Early Blooming Perennials

Posted by Megan Nichols on Apr 17th 2019

As the days warm and the birds return, there’s nothing sweeter than seeing vibrant plant life pop up as we wait for the colorful blooms of early perennial flowers. We watch with anticipation for that first sign of life to emerge from the ground, a true sign of spring’s arrival. Ring in Spring and enjoy the best early bloomers with us.


A large, stunning plant, this early bloomer is a pollinator magnet. Just as interesting as when in bloom, the seed heads are structural and make a rattling noise when shaken, making it fun for kids (who are we kidding, fun for adults, too) and beautiful in cut flower arrangements fresh or dried. Be sure to plant it with enough room to grow and in it’s permanent home. Baptisia is one tough plant to move, and although it’s an herbaceous perennial it looks and acts like a shrub in growth habit. Prefers full sun.

Bleeding Heart

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) flower An absolute favorite of the shade garden and aptly named, the delicate flowers seem to drip from gently arching stems and are easy to fall in love with. Plant with Hosta, Astilbe, and other shade loving plants that will grow as the Bleeding Heart begins to recede in the heat of summer. Part sun to shade.


Also known as lungwort, this plant was once used for medicinal purposes, but today we grow it for it’s beauty in the perennial shade garden. Pulmonaria has pink, blue, or white flowers and many varieties have leaves that are spotted with a silvery white variegation, making it an interesting plant all season long, even if it’s not blooming. Part sun to shade.

Creeping phlox

Pretty little flowers bloom in abundance and cover the entire plant. Grow as a ground cover or in rock walls and crevices. Creeping phlox spreads marvelously well and is an excellent choice for erosion control on slopes. Full to part sun.

Virginia bluebells

Virginia bluebells One of the few true, blue flowers, bluebells are stunning in the early spring garden. Bumblebees love to visit the flowers, as do butterflies who are best adapted to enjoy nectar from the tubular flowers. As ephemerals, bluebells will recede into the ground come mid-summer, but not to worry, they’ll be back next year. Before they go they give an incredible show. Part to full shade.


Have dry shade? Have no fear! Epimedium is an early blooming groundcover solution for under thirsty trees that steal all the moisture. Part to full shade.


It’s easy to see why this plant is dubbed “false forget-me-not.” Sweet sprays of delicate blue flowers bloom above dense green or variegated foliage. Even after the flowers have faded and gone, the foliage is an interesting and impactful addition to the shade garden. Part shade to shade.


Yup, this plant is also called pig squeak! Rub the thick leaves together and you’ll hear all about it. This low-growing thick groundcover is evergreen under the snow. In early spring it shoots stalks up above the leaves and blooms a delicate cluster of pink flowers. In fall, the glossy green leaves become streaked with red and burgundy. Part to full shade.


Also known as foam flower for it’s frothy pink blooms, tiarella is a bit of a show stopper in the shade garden. Even after blooms have faded, the foliage makes a dense, pretty groundcover. Part to full shade.


Forsythia This shrub is a burst of warmth after a long, cold winter. Pretty yellow flowers bloom all along the stems before the green leaves begin to grow, making the whole shrub glow like the sun. Full to part sun.


Magnolia flower One of the most stunning spring flowering shrubs and trees, it is sure to entice you to come out of hibernation. Blooms are pink, white, or yellow and put on a spectacular show. Full to part sun.


That fragrance! Planting a lilac is like planting a sweet-scented beacon for gardeners and bees alike. There is a lilac for any size garden – tall or small, flowers are deep or light purple, pink or white. Lilacs like full sun, and they don’t like wet feet, so be sure soil is well-drained. Full to part sun.

PJM Rhododendron

Impossibly bright lavender-pink flowers bloom prolifically in early spring. Plant in part sun in rich, acidic soil that is moisture retentive but well drained. These rhodies are great for winter interest, too, as their leaves take on deeper color in cooler temps. Part sun. Add one or a few and enjoy many springs to come. After all, winters can be long but spring always comes, and is made that much sweeter by flowers.