Come summertime, there’s no shortage of perennials to pump up the color in your garden. But what about the early spring? You may be surprised to discover that there are plenty of early blooming perennials to fill your garden with color.
Here are 10 of our favorite early blooming perennials:
1. Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea): The sunny yellow flower in the feature photo of this post is a Golden Alexander. This tough, North American native requires only lean soil and full to partial sun. With blooms much like a yellow Queen Anne’s lace and parsley-like foliage, Golden Alexanders are in full bloom by the end of April in my Pennsylvania garden. They readily self-sow and reach about two feet in height when in flower.
2. Wood Phlox (Phlox divaricata): This charming, North American native phlox is a real stand-out in the spring garden. Reaching ten to twelve inches in height and bearing periwinkle blue flowers in late April, this is a must-have woodland perennial. While the flowers only last about two weeks, they look great combined with bleeding hearts and lungworts.
3. Leopard’s Bane (Doronicum orientale): The first daisy-like flower to appear in my garden every spring, Leopard’s Bane thrives in full sun to partial shade. Its dense clump of rich green leaves fill the garden until late summer, when it goes dormant until the following spring. I love it with forget-me-nots and a sweet little groundcover called Lamium.
4. Creeping Speedwell (Veronica ‘Waterperry Blue’): This low-growing perennial is the first groundcover to bloom every spring. I love the delicate blue flowers and the burgundy-tinged foliage. It’s one of my very favorite early blooming perennials. I grow ‘Waterperry Blue’ at the top of a retaining wall so it can tumble down over the side. Enjoying full to partial sun, this plant needs good drainage during the winter months and only requires an annual trimming each spring.
5. Variegated Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’): I adore the arching, two-foot-tall stems of this variegated version of our native Solomon’s Seal. The white, bell-shaped flowers are fairly nondescript as they hang beneath the foliage, but the foliage alone makes this a plant worth growing. The thick, underground rhizomes spread fairly quickly but not aggressively, and in just a few years, you’ll have a good-sized clump. Preferring full to partial shade, Variegated Solomon’s Seal combines beautifully with Virginia blue bells and creeping phlox.
6. Cushion Spurge (Euphorbia epithymoides): Thought there are thousands of species of spurge, I’m particularly fond of this species for its beautiful, bright, early-spring color. I pair it with tulips and other spring bulbs. Just like its sibling, the pointsettia, spurge’s color comes not from the tiny flowers, but rather from modified leaves called bracts that surround the flowers themselves. The plant produces a mound of foliage about a foot in height and thrives in everything from full sun to full shade. That’s not an overly common trait among early blooming perennials.
7. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Though chives are mostly grown for their edible foliage, many gardeners also adore them for their globular, purple flowers. The blooms are an important early nectar source for bees and other pollinators, and I often find my chive blossoms buzzing with activity. The flowers are edible and make a great garnish for salads and spring greens. Plant chives in full to partial sun for the best performance.
8. Basket of Gold Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis): This mounding perennial produces scads of bright yellow flowers that are frequented by spring pollinators. Basket of Gold doesn’t like poorly-drained soils, so site it appropriately. Full sun is best. Avoid dividing this plant unless absolutely necessary; it resents division and relocation. It does, however, readily self-sow.
9. Barrenwort (Epimedium species): Barrenwort is treasured by many gardeners not only for its delightful nodding flowers, but also because it thrives in dry shade. If you’re looking for a perennial to grow under your maple or pine tree, barrenwort is the one! There are dozens of species and cultivars on the market, each with a different flower shape and color. Blooms can be white, purple, pink, red, yellow, lavender, and even bi-colors. The one in the picture is my personal favorite: Epimedium rubrum. Though the plant reaches only 12 to 18 inches in height, the elongated, heart-shaped leaves form a great, semi-evergreen groundcover.
10. Yellow Bleeding Heart (Corydalis lutea): Though its common name is Yellow Bleeding Heart, this plant is unrelated to the bleeding heart most of us are familiar with. I cannot say enough about this amazing little plant! The blue-green foliage forms a foot-tall mound, and the entire plant is smothered with bunches of tiny yellow flowers all season long. How rare to find an ever-blooming perennial! I also love how readily it sows itself into the cracks of my stone walls, spilling out over the sides and filling the garden with color. It’s a stalwart plant if ever there was one!
Tell us about some of your favorite early blooming perennials.