Many perennial plants are just breaking dormancy in the spring and won’t be blooming until summer or fall. These great plants, however, add spring color with early flowers. Be sure to include at least of these for cheerful color early in the growing season.
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spp.) – Hardy to zones 5-9. Part shade spring blooming plant. Bleeding heart grows 10-30” tall depending on the cultivar. Flower displays can begin in mid-spring and can last up to six weeks or more. Fine cut foliage accents the dangling heart shaped flowers carried on long arching stems. Bleeding heart flowers are usually pink, red or white and attract hummingbirds. “Candy Hearts” is a dwarf 10” tall cultivar. D. Formosa “Luxuriant” is hardy to zone 3.
Brunnera (Brunnera) – Hardy to zones 4-9. Part to Full Shade. A beautiful perennial grown mainly for its attractive heart-shaped foliage, this plant also has highly attractive forget-me-not like blue flowers. Species has green leaves and “Jack Frost” has beautiful silver leaves with green veins.
Candytuft (Iberis sempervirens) – Hardy to zones 4-9. Full Sun to Part Shade. Masses of flowers that attract butterflies in the spring. Grows to about 10” tall making it the perfect addition to a rock garden or border edging.
Columbine (Aquilegia spp) – Hardy to zones 3-9. Full Sun to Part Shade. Several species have become many named cultivars with beautiful flowers that attract hummingbirds. A great spring-blooming, middle of the border plant. In warmer climates give afternoon sun protection as they tend to fade in extreme heat.
Heucherella (Heucherella spp.) – Hardy to zones 4-10. Sun to Part Shade. A cross between Tiarella (Foam Flowers) and Heuchera (Coral Bells) these plants have more showy flower clusters on the flower stalks and at the same time more uniquely colored and patterned foliage as well. Foliage clumps about 10” tall and wide.
Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium) – Hardy zones vary: 2-9 depending on the cultivar. Sun to part shade. Attractive variegated evergreen foliage creating year-round interest. The growth can be anywhere from 12 to 36 inches tall and the fragrant flowers are shade of blue or violet. The species and ‘Stairway to Heaven’ cultivar are two that bloom early.
Oriental Poppy (Papaver orientale) – Hardy to zones 3-9. Full Sun. This spring blooming showstopper is very adaptable to the kind of soil it will tolerate and the bright, cup shaped flowers are excellent for cut flowers. Expect to see foliage die back in the summer heat after the blooms have finished, but the foliage will return in the fall to finish out the year. Large cup shaped flowers are a variety of bright colors from red, orange, pink, white, yellow and even bi-tones. Ornamental seedheads can be left standing for extra interest.
Primrose (Primula spp.) – Hardy zones vary by species from 2-5 to 11. Part shade to shade. A favorite of the bard, the primrose was mentioned in Shakespeare’s writing more than any other flower. 8” tall by 12” wide with bright colored fragrant flowers, the primrose is attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) – Hardy to zones 4-9. Part to full shade. Growing in gentle clumps 8-12” this cottage garden favorite has dainty blue, yellow, pink, bi-tone or tri-tone flowers for weeks in the spring. Flowers are fragrant and edible. Can self-sow and pop up in unexpected places so keep in a container or be willing to pull the occasional volunteer seedling.
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) – Hardy to zones 3-7 or 9. Part to full shade. Virginia bluebells are spring blooming perennials native to North America and excel in a naturalized woodland setting with part shade and moist soil. Blue nodding clusters of flowers are indicative of the species but named cultivars have been developed such as ‘Rubra’ which has pink flowers and ‘Alba’ with white flowers. Also known as Eastern Bluebells, Cowslip, and Lungwort.
The joy of perennial plants in the garden is they will return each year, usually increasing in size and flower display when they do. The following list includes perennial plants that will bloom in the spring and includes plants suitable for sun, shade, and front, middle or back of the border. What’s blooming in your garden right now?