Early Spring Blooming Plants and Trees

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This article provides a list of plants that will add early spring color to your garden and landscape.
by Samantha Steele · Zone 5B · -15° to -10° F to Zone 11 · Above 40° F · Shrubs · 0 Comments · February 20, 2013 · 2,355 views

After the long stretch of cold and gloomy winter weather in the South, the site of buds and blooms emerging in late winter or early spring on early-flowering shrubs, trees and perennial plants come to the rescue; signaling that spring and warmer weather is just on the way! There are many different types of plants and trees that bloom early in the season...sometimes we see them...and want one...but don't know what they are. This article will show and tell you all about these early flowering plants!

There are many types and varieties of early-spring flowering ornamental plants and trees but I've included only those that are first in line to herald the arrival of spring and those that show off the most in the garden. Though many of these bloom near or at the same time, or their bloom cycles cross paths, I've listed the plants in the approximate order they typically start blooming here in my gardens in Zone 8 of mid-Georgia.

Lenten Rose, Helleborus, are highly sought after as the true harbingers of spring they are and their beautiful cup shaped flowers produced on stems that rise above the clumps of attractive, leathery, evergreen leaves. There are many, many varieties of lenten rose. Some start blooming as early as late December but most start sometime in January to early February and continue through early to mid-spring. Watch out with lenten rose because you can easily become addicted to collecting all the unique and wonderful varieties!

Fragrant Winter Daphne, Daphne odora, is a superstar of an evergreen flowering shrub. When it begins to bloom in late winter it heralds - with its intoxicating perfume - the promise of spring. The plant is a small, evergreen shrub, reaching about 4 feet in height with an equal spread. Plant this one near decks, patios, windows and other outdoor living areas where the fragrance can be enjoyed!

Evergreen Clematis, Clematis armandii 'Snow Drift', is a fast-growing clematis variety with long, evergreen leaves! Masses of fragrant, cross-shape, white flowers begin to appear as early as January on this unique variety. Perfect for planting to grow up and over arbors and pergolas, up posts, on trellises, or along the tops of fences.

Edgeworthia, a cousin of Winter Daphne, commonly called "Paper Bush" by some, is a very unique deciduous shrub that produces an abundance of nodding clusters of wonderfully fragrant, yellow, tubular flowers that are densely packed in flat clusters that begin to open sometime in February. Plant this one near patios, decks or other outdoor areas where the fragrance can be enjoyed.

Carolina Jasmine Vine, Gelsium sempervirens, is a fast-growing, evergreen vine that produces an abundance of fragrant, elongated, bell-shape, bright yellow flowers in late winter. 'Butterscotch' is a new variety that blooms in both late-winter and fall! Carolina Jasmine is great for growing up and over arbors and perolas, fences, mailboxes, and on trellises and posts.

Leatherleaf Mahonia, also known as Grapeberry Mahonia, is an evergreen shrub that produces clusters of pretty yellow bell-shaped flowers in late winter that are held on clusters of long racemes above the bold, dark green, leathery leaves which resemble holly. After flowering, attractive blue berries form that resemble clusters of grapes! Mahonia is a great shrub for providing bold texture and color in shady to partially shaded spots in the garden. 'Soft Caress' is a new introduction that has elongated thread-like, soft-textured leaves that just beg you to touch or "caress" them.

Okame Flowering Cherry tree is one of the first trees to bloom, providing an explosion of pink blooms in your landscape! Once established this low-maintenance tree has an upright, rounded vase shape that makes it a great choice for small yards. Plant one as a specimen, or plant several together for an amazing show of early spring flowers!

Daffodils, Narcissus, are perennial bulbs that usually bear showy yellow or white cup-shape flowers with six petals and a trumpet-shape central corona that are a wonderful sign that spring has arrived! Plant the bulbs in the fall and they will bloom in late winter or early spring. Daffodils are hardy and easy perennials to grow in most areas in North America, except Southern Florida. Daffodils are suitable for planting between shrubs or in a border, or for forcing blooms indoors. They also look wonderful in a woodland garden and in large groves. You'll find that many gardeners plant the bulbs not just by the dozens but by the hundreds! Their flowers are excellent for cutting.

Flowering Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa, produces an abundance of very showy, apple blossom-like pink, red or white flowers that usually begin to appear sometime in January and continue until early spring. These wonderful late winter to early spring bloomers are part of the apple family and thus produce small, edible fruits that are often used to make jellies! Flowering Quince is a great addition to the flowering shrub border.

Forsythia, commonly known as "Yellow Bells," is a showy, rounded shrub that explodes in brilliant masses of yellow flowers that cover the bare stems. Flowers usually begin to appear sometime in February. You can use Forsythia as a background shrub or as an accent in the perennial garden. Forsythia is an upright grower and is excellent as a screen.

Homestead Purple Hardy Verbena is a trailing perennial plant that produces abundant clusters of purple flowers in late winter which nearly cover the foliage. It is perfect for use in the front of garden borders, in containers and in hanging baskets and will continue flowering all the way through the season until frost!

Evergreen Periwinkle, Vinca minor (4-6" height) or Vinca major (8-10" height), is a low-growing, trailing evergreen plant that produces pretty blue periwinkle flowers in late winter through early spring that rise just above the carpet of evergreen foliage. Vinca is the perfect choice for an evergreen groundcover in the shade garden because perennials such as hosta and ferns will pop right through it in spring.

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