Monday, April 06, 2009

Top Five Flowers for Early Spring Color (Before the Daffodils and Tulips)

Before I was a gardener, I thought of daffodils and tulips as the first flowers of spring. Now, people frequently ask me how I get color so early. I have two answers: first, I plant more bulbs; and second, I keep a record of what blooms early. Here are five of my favorites:

1. Snowdrops. You can't get enough of them and they last for a very long time. They have been blooming in my garden since February. I find that the double-blooming snowdrops bloom later, so you can add them if you want an even longer bloom period. Also, I'm not sure if they are poisonous, but no one (chipmunks/squirrels) eats them in my garden.
2. Winter Aconite. Be sure to buy super-fresh bulbs (I suggest Old House Gardens) or you can try soaking them in water before planting. If they do not work, it is most likely because they dried out before planting. They are poisonous to rodents (chipmunks/squirrels).
3. Crocuses. You can't get enough of them. Tommies are the most rodent (chipmunk/squirrel) resistant and the earliest blooming. I have mainly purple and some rosy purple varieties. I also plant vernalis, which are the larger crocuses that also bloom early. Before planting, I dip the bulbs in Ropel or my home-made deer mix. I love mixes of purples, lavenders, purple-stripes and whites.
4. Violets. Violets are lovely. They are great as an underplanting beneath roses and other shrubs. They require no care whatsoever. They produce beautiful, sweetly scented blooms during the early spring (and even during the winter on particularly warm days). You have to be careful not to choose wild varieties that self-seed too much. I grow sweet violets as parma violets are not hardy in my region.
5. Virginia Bluebells. Virginia Bluebells are native spring ephemerals. In addition to their flowers, their leaves are also pretty. After they bloom, they disappear into dormancy for the rest of the season. You can plant them anywhere. They also spread at a medium pace.


Linda said...

I love your site--just found it. I'm particulary interested in adding Snowdrops and Crocuses to my garden. Presently, I have 14 acres of weeds--but remedying that as fast as possible. Your blog is a treasure. Thanks for this information about early bloomers!

Janet said...

I especially love the Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica). Sweet little bell shaped flowers.

heirloomgardener said...


14 acres--how wonderful! Best wishes.

-Heirloom Gardener

Alchymist said...

I agree with your top 5...but I'd also include chionodoxa and squill. I just returned Sat. from visiting Winterthur's March Bank again - prettier this year than it's ever been, I think.... See

You mention your homemade deer mix - could you share your secret?

Many thanks, Jan

Anonymous said...

I Got to add Hellebors, Witch Hazels, Magnolia Stellata, Quince and Forsythia. All bloom in my garden well before march and all add that late winter brightness that rouses the palet to a new garden year.

Keep up the good work!


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