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Past Articles Library | Flower Bulbs | First Flowers of Spring


The First Flowers of Spring!

Five delightful plants that flower well before
other, more popular spring flowering bulbs

OK, so technically winter just recently started, but for some of us, we are already dreaming of warmer, softer breezes and the first signs of spring.

After several months of frigid weather most people become anxious for signs of spring, and while crocus are considered by many to be the first spring flowers, there are many minor bulbs that bloom even earlier.

These plants are usually short in stature and have smaller flowers, but when planted in mass, they are as effective and powerful in the landscape as larger flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils.

Minor bulbs are often overlooked in favor of the showier larger bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths that bloom later in the year, but minor bulbs have a very useful and important place in the home landscape because they extend the season of bloom, giving every gardener a "jump on spring" and a longer time to enjoy flowering bulbs.

Like other spring flowering bulbs, they are best purchased and planted in the fall, so while you may not be able to go out and buy them today, you can certainly print this article out and be ready to buy the bulbs as soon as they become available later in the year. Knowing ahead of time what you want to buy is a great advantage because you will have the benefit of having the best selection before bulb suppliers run out of stock.

So without further ado, here are a few harbingers of spring to look for in gardens over the next few weeks, or to consider planting in your yard or garden this fall.


Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa luciliae)

Glory-of-the-snow come in several colors, but each has similar characteristics. These are exceptionally hardy bulbs and so easy to grow that no special attention is necessary. They are ideal for naturalizing in the landscape.

Blue: Flowers are star-shaped, vivid blue with white centers. Plants are useful in rock gardens, for naturalizing, and in the foreground of borders and walkways. White and pink cultivars are also available.

Bloom Time: Feb - Mar
Hardiness Zone: 3 - 8
Height: 3 to 6 inches (7.5 to 15 cm)
Planting Depth: 4 inches (10 cm)
Bulb Spacing: 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm)
Light Requirements: Sun to partial shade

Pink: Large, star-shaped, soft violet-pink flowers on 4 inch (10 cm) stems. Ideal underplanting for blue hyacinths or yellow daffodils.

Bloom Time: Feb - Mar
Hardiness Zone: 3 - 8
Height: 4 inches (10 cm)
Planting Depth: 4 inches (10 cm)
Bulb Spacing: 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm)
Light Requirements: Sun to partial shade

White: Pure white star-shaped flower clusters on 10 inch (25 cm) stems.

Bloom Time: Feb - Mar
Hardiness Zone: 3 - 8
Height: 10 inches (25 cm)
Planting Depth: 4 inches (10 cm)
Bulb Spacing: 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 cm)
Light Requirements: Sun to partial shade

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Glory-of-the-snow blue




Glory-of-the-snow pink




Glory-of-the-snow white



Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Yellow, buttercup-like flowers have the fragrance of honey. Single flowers appear very early in the spring, often through the snow, over fine green or bronze foliage.

These bulbs may bloom as early as January. Because the flowers are low to the ground, they are best used in a mass for naturalizing, near walkways, and are ideal in borders, rock gardens.

Bloom Time: Jan - Feb
Hardiness Zone: 4 - 8
Height: 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm)
Planting Depth: 4 inches (10 cm)
Bulb Spacing:3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm)
Light Requirements: Sun to partial shade
Attributes: Fragrant

Winter aconite






Common snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

Plants may bloom in January. Flowers stems are about 6 inches (15 cm) tall and bear solitary, drooping, white blooms with green spots on the inner segments. These bulbs look best when planted in clumps or naturalized along heavily trafficked areas.

One of the earliest flowering bulbs, sometimes popping through the snow, these frosty-white bell-like flowers seem impervious to cold weather.

No special care is necessary and galanthus may be left alone for years making them ideal for naturalizing.

Bloom Time: Jan - Mar
Hardiness Zone: 3 - 9
Height: 6 inches (15 cm)
Planting Depth: 4 inches (10 cm)
Bulb Spacing:2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm)
Light Requirements: Sun to partial shade

Common snowdrop




Common snowdrop
Galanthus nivalis flore pleno



Netted iris (Iris reticulata)

Lightly-scented flowers are usually violet-purple, although white, yellow, and light-blue cultivars are available. Foliage is delicate and grassy. They multiply rapidly and are excellent for rock gardens and sunny borders.

One of the earliest irises, these low growing varieties are very early blooming, flowering from February through early April.

Easily forced in the house for Christmas flowers.

Bloom Time: Jan - Mar
Hardiness Zone: 4 - 9
Height: 3 - 9 inches (7.5 to 22.5 cm)
Planting Depth: 4 inches (10 cm)
Bulb Spacing: 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm)
Light Requirements: Sun to partial shade
Attributes: Fragrant

Netted iris






Spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum)

Spring snowflakes are among the easiest bulbs to grow. Three species flower at different times, the earliest is L. vernum (see note below).

Drooping, bell-shaped flowers are dainty and cheerful! Flowers are white, except for small, green spots on the petal ends. Leaves are dark green, glossy, and strap shaped.

They are best planted in clumps in naturalized areas. The lovely snow flake survives being buried in snow; look for blooms as early as February. Excellent for a border, near water or naturalized in grass.

No special care is necessary for these bulbs, and they flower best if left undisturbed for several years at a time.

Note: Do not confuse spring snowflake with summer snowflake (L. aestivum) or autumn snowflake (L. autumnale) that appear in different seasons!

Bloom Time: Feb - Mar
Hardiness Zone: 3 - 9
Height: 6 - 12 inches (15 to 30 cm)
Planting Depth: 4 inches (10 cm)
Bulb Spacing: 4 inches (10 cm)
Light Requirements: Sun to partial shade
Watering Needs: Regular water, needs good drainage

Spring snowflake






Conclusion

Now many of you may really enjoy winter. My sister is one of them. She just can't get enough snow, skiing, and below freezing temperatures.

I, on the other hand, really look forward to more hospitable weather, but no matter which type you are, if you plant some of the above mentioned bulbs this year, next year, you will have some very beautiful new flowers and plants to enjoy, just about the time you think winter will never end!


Hilary Rinaldi is a member of the National Garden Writers Association, a nationally published writer, and a certified organic grower. She regularly speaks and writes about all gardening related topics, with an emphasis on making gardening a successful and enjoyable process for anyone who wants to learn. Weekend Gardener Monthly Web Magazine concentrates of giving detailed gardening tips and gardening advice to all levels of gardeners.

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