only show up after the flowers drop, and the branches are thorny and dense.
There are varieties of this early spring flower that do well in zones four to nine, and you’ll want to give it full sun to partial shade with acidic, average soil that drains well. It tends to have a rounded shape, and the average height is between 6 and 10 feet. They make nice stand-alone plantings, and Scarlet Storm is a very attractive cultivar that has double-petal flowers in a dark crimson color that bloom on four to five-foot shrubs. This is a thornless cultivar too.
Flowering Quince by Liz West / CC BY 2.0
This is a low maintenance shrub that produces pretty early spring flowers. It’s a taller shrub that has arching, slender branches with bright yellow flowers. The flowers come directly from the stems, and they have star-shaped yellow heads. Sometimes, narrow elliptical leaves will appear before the flowers vanish. It grows well in zones five to eight, and it reaches 8 to 10 feet tall at full maturity.
This shrub comes with a slightly rounded shape, and the leaves can take on a bronze coloring in the fall. You can use it as a hedging plant, and you can prune it to the height you want or leave it to grow. It’s very attractive to have lining your fences and walkways, especially when you put a few bright perennial bulbs in the ground by them.
Forsythia by Linda, Fortuna Future / CC BY-NC 2.0
Fothergilla is a smaller flowering shrub that has white flowers with a sweet scent that look like bottle brushes. The foliage on these early spring flowers is elliptical, small leaves with diagonal veining. To grow this plant, pick an area with partial shade or full sun. The soil should be organically rich, acidic, and drain well.
This plant will vary in height, and some dwarf cultivars will get between three or five feet tall, and the bigger cultivars can top out at 6 to 10 feet. Most varieties will grow well in zones four to eight. Along with the early spring flowers you’ll get, this plant offers fall color in shades of yellow, red, and orange. The Mount Airy cultivar works best in zones five to eight, and it gets between three and five feet tall. You can use it for loose hedging along your fences, walkways, and perimeters. It also does well in the back of beds with perennials and bulbs in the front.
Fothergilla by Susan Tryforos / CC BY-ND 2.0
11. Glory of the Snow
Glory of the Snow offers star-shaped, violet-blue early spring flowers with white centers and a cheerful, upward face. It grows in a large clumping fashion, and the foliage is very strap-like with a reddish tint on the leaves and stems. This low-maintenance plant likes to be in full sun to partial shade with slightly acidic, average, but well-draining soil. It does best in zones three to eight. It can get between 6 and 12 inches tall, and it excels in rock gardens or as a companion plant.
This plant will tolerate the juglone toxicity that comes with black walnut trees very well, and it makes a pretty focal point en masse planted beneath shrubbery or trees. One species of this plant called Chionodoxa luciliae has three to six-inch stems with fewer flowers. These early spring flowers are slightly larger, but they lose the starry shape.
Glory-of-the-Snow by Hindrik Sijens / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
12. Grape Hyacinth
This fragrant early spring flower has spikes of tiny blooms that look like tight bunches of grapes. The best known color this plant has is purplish-blue, but you can also find them in shades of whtie, pink, and yellow. The foliage resembles floppy grass, and it is best planted in partial shade to full sun with well-draining, average soil that has a pH that is very close to neutral.
This early spring flower will get up to a foot tall, so it works well planted in your borders, beds, drifts, containers, or window boxes. You can plant it en masse to get a stunning monochromatic display, or it does well as a companion plant for dwarf iris, circus, and glory of the snow. Most varieties need to be in zones four to eight, but there are cultivars that will grow in zones three to nine.
Grape Hyacinth by Sandy Sarsfield / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Hellebore is a very big genus of winter and early spring flowers that have a reputation for having nodding heads and the ability to bloom in the snow. The colors will range from purples and pinks to greens, yellows, and whites. You can get a single row of sepals, or it can produce an additional inner row if the double varieties. The foliage is radiating and deeply divided, or it can have a foot-like fashion. It can range from matte, deciduous, and soft textured to shiny, evergreen, dark green, or leathery.
Hellebore is one early spring flower that thrives in partial to full shade with well-draining, organically-rich soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline. There are six classifications of this plant with 20 species, and the heights will range from 12-inches to 18-inches. So, it works well planted in a border or in the middle of a garden bed, or you can put it by itself in a drift.
Hellebore by Sue Cro / CC BY-NC 2.0
14. Japanese Camellia
Better known as the Rose of Winter, this early spring flower offers blooms that look like cottage garden, flouncy, English roses. It’s available in shades of purple, pink, white, red, and yellow. Japanese Camellia has shiny, smooth, oval leaves, and it’s evergreen in zones seven to nine. To cultivate it, you should give it an area that has partial to full shade that is sheltered from any strong winds. The soil should be well-draining, organically rich, and acidic.
There are several cultivars available that have mature heights between 7 to 12 feet, and the Japanese varieties tend to be much more showy than the other options. Sargent Red is one option you may like, and it offers rose-red early spring flowers with a height of 8 to 12 feet.
Japanese Camellia 2 by Thomas Quine / CC BY 2.0
15. Korean Spice Viburnum
This long-lasting bush offers reddish-early spring flowers that will open to rounded, showy clusters of tiny white flowers that look a little like hydrangeas. They have a spicy scent, as the name suggests. The foliage is elliptical leaves with very prominent veins, and they can have a red tinge. As the summer fades to fall, the color deepers to bronze.
To grow this early spring flower, you’ll need to pick out an area with full sun to partial shade with slightly alkaline, average soil that drains. It has a mature height of four to six feet, and it thrives when you plant it in zones four to seven. You’re very likely to find named and generic cultivars when you shop.
Korean Spice Viburnum by Dan Mullen / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
16. Lily of the Valley
LIly of the Valley has a reputation for producing fragrant pink or white early spring flowers in a bell shape. Each slender stem has between 5 and 15 flowers, and the leaves are elliptical with ridged veins. It likes to be in a shady location with a well-draining soil that is organically rich. The ideal pH levels are slightly acidic.
This plant does wonderfully under trees and shrubbery where it has room to form dense clumps. It looks stunning in stand-alone drifts too, or you can interplant it with the hosta plant. It does well in zones two to nine, and it can get between 12 and 22 inches tall. It does spread quickly, so consider containing it with concrete pavers or deeply placed garden edging materials. You can also curb the growth by periodically dividing it, and avoid planting it in the Midwest as it’s invasive.
Lily of the Valley by Todd Petit / CC BY-NC 2.0
Pigsqueak offers drooping clusters of dark pink early spring blossoms. The leaves are leathery, shiny, and heart-shaped with a rosette shape. They squeak if you rub them, and this is where the name comes from. New growth in the spring has red stems, and the foliage is evergreen and will turn a burgundy in the fall. This is a ground covering plant that grows in very dense clumps. It tops out at 12 to 18 inches, and you can plant it on sloped areas where it can spread out and add interest to your landscape while inhibiting erosion. Put it in partial to full shade with an average soil that is slightly acidic.
Pigsqueak by Patrick Standish / CC BY 2.0
18. Pussy Willow
Pussy willow is a small tree or shrub, and it offers bare, long stems on the male plants that form furry gray and white catkins for early-season texture. You want to find an area with full sun to part shade, and it does well on the south side of your property. It reaches between 15 and 25 feet tall. If you trim the new canes each year, you can keep the size more manageable. If you want to grow it like a tree, you’ll trim away the side branches to help establish a trunk. Plant perennials and bulbs around the base to create a focal point.
If you want to create a bush with it, don’t cut off the lower branches. This is a nice option to put as a property perimeter plant, specimen planting, or as a hedgerow. It likes organically-rich, slightly acidic, and well-draining soil. Plant it in zones four to eight for the best results.
Pussy Willow by Ben Klocek / CC BY 2.0
19. Siberian Squill
This low-profile plant offers one to three nodding, light blue, bell-shaped early spring flowers on each stem. It’s popular to plant by your crocus, glory of the snow, or grape hyacinth plants. The leaves have reddish stems and a strap-like shape, and the best growing conditions include partial shade to full sun in a slightly acidic soil that drains very well. It can get between three and six inches high, and they do well in border edges, fronts of beds, window boxes, or containers. Mass plantings are also popular, and it grows best in zone two to eight.
Siberian Squill by hedera.baltica / CC BY-SA 2.0
20. Single Early Tulip
The Tulipa genus is very large, and they offer everything from early spring flowers to fall ones. This particular cultivar is a classic variety, and it offers a row of colorful tepals that will bloom right alongside your crocuses and daffodils. The foliage is elliptical, fleshy, and it can have a purple tinge. The colors include purple, pink, orange, white, red, and yellow with stems that are between 12 and 18 inches tall.
Tulips are one early spring flower that love full sun, and it has an average soil that drains well with slight acidity. They do well in zones three to seven, and the medium height of these plants make them nice to put in the middle of your borders or beds.
Tulip by Mia Battaglia / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Snowdrops are extremely early spring flowers that usually pop up alongside your crocus and hellebore. It has white, drooping flowers with a bell shape with a splotch of green that looks like a very small inverted heart. The leaves look like fleshy, thick grass.
To grow your snowdrops, they’ll need partial shade to full sun with an organically-rich and well-draining soil. It has a clumping growth habit, and this early spring flower naturalizes to zones three to eight easily. It will get up to seven inches tall, and they work well in borders, beds, window boxes, or containers. You can snow them en masse too.
Snowdrop by Holger Wirth / CC BY-ND 2.0
22. Spring Heath
This early spring flower is actually an evergreen ground cover that has several overlapping stems that show rows of tiny red to bright pink cylindrical flowers. The leaves are needles with bright green coloring, and this plant loves full sun with well-draining, acidic, and organically-rich soil. It also has a higher tolerance for poor acidic soil. It can get between 12 and 15 inches tall, and it naturalizes slowly. However, it’s useful for inhibiting erosion, hiding shrub bottoms in sunny beds, border placement, and creating evergreen drifts. Plant it in zones five to eight for the best results.
Welcome back by hehaden / CC BY-NC 2.0
Trillium is a low-maintenance shade early spring flower that blooms on a bare, single stem from a thick root system. It has three white petals that will bend under at the very tips, and there are three green sepals under the petals. The foliage has three egg-shaped or ovate leaves that radiate around the stem in a whorl pattern.
Trillium loves partial to full shade in slightly acidic, well-draining, and organically-rich soil. It’s an ephemeral plant that will die back to the ground once it finishes blooming. If you have a woodsy garden with a lot of shrubs and trees, trillium will work well to create natural drifts. It does best in zones four to eight, and the heights range from 8 to 18 inches.
Trillium by Laurel F / CC BY-SA 2.0
24. Winter Aconite
The final early spring flower on the list is winter aconite, and it offers cup-shaped blooms in a bright yellow coloring that sit atop deeply divided leaf collars. It grows from tubers to heights of three to six inches. It requires partial shade to full sun with alkaline soil that is organically rich and drains well. It spreads easily, and it grows well around black walnut trees. Grow it in zones three to seven for the best results.
Winter Aconite by Peter Stenzel / CC BY-ND 2.0
These 24 early spring flowers are the perfect addition to any garden to help chase away the dreary winter weather and welcome spring. They come in a host of sizes and shapes, so it’s easy to pick several and scatter them along your landscape.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.