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21 Early Blooming Flowers for Spring

These pretty, early blooming flowers are the first to pop up in spring. That’s what makes hellebores, winter heath and snowdrops so special.

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gardening tools and soil on a wood background; Shutterstock ID 162547868; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): Taste of HomeAggie 11/Shutterstock

Get the jump on the growing season this year with these pretty early blooming flowers that just can’t wait for spring. Because these perennial flowers, trees and shrubs are the first to unfurl each spring (or even in late winter!), they’re often past their prime by early summer. Plant other late-blooming perennials nearby so that your garden is alive with colorful flowers later in the year. Check out these perennial vegetables that you’ll want to plant.

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Closeup Of Helleborus Penny's Pink BloomMICHELR45/GETTY IMAGES
Penny’s Pink hellebore in closeup.

1. Hellebore or Lenten Rose

Helleborus orientalis, Zones 4 to 9

Hellebore’s cup-shaped blossoms are a welcome sight after a long winter. This Easter treat, also known as Lenten rose, springs out of the ground as early as February in moderate winter climates. Ranging from white or pink to rosy purple, the flowers last a few months, usually until March or April. If a snow arrives, don’t fret—these tough blooms will tolerate a dusting. Plant groups of hellebores under backyard trees or shrubs—they thrive in and appreciate the shade. With heights ranging from 1 to 2 feet, this lovely and distinctive bloomer is sure to enhance almost any landscape. Hellebore is a perennial that loves moisture and shade, and you’ll probably wish it bloomed all year-round.

Why we love it: Hellebore blooms last for eight to 10 weeks. Then evergreen foliage steals the show with its year-round appeal. It’s easy to grow and one of the first flowers to emerge in late winter or early spring. Take a look at these tips for caring for houseplants in the winter.  

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2. Forsythia

(Forsythia sp.), Zones 3 – 9

When a forsythia shrub blooms, it’s a clear sign that warm spring days are ahead. Forsythia is one of the earliest plants to bloom in spring, making its golden blossoms a welcome sight. For best results, prune your forsythia as soon as flowers fade, because the next year’s buds form on this year’s growth. Plant it near seed feeders so birds can wait their turn for a snack, and you can use the flowers as a beautiful backdrop for photos.

Why we love it: Sunny yellow spring flowers last for up to 14 days, then dark green foliage emerges after blossoms fade. Check out how to protect shrubs from heavy snow.

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Winter HeathRDA-GID

3. Winter Heath

Erica carnea, Zones 5 to 7

This evergreen low-growing plant will treat you to an abundance of little purple-pink flowers throughout most of the winter and into early spring. Winter heath grows in 6- to 9-inch mounds and creates a dense ground cover over time. It prefers acidic, perfectly drained soil, but it’s more tolerant than other heaths. Your garden needs these perennial vines.

Why we love it: Glimpsing its small, urn-shaped flowers poking through the snow is delightful.

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4. Snowdrop

Galanthus, Zones 3 to 8

It’s easy to see how snowdrops got their name. Their bright green leaves and delicate white blooms appear in late winter and announce that spring is right around the corner. The bulbs are easy to divide and fill a large space quickly. For a large collection of these 4- to 6-inch plants, simply lift and divide bulbs after they bloom but before the foliage dies back.

Why we love it: Snowdrops are low-maintenance and especially attractive scattered throughout natural gardens and under deciduous trees and shrubs.

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Dwarf IrisRDA-GID

5. Dwarf Iris

Varieties include iris danfordiae and I. reticulata, Zones 3 to 9

Reaching just 3 to 9 inches in height, this group of diminutive irises brings bursts of jewel-toned color to late winter and early spring landscapes. Native to Turkey and Iran, they prefer well-draining soil and do best in full sun or partial shade. For an even earlier show, force the bulbs indoors in October or November.

Why we love it: The blooms offer beautiful early color accompanied by a wonderful fragrance. It makes a striking statement when mixed with snowdrops and crocuses.

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6. Crocus

Varieties include crocus ancyrensis and C. tommasinianus, Zones 3 to 8

In late winter, keep your eyes peeled for these purple, yellow and white flowers poking out of a bed of mulch or beneath a snowy blanket. Plant large drifts of corms in fall for stunning color the next season.

Why we love it: Crocuses are known for their strong scent, and help support and attract the first bees and other pollinators emerging. Take a look at these tips that will take your garden from good to great.

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White Squill (Scilla mischtschenkoana) in garden, Moscow region, Russia; Shutterstock ID 1062872987; Use (Print or Web): Print; Client/Licensee: BXT Jan19; Job: BXT Jan19; Other: Sharon NelsonNICK PECKER/SHUTTERSTOCK

7. Early Scilla

Scilla mischtschenkoana, Zones 4 to 7

If you’re into cool hues, seek out early scilla. This compact green plant sports star-shaped white blossoms striped with blue. They grow in full sun to light shade and spread by offsets and self-seeding. Plant early scilla bulbs in autumn for a spectacular sight come late winter to early spring.

Why we love it: It’s a snap to maintain and often continues to flower annually. These are the garden myths you need to stop believing.

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Winter Aconite In Snow, Clear Blue Sky.MARTIN RUEGNER/GETTY IMAGES

8. Winter Aconite

Eranthis hyemalis, zones 3 to 7

These small but cheery cup-shaped yellow flowers start to bloom in March, often emerging from a layer of snow. They’re easy to grow in well-draining soil and a colorful way to naturalize a garden.

Why we love it: They are deer resistant and may even grow near black walnut trees.

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Spring Pulsatilla Vulgaris Pasque Flower, Pasqueflower, Common Pasque Flower, European PasqueflowerJACKY PARKER PHOTOGRAPHY/GETTY IMAGES

9. Pasque Flower

Pulsatilla Spp., Zones 4 to 8

European pasque flower (P. vulgaris) usually boasts pale to deep purple petals but some red and white varieties are also available. The bright yellow centers draw the first pollinators of the season. P. patens is a native, found across the country, and has blue-violet flowers.

Why we love it: This rabbit-resistant charmer puts on one of the earliest shows in spring. The blooms are followed by attractive fuzzy seed heads that have a beauty all their own.

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10. Eastern Redbud

Cercis canadensis, zones 4 to 7

For bare, arching limbs in winter, golden yellow leaves in fall, and colorful pink blooms in early spring, grow an Eastern redbud tree. Birds, bees and butterflies will flock to your backyard.

Why we love it: Songbirds and pollinators love this small tree. Here are our tips for planing an affordable garden.

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White Rock Cress Spring Flower Proven WinnersCOURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

11. Rock Cress

Arabis caucasicaZones 4 to 7

Nestle rock cress in a sunny spot within a rock garden and dainty white blooms will cascade and spread up to 2 feet. It tolerates drought conditions. Give this short-and-sweet ground cover a haircut after it has finished blooming so it looks tidy for the rest of the growing season.

Why we love it: Fragrant flowers that bloom from April to May attract bees and other beneficial pollinators to your backyard.

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Purple Candytuft Spring Flower ProvenwinnersCOURTESY OF PROVEN WINNERS

12. Candytuft

Iberis sempervirens, Zones 3 to 9

Just like its name, this plant is a real treat! Get ready for a carpet of pure white or pink blooms, perfect for borders, rock gardens or containers. Candytuft grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.

Why we love it: Flower clusters bloom from March or April right into summer. Dark green evergreen foliage provides interest the rest of the year. These secret pantry ingredients can actually boost your garden’s growth!

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White Spring Beauty Flowers ShutterstockMARY TERRIBERRY/SHUTTERSTOCK

13. Spring Beauty

Claytonia virginicazones 3 to 8

Come April, white flowers with light or dark pink stripes on 6-inch stems pop up in woodlands. In your yard, grow this pretty perennial in rock gardens or in meadows.

Why we love it: The tubers that grow underground are edible. Most people eat the chestnut-flavored tubers like they do potatoes. Keep an eye out for these common perennial garden mistakes.

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14. Bloodroot

Sanguinaria canadensis, Zones 3 to 9

Bloodroot, a native wildflower, thrives in moist woodlands. Always a welcome sign that warmer weather is on the way, these large, short-lasting, white flowers have yellow centers. The flowers grow from a rhizome. Single stems with one leaf and flower emerge from the structure, slowly growing into a larger clump. This white bloom gets its name from the red liquid that oozes out of the root when it’s cut. In the garden, plant bloodroot in a space where it can naturalize. Pay attention, though! The 2-inch bright white blooms last for only a few days.

Why we love it: Bloodroot craves spring sun and summer shade, so it’s a perfect pick for a woodland garden under deciduous trees. And it’s super easy to grow.

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Pink And White Creeping Phlox Spring Flower Walters Gardensvia

15. Creeping Phlox

Phlox subulata, Zones 3 to 9

Creeping phlox is a smaller, low-growing hearty relative of the familiar fragrant perennial. When the creeping variety bursts into bloom in March, it forms a cascading spread of little early blooming flowers, making it a lovely choice for rock gardens, slopes and flower bed borders. Grow it in full sun and trim back after it blooms.

Why we love it: The showy, star-shaped flowers attract butterflies. These are the best smelling flowers to add to your garden. 

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Yellow Marsh Marigold ShutterstockMILOSZ MASLANKA/SHUTTERSTOCK

16. Marsh Marigold

Caltha palustris, Zones 3 to 7

Marsh marigold thrives in wet, swampy areas, such as the edge of a pond or water garden. Despite its name, it’s not related to marigolds at all. It’s a member of the buttercup family, which makes sense when you catch a glimpse of the shiny, buttery-yellow flowers.

Why we love it: Deer tend to steer clear of this beauty.

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Pink Bleeding Heart Walters Gardensvia

17. Bleeding Heart

Dicentra spectabilis, Zones 3 to 9

Delicate foliage and long-lasting heart-shaped blooms make this a favorite among early blooming flowers. Because it peaks in spring before other plants, grow bleeding heart in the back of a garden bed, so other plants cover the foliage that has died back.

Why we love it: Bleeding heart brings a bright pop of pink to shady spots in your garden. Bonus: It’s a hummingbird and butterfly favorite.

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Japanese Witch HazelI love Photo and Apple./gettyimages

18. Witch Hazel

Hamamelis Japonica, Zones 5 to 8

American witch hazel (H. virginiana) is one of the few plants that bloom in the fall, but the related Japanese witch hazel (H. japonica) takes over in late winter and early spring.

Why we love it: Witch hazel shrubs show off when other plants are sleeping. Try a combination of the American and Japanese varieties for a brilliant golden display.

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Dutchman's Breeches, Spring Wildflower (dicentra Cucullaria), Michigan, UsaED RESCHKE/GETTY IMAGES

19. Dutchman’s Breeches

Dicentra cucullaria, Zones 3 to 7

This beautiful but short-lasting woodland wildflower is gone by summer, along with its foliage. For a few weeks in spring, though, the delicate flowers hanging off their arching stems are a pure delight.

Why we love it: This relative of bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) is a classic that’s ready to make a comeback in moist, well-draining gardens. Check out the tools and gear every gardener needs.

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20. Flowering Quince

Chaenomeles speciosa, Zones 4 to 8

This thorny shrub is an excellent low-maintenance border option. Plant it in full sun to ensure bountiful blossoms as winter finally gives way to warmer days. Quince flowers on old growth, so prune it in spring after it finishes blooming, if needed.

Why we love it: The red, pink or white flowers are followed by small, hard yellow-green fruits that make delicious preserves and jellies.

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Celandine Poppyvia

21. Celandine Poppy

Stylophorum diphyllum, Zones 4 to 9 This wildflower, native to the eastern U.S., enjoys rich wet soil and lots of shade. Grow it under trees, where it naturalizes by self-seeding over time.

Why we love it: Flashes of yellow poppies, which spring forth from fuzzy buds, draw attention to shady spots in the garden. The large-lobed foliage is attractive, too. Next, read up on how to plant a pretty edible landscape.

Birds & Blooms
Originally Published on Birds & Blooms

Kirsten Schrader
Kirsten is the executive editor of Birds & Blooms. She's been with the brand in various roles since 2007. She has many favorite birds (it changes with the seasons), but top picks include the red-headed woodpecker, Baltimore oriole and rose-breasted grosbeak. Her bucket list bird is the painted bunting.