Spring is a wonderful time of year to be in the garden. As the temperature starts to rise, new life emerges from the darkness of winter, and wildlife comes out from hibernation, our gardens once again become a hub of activity.
The most attractive spring gardens are home to a variety of plants, from colourful flowers to beautiful shrubs. These provide texture and height interest and make the garden an inviting place to spend time as the days gradually become filled with sunshine.
The plants you choose for your outdoor space are, of course, largely down to personal preference and the garden aesthetic you’re aiming for. However, some plants do springtime better than others. From early flowering perennials through late blooming shrubs, we’ve rounded up some of the best garden plants to help you make the most of the spring season. Find more plans online at Gardeners Dream.
The Best Spring-Flowering Plants for a Colourful Garden
One of the best things about spring is watching colour return to the garden. Whether you prefer a pastel flower display or a bold show of blooms, spring-flowering plants brighten the garden and help us leave those dreary grey winter days behind us.
Early Spring Bloomers
Snowdrops are one of the first early spring flowers to emerge, often blooming as early as January. These hardy little bell-shaped flowers thrive beneath trees and taller plants and are ideal for a shaded area of the garden. Plant snowdrops in autumn, placing the bulbs in the ground before the first frost. They like well-draining soil that remains moist and doesn’t completely dry out in summer.
As its name would suggest, winter aconite is another early spring plant that often blooms from late winter. These bright yellow flowers add a vibrant burst of colour to otherwise grey gardens in early spring. The blooms look like buttercups but with a ruffle of deep green foliage underneath. Winter aconites look great planted alongside snowdrops and are a fantastic choice of spring blooms for early in the season. They flourish in full sun or partial shade in moist soil that drains freely.
Crocuses are early bloomers that flower from late winter to mid-spring. Native to Eastern Europe, these hardy plants grow from bulbs planted the previous autumn. They are a great choice for brightening patios in containers and also grow well towards the front of borders or even naturalised in the grass. Crocuses thrive in well-draining soil and prefer a spot in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.
The sight of these cheery yellow flowers is a sure sign that spring has arrived. Daffodil bulbs need to be planted in autumn for a healthy show of trumpet-shaped flowers the following spring. They grow well in pots, containers, flower beds and even beneath the grass. Daffodils thrive in full sun but cope well with partial shade. They prefer moist soil that is well drained and don’t do well in waterlogged ground.
Grown from seeds or bought ready to transplant into the garden, pansies are beautiful spring flowers that make excellent bedding plants but are also among the best spring flowers for containers and hanging baskets. Pansies come in a wide range of colours, including blue, purple, pink, red, white and yellow, and create an impressive show of flowers. They thrive in moist but well-draining soil and prefer a sheltered spot in direct sunlight or part shade.
With gorgeous blue-purple petals and a warm yellow centre, these spring flowers bloom early in the season and grow to around 15cm tall. The blooms are fragrant and attract bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects to the garden. Dwarf irises love a south-facing spot in full sun and grow well in most soil types, although they prefer slightly alkaline soil. These early spring bloomers are perfect for planting in window boxes, pots, rock gardens and flowerbeds and look fabulous under-planted around shrubs.
If you’re looking for something a bit bigger to brighten up the garden in early spring, you can’t go far wrong with witch hazel. Large yellow flowers appear on this deciduous shrub from late winter into early spring. The fragrant flowers are a valuable nectar source for early spring pollinators. And as a bonus, witch hazel provides awesome autumn colour as the green leaves turn striking shades of red, orange and gold.
Coming to life around the same time as many spring flowering bulbs, forsythia is a deciduous shrub with bright yellow flowers appearing on bare arching branches even before the toothed mid-green foliage comes in. The perfect spring flowering plants for the back of borders, forsythias are fast-growing and easy to care for. They tolerate most soil types as long as the ground isn’t waterlogged and like full sun or part shade. While forsythia is a hardy plant that can survive winters in the UK, it will produce fewer flowers when planted in a shady area of the garden.
Blossoming vivid yellow star-shaped flowers on bare stems from late January to March, winter jasmine is a great choice of shrub for vibrant colour early in the year. Winter jasmine has a climbing habit and can be supported to grow up trellises or left to spill over the top of a low wall. Without pruning, this reliable shrub can reach up to 10 feet tall and makes an attractive feature towards the back of borders or grown against a south-facing wall. Grow winter jasmine in full sun or light shade in well-drained soil.
Late Spring Colour
Tulips flower from mid-spring and come in a rainbow of hues, making them one of the best spring flowers for garden colour. As with other spring flowering bulbs, plant tulips in autumn so they have plenty of time to establish themselves before emerging from the soil in the new year. Tulips like to be planted in well-drained soil and prefer a sheltered spot where the cupped flowers can soak up the sun.
Lily of the Valley
Lily of the Valley is a slow growing perennial with arching stems of rich green bearing small white bell-shaped flowers from April-May. It prefers to be planted in moist, well-drained soil and thrives in full or partial shade. Once established, lily of the valley is a low-maintenance plant that is easy to care for and provides excellent ground cover around shrubs. Fun fact: lily of the valley was a favourite flower of the late Queen Elizabeth II.
Sweetly scented and irresistible to pollinators, planting sweet alyssum will attract butterflies and bees to the garden. This low-growing annual boasts masses of tiny, brightly coloured flowers in shades of white, pink or purple, blooming from late spring to early summer. It prefers cooler climates and thrives in a spot with plenty of natural sunlight. A mounding or trailing habit makes these spring flowers ideal for hanging baskets, flower box gift ideas, beds, and borders.
The violet-blue hues of these spring-blooming flowers make them a popular addition to any garden. Flowering from April to May, grape hyacinths are an early source of nectar for pollinators and are particularly attractive to bees. These spring blooms spread more easily than other spring flowers, so it’s best to grow them in containers or deadhead spent blooms before they set seed. Grow grape hyacinth in moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.
Primroses are versatile spring flowers that grow well in both flower beds and containers. They come in a rainbow of vibrant colours and produce an eye-catching show of spring flowers between March and May. Primroses don’t tolerate direct sunlight well and prefer a spot in the afternoon shade. They are hardy plants that are easy to grow and come back year after year in the right conditions.
Ornamental alliums are attractive spring flowers with ball-shaped blooms on top of tall, erect stems. They are usually purple, white or pink and bloom from May into early summer. They make excellent cut flowers for indoor displays and are long-lasting as dried flowers. Even when the flowers are spent, the seed heads are attractive and can be left to provide interest in autumn and winter. Plant alliums in well-drained soil in full sun or part shade.
This fast-growing hardy shrub produces cup-shaped flowers in various shades of red and pink from March through May. The glossy leaves feature touches of red in spring and turn a rich dark green as they mature. Also known as flowering quince, these spring flowers are easy to grow and cover the whole shrub, from top to bottom. Japanese quince grows best in well-drained soil and likes a spot in full sun or partial shade.
Flowering from late spring and into early summer, foxgloves are the ideal spring blooms for a woodland garden and bridge the weeks between spring and summer. They grow well in most soil types and while they prefer a spot in part shade, they tolerate full sun. The tubular-shaped spring flowers, usually in shades of pink-purple, grow from tall stems and feature a dappled effect on the inside. Deadheading spent flowers encourages a second bloom of late spring flowers. Alternatively, the spent flowers can be left to seed and produce another show to decorate next year’s spring garden.
The choice of spring flowers available is amazing. From semi-evergreen shrubs that bloom to charming annuals with delicate flower shapes, there is something for every spring garden. As the nights begin to draw out and the weather starts to improve, your garden can already be a riot of colour with plenty of spring flowers to welcome in the new season.