Tired of gray winters? Skip the wait and plant these 10 easy flowers to grow that are guaranteed to deliver fast color in early spring.

If you’re anything like me, when spring weather arrives you are ready for a colorful garden right away. Thankfully, a blooming early spring garden is absolutely possible…if you plan ahead.

Whether you’re a beginner or a master gardener, a beautiful early spring garden comes down to a variety of plants: spring bulbs, shrubs, trees, annuals and perennial flowers.

Why? Because they all work together to ensure your garden is always in bloom. Your garden might be small and not fit all kinds of shrubs and trees, so this post will focus more on spring bulbs, annuals, and perennials flowers. Because they can easily be tucked into flower beds or grown in planters.

Consider this experience from my own garden as an example.

A few years back in my former garden, my crocus and daffodil bulbs bloomed and were pretty much done by Easter Sunday. So the garden looked a little bare. Since I was hosting Easter, I wanted to add some quick color outside the front door and created these small urn planters to greet guests when they arrived. I typically don’t purchase full blooming bulbs because it is very costly but needed the flowers in the moment.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, then this post is for you. Discover what to plant so you can grow early spring flowers and have a garden that is consistently in bloom. Read the rest of this guide to planting the best easy-care early spring flowering plants for gorgeous blooms.

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What Bulbs Bloom Earliest in Spring?

If you want guaranteed early spring color, bulbs are your best friend. They are one of the first things to bloom in spring. Since we plant them in fall, you’ll get those early spring flowers with no work as the season unfolds. So it’s a good idea to include them.

There are a lot of beautiful early spring flowering bulbs to choose from! It’s important to do some research into your climate zone and make sure you’re choosing the early spring bulbs that are right for your area. 

Some of the earliest spring bulbs include Snowdrops and Glory of the Snow. As you might guess based on their names, these bulbs have been known to start poking out of the ground even before the snow is gone! They can start to appear in March and even late February, depending on the temperature.

Some other early spring bulbs include:

daffodils with white flowers and yellow centers in the spring garden

When Should I Plant Bulbs for Spring Flowers?

The best time to plant bulbs for spring flowers is in the fall. However, when you plant early spring bulbs will largely depend on your climate zone. A good rule of thumb is to wait until soil temperatures are below 60F, but about 6 to 8 weeks before the ground freezes.

If you live in USDA Hardiness Zones 4 or 5, you can usually plant in September through early October. For Zones 6 or 7 (where I live), October to early November is typically the best planting time for spring bulbs. In the warmer Zones 8 and 9, bulbs are usually planted in November to early December. 

Keep in mind how the weather behaves in any given year will make these guidelines more like estimates rather than set dates. Here in my zone 6b garden, I plant bulbs in October and have planted as late as early December (when we moved and I had no choice). The bulbs came up and bloomed beautifully. The key is they need a long enough winter chill to bloom. 

tulip with pink flowers called "pink perennial" by stone wall in vibrant cottage garden

What Perennials Bloom in Early Spring?

While perennials tend to bloom more after some of the bulbs begin, there are some that start before and help keep the spring color going while the bulbs bloom and die back. You can plant perennials anytime the ground can be worked, but it’s best to do in spring or fall.

Some early spring blooming perennials include:

  • Hellebores
  • Dicentra
  • Forget-Me-Nots
  • Virginia Bluebells
  • Brunnera
  • Bearded Iris
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Dianthus
virginia bluebells close up
Virginia Bluebells

What Annuals Bloom Earliest in Spring?

I tend to buy my early spring blooming annuals from the local garden nursery every year. Sometimes I receive comments from readers questioning why I have blooms so early and that’s because the annuals that I’m working with are considered cool season annuals. This means, they tolerate cooler temperatures fairly well and I don’t have to worry about them.

That said, if we get a sudden deep freeze or something, it is worth grabbing a frost blanket or even a sheet to protect them from potential damage but in my zone 6b garden, that is rare and not the norm. But it can happen, so you’ve got to always be prepared.

Here are a few examples of early blooming annuals you can plant while the temperatures are still a bit chilly.

  • Pansies
  • Ranunculas
  • Sweet Alyssum
  • Sweet Peas
  • Violas
close up of sweet alyssum in purples and whites
Sweet Allysum with white and purple flowers

10 Best Early Spring Bulbs, Perennials and Annuals

Looking for real-world examples of early spring blooming bulbs, perennials and annuals to try in your garden? Explore my favorites from my own property and get inspiration for a more colorful spring.

Crocus

Crocuses are tiny treasures that bursts into bloom with the earliest signs of spring. These vibrant flowers are more than just beautiful – they’re incredibly easy to care for, making them perfect for gardeners of all skill levels.

Plant their corms in the fall, and come springtime, they’ll reward you with cheerful blooms in shades of purple, yellow, orange, and white, often pushing through even a light dusting of snow. And the best part?

Once nestled in, these low-maintenance charmers will return year after year without fail to brighten up your early spring garden.

crocus with purple flowers
Crocus

Daffodils (Narcissus)

There is nothing quite like the early blooms of daffodils. Am I right? Daffodils, also known as Narcissus, are a great deer-resistant flower that is easy to grow and comes in a variety of colors and shapes.

Plant daffodils in fall with other spring-blooming bulbs and you’ll be rewarded with blooms early on in the growing season. From whites, to yellows, peaches, and pinks, they are so pretty aren’t they?

When we moved here I had no idea there were thousands planted all over the property. It was glorious to see them all come up in the spring. So consider planting them en masse.

vintage farmhouse with daffodils and flowering crabapple with stone wall and beautiful front porch in new jersey
Daffodil mix in front of vintage farmhouse in early spring
The daffodils are in bloom in the front yard garden in zone 6a New Jersey

Tulips

Gosh, where do I even start with tulips? They are gorgeous bright flowers that bloom in early spring. Much like daffodils, plant bulbs in fall and you’ll be rewarded with lots of beautiful colors early in the growing season.

Tulips can be planted in the ground or grown in pots. And there are so many different varieties to choose from too. Tulips are one of the best easy-to-grow bulbs and can bring a burst of color to your early spring garden.

As much as I love them, tulips are not deer resistant and some varieties don’t return as well as other spring flowering bulbs. I still grow them but spray them religiously with deer repellent from the moment they peek through the ground.

In the last several years, I’ve planted several different varieties but I’m particularly fond of the peony shaped blooms as they remind of…well, peonies!

Because some tulip varieties don’t return as well as others, I find myself replanting every few years to restock them. And let me tell you, it has been quite a show! While they look beautiful while they bloom, they are even prettier as the petals drop.

tulip pink perennial  with pink flowers at sunset by stone wall in the cottage garden
Tulip Pink Perennial
tulip aveyron and tulip palmyra by stone wall
Tulip Aveyron and Tulip Palmyra

Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis)

Forget-me-nots are one of my favorite easy-care spring flowers. They produce small purple flowers or sometimes blue flowers. And I love their compact and billowy effect in the garden.

If you’re planting forget-me-nots for the first time, there are a couple of approaches you can take. You can sow your seeds directly in the garden in spring or summer for blooms the following year.

Or, you can start seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last frost for same-year blooms in the spring. Once they are established in your garden, they are a very reliable perennial and they spread with ease.

Some gardeners think they spread with a little too much ease but they are easy to dig up and move around so I don’t mind their naturalization habit.

My Early Spring in the Garden Tour

Pansies

Pansies are cool season annuals that thrive in colder conditions. You will find them in garden nurseries in spring and fall. I lean towards planting them in the fall because they bounce back in spring in my zone 6b garden, so I get two seasons out of them instead of just one.

Suffice it to say, these flowers do not love summer temperatures. When planted in spring, they will not survive the summer. You can try to extend their bloom time in summer, but they won’t last long. I dig my pansies up and move them to a shadier spot so they don’t cook as quickly in the summer heat.

If you want to learn more about growing and caring for pansies, check out this post.

close up of purple pansies and violas with purple flowers

Hellebores (Lenten Rose)

Hellebores are easy flowers to grow that are must-haves for early spring color. While the blooms are rose-like, but hellebores get their name from when they bloom, which is during the season of Lent. Lenten roses flower in late winter with an extended bloom time, and are a welcome sign of the gardening season to come.

Hardy to zones 4-9, the lenten rose flower colors range from whites, to pinks and purples. These low-maintenance perennials grow gorgeous leather-like evergreen leaves. The height of maturity is roughly 12-18″. It prefers partial shade to shadier locations with moist, well-drained loamy soil that is neutral to alkaline.

pink hellebore flowers (lenten rose) in the garden

Creeping Phlox

Have you ever grown creeping phlox before? It’s a great perennial that stays green year-round and flowers in early spring. Deer seem to leave it alone but I’ve seen rabbits nibble on mine.

What I love most about creeping phlox is they look great trailing down a stone wall or along the front of the border. And look, one of my creeping phlox perennials took on the shape of a heart one year.

They come in a variety of colors such as blue, pink, and white. Plant this easy-care perennial in spring or fall to get early spring color in the garden.

Creeping phlox is also easy to propagate through division. I do divide mine in early spring or late fall. If you want to learn more about how to dig and divide perennials, read this post.

Alliums

If you have not grown alliums yet, you should! Plant these gorgeous bulbs in the fall and get beautiful early spring blooms. These plants love full sun and bloom for 2 to 4 weeks, so they provide a lot of beautiful color in an early spring garden.

When planted en masse these flowers make a real statement in the garden. And the best part? They are deer-resistant too!

I am in love with globemaster allium and have it planted all over the gardens here. The look incredible when planted en masse and make a real statement in the spring garden.

close up of alliums globemaster
Globemaster Alliums

Iris

Whether you grow bearded iris or Siberian iris, they are a must-have in the spring garden. They are tall, beautiful, and deer resistant. I’ve been growing them for the longest time and I’ve never seen even a nibble on them.

Each flower has these gorgeous lines and incredible details. And they last forever as an early spring perennial! I am growing several varieties here and let me tell you, they are plants for the long haul.

My mother-in-law gifted me some well over 25 years ago and they continue to do well today! I dug a few of them up before moving here so I could take them with me.

close up of bearded irises in the garden
bearded iris mother earth reblooming
Bearded Iris Mother Earth

Hyacinths

Hyacinths are a beautiful, bold flower that adds a ton of color to an early spring garden. They come in a variety of colors, from lighter colors like white, cream, yellow and pink flowers to deep colors like cobalt blue and purple.

A few years back I planted hyacinth bulbs for the first time. Previously, I had only planted them from nursery pots as full-grown flowers. I learned an important lesson on that first hyacinth bulb experience: wear gardening gloves!

Some people experience an allergic reaction to hyacinth bulbs if they make contact with the skin. While not everyone will be allergic to them, if you are (like I discovered I was!) then you’ll likely experience some uncomfortable itching if you handle them without gloves!

I’m not allergic to handling tulips, daffodils, crocus, or alliums but apparently, there is something in the bulbs that can irritate your skin. Hyacinth is supposedly the worst and I have to agree!

purple and white hyacinth flowers
Purple and White Hyacinth Flowers

BONUS: Flowering Crabapple

And some of my favorite trees and shrubs bloom in early spring too! One of which is this GORGEOUS flowering crabapple tree.

This was the tree that sold us on purchasing our first home several years ago. They don’t last long but they are stunning while they flower. I wish you could smell them through the screen because the scent is incredible here!

We’ve got several others here at the new house too. If you’ve got space to grow them, I highly recommend it.

Spring Garden Flowers
Flowering Crabapple in my former garden.
flowering crabapples with baby's breath spirea and daffodils

Companion Planting Spring Bulbs and Spring Perennials

If you want a beautiful spring garden that is always in bloom, one of the best techniques is to plant a combination of early spring bulbs and spring perennials together. By partnering bulbs with perennials that bloom in late spring, you can brighten up your garden after your bulbs have finished blooming and hide some of the dieback foliage.

According to a guide from the University of California Cooperative Extension, when the bulb is blooming, the perennial should be in its dormant stage. When the bulb is nearing the end of its bloom time, the perennial should start to grow and should grow large enough to cover or help disguise the dying foliage of the bulb flower.

Another perk of planting perennials just in front of bulbs is that it can help you remember where the bulbs are planted, ensuring you don’t accidentally damage them while working in the garden.

If you do decide to companion plant early spring bulbs and spring perennials, make sure to consider when each plant will bloom so that your perennial will start to bloom as the bulb’s foliage is browning. You’ll also want to consider the size of the plants. A taller perennial would be needed to cover the foliage of taller bulbs, such as daffodils, for example.

Here are some perennials that look amazing when planted with early spring flower bulbs and perennials:

daffodils and tulips in the spring cottage garden

Troubleshooting Early Spring Bulbs: Why Aren’t My Spring Bulbs Blooming?

What if you planted spring bulbs like daffodils in fall and they fail to bloom? 

There are several reasons why this may happen, including improper planting, insufficient sunlight or water, disease, or pest damage. The key to getting bulbs to flower in the future is to first identify why they didn’t bloom.

Read my full guide to what to do when daffodils and other spring bulbs won’t bloom.

Home and garden blogger stacy ling walking in the formal garden during spring with daffodils

More About Spring Flowering Bulbs and Perennials

What are your must-have spring flowering bulbs and perennials for early spring blooms? I would love to know more in the comments below.

And don’t miss joining my Gardening DIY and Decorating Community on Facebook for more chatter. And follow along there and on Instagram as well. There are behind-the-scenes daily things that I share on Instagram that don’t make it to the blog. Would love to see you there too!

If you prefer to binge-watch Bricks ’n Blooms on TV, we go more in-depth with tours and posts on my YouTube channel. Would love to hang out with you there!

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alliums and pansies in the front porch garden in spring

Garden Supplies I Use

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

Click here to shop my favorite garden supplies!

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close up of tulips with pink flowers in front of farmhouse

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Want to learn more about me? I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years and author of the best-selling book, The Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide to a Beautiful and Easy-Care Flower Garden. Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging here.

stacy ling cutting dahlias in her garden

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Double flowering daffodils
10 Gorgeous Bulbs and Spring Bloming Flowers
spring cleaning in the garden

Dianthus (Mountain Pinks)

Dianthus, also known as mountain pinks, always look so pretty in the garden too. These are low-growing perennials that will return year after year. I dig and divide mine so I can keep the plant healthy and grow them in different beds on the property.

pink dianthus
Dianthus ‘Tickled Pink’
bearded iris is a great early spring blooming perennial to grow in the garden
My Early Spring in the Garden Tour
5 Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden
cottage garden with blooming tulips
Daffodils are deer resistant flowers
Tulips are amazing spring garden flowers that bring joy
tulips in my early spring flower garden
red tulips blooming in cottage garden
close up of red tulips blooming in garden
close up of tulips blooming
My Early Spring in the Garden Tour
Early Spring Tulips

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2 Comments

    1. Thank you so much Maureen!!! I am so happy you stopped by to visit! I hope you do – I would love to see and share some plants with you! xo