Ask Dr. Phipps: Early Spring Blooms
Mar 24

Ask Dr. Phipps: Early Spring Blooms

By Phipps Master Gardener

Q: I really like the color of early spring flowers. Can you recommend some that I should get to enjoy this year and into the future?

A: It is that time of year when we can look forward to seeing more and more color in our yards. Here is a list of exceptional early bloomers.

Bulbs – You will want to make a list and purchase and plant these in the fall. Alternatively, there are many on-line nurseries from whom you can order your bulbs and they will ship in the fall when they are ready to be planted, try Breck's.


The earliest bulbs we can expect to see in the Pittsburgh area are crocuses, snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis). These hardy bloomers have been peeking out in late February and early March. Daffodil (Narcissus spp.), tulips (Tulipa spp.), grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) and hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) are also early blooming bulbs. Later in spring you will see iris and alliums.  

Perennials – Some really wonderful spring perennials are hellebores and bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis). Spotted dead-nettle (Lamium maculatum) shows early green foliage followed quickly by purple flowers.  Creeping phlox (Phlox subulata) is a beautiful carpet of color come spring. Other favorites include columbine (Aquilegia) and candytuft (Iberis).


Shrubs – Witch hazels (Hamamelis) are wonderful as they bloom in winter with many flowers still blossoming in early spring. Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) and forsythia can also announce warmer spring weather with brightly colored flowers.

Trees – Early blooming spring trees are quite a treat. Some early spring bloomers include magnolias, such as saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana), eastern redbud (Cercis Canadensis), white or pink flowering dogwood (Cornus spp.), cherry trees (Prunus spp.) and wild plum (Prunus Americana).

For more suggestions, check out Phipps Top Ten Sustainable Plant list and our new on-line tool, the Sustainable Plant Finder, and select “spring blooms” under seasonal interest for a list of suggestions from our collection of sustainable plants.

Before shopping, call around to your local nurseries. Some have closed for the winter season and may not reopen until late spring, so give them a call first to be sure they are open for sale and that they have the plants you are looking for.