Flowers Gardens and Outdoors

18 Shrubs That Flower in Early Spring

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The beauty of spring is best enjoyed by admiring the blooms of gorgeous shrubs. Whether showing off variegated or evergreen foliage, many shrubs can still bring some fresh color to the garden even after the flowers are past their prime. If you’re looking for a nice selection of shrubs that are easy to grow and visually appealing, check out the following list. We’ve selected only shrubs that will produce flowers in the spring season so you can spruce up the garden as early as possible.

Besides the visual benefits, these shrubs can also provide extra advantages. They attract pollinators and other beneficial insects. It doesn’t matter if you have a large yard or struggle with some space constraints, the following shrubs are carefully selected to fit different needs. You will discover both shrubs that stay small and compact or some options that will grow larger and spread further. The flowers of these shrubs will usually start off their blooming period in March and April.

1. Forsythia

Forsythia can create a truly dramatic display just as spring arrives. When this shrub blooms, you will be greeted by breathtaking clusters of golden-yellow flowers that can make any garden stand out from a considerable distance. The flowers look more impressive thanks to the long design of their branches. Forsythia is part of the olive family of plants so it prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Some of the recommended varieties are ‘Fiesta’ and ‘Citrus Swizzle’ that also show off variegated foliage.

While this is a low-maintenance shrub that can face drought conditions pretty well, it has other disadvantages. You should only consider growing it in USDA zones 5 to 8 as it can have issues with very cold climates. A late winter freeze can usually affect forsythia shrubs badly enough that they won’t produce their characteristic flowers next spring. The shrub can reach around 8-10 feet in terms of height and width. If that’s too large for your garden, it’s worth checking out some more compact dwarf varieties that only reach 30 inches.

2. Azalea

Azaleas are very popular shrubs that flower in early spring. One of the best features of this plant is the way it’s available in a multitude of colors to suit all kinds of tastes. Gardeners have experimented through plant breeding so you can purchase azaleas in various shades of purple, pink, yellow, and orange. The flowers of the plant give off some tropical vibes considering the starry shape of the blooms. Azaleas are part of the rhododendron family of plants.

Growing this shrub can be done quite easily assuming you can provide the right conditions. Azaleas tend to like slightly acidic soils and will usually thrive if they’re protected from excess sunlight. This is why it’s recommended to find a partly shaded location for the shrub. It depends on the exact variety of azalea as some cultivars can offer solid cold tolerance. Regardless of the style of azalea you prefer, it’s safe to say that this is a vibrant shrub to try if you want to add a long-lasting splash of color in the spring season.

3. Witch Hazel

While the blooms of the witch hazel might not seem as impressive as those of other shrubs here, they make up for it through the exquisite fragrance. Once this plant starts to bloom, you will be able to enjoy the characteristic spicy aroma of its flowers. The visual style of the witch hazel is more distinctive thanks to the way flowers precede the leaves. Some varieties of this shrub are known for blooming very early. The ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel can sometimes show off its yellow flowers even though the presence of winter is still felt.

Woodland settings seem to provide the best environmental conditions to allow this shrub to develop to its full potential. The plant can grow very tall and its appearance can be nicely incorporated in mixed gardens or borders. Although the wispy flowers seem quite delicate, this shrub can tolerate cold conditions surprisingly well. Make sure you’re planting the shrub in a sunny spot to help it grow as expected. The flowers produced by the witch hazel shrub are usually yellow but you can also find different varieties with blooms in shades of red and orange. There are some unscented cultivars if you don’t want any fragrance.

4. Viburnum

There are lots of great ornamental shrubs out there for decorating your garden with beautiful blooms in early spring. Check out the style of viburnum shrubs which create an exciting fragrant and visual mix anywhere. You can choose from countless species or varieties of viburnum to find a shrub that matches your preferences. In general, this shrub grows well if you provide full sun exposure and keep the soil properly drained of excess moisture. Viburnum shrubs can reach approximately 15 feet tall and wide but it depends on the characteristics of the particular species.

One viburnum variety that’s especially recommended for its sweet smell is called ‘Korean Spice’. This is a flowering bush that’s known for the ability to change its appearance according to the season. In the spring, this viburnum shrub produces white-pink flowers that will turn to berry red in the summer. As the fall period comes around, blooms will start getting darker due to reaching peak maturity. Considering the small and compact size of the ‘Korean Spice’ shrub, this is definitely a recommended variety for a wide range of gardens.

5. Heath

If you’re searching for an evergreen shrub with delicate-looking flowers, heath could be a solid solution. This plant starts its blooming period in the winter thanks to its strong ability to tolerate the cold weather conditions. The shrub keeps flowering through the spring as it offers a stylish pink display. It can provide a healthy dose of color to any bland-looking early spring landscape. Due to the compact size of the heath shrub, it seems to work best for rock gardens.

To encourage the full development of its blooms, it’s recommended to choose a sunny place for a heath shrub. This doesn’t mean that it can’t handle a bit of shade. Keep this shrub sheltered from the winter wind that might affect the color of the foliage. Pruning can be useful to maintain a desirable shape of this shrub. Take out the pruning shears after the spring flowering period to ensure the health of your heath plants. In terms of color varieties, there aren’t that many choices as heath shrubs will usually produce pink, red, or purple flowers.

6. Japanese Rose

This is a deciduous flowering shrub that has many visual benefits for any garden. The Japanese rose (Kerria japonica) can start blooming in the spring but you can also enjoy the look of bright yellow flowers a second time in the summer. Aside from the graceful arch of flowers produced by the Japanese rose, the bark and branches are also quite attractive. Despite its name, the shrub doesn’t really resemble a traditional rose but it’s part of a larger rose family.

One aspect that makes this a great shrub to consider for your garden is its shade tolerance. The Japanese rose can help you find a good use for that overlooked partially shaded area in the yard. There aren’t a lot of plant care procedures to worry about when it comes to this shrub. The only problem is the pruning which is often needed but has to be timed correctly for the best growing results. After the spring flowering is the best moment. Keep an eye out for dead branches that should be quickly removed. It can be particularly efficient at spreading so you might find it challenging to get rid of suckers.

7. Flowering Quince

Although it has a tendency to grow in a messy style, the flowering quince can definitely create a magnificent display full of red, pink, or white blooms. This thorny shrub is related to roses. It has two main flowering periods – in early spring and late winter. The flowering quince offers a multi-stemmed appearance that makes it a fitting choice for barrier plantings. It performs ideally in full sun conditions and it’s not as fussy as other shrubs in terms of care requirements.

Even beginner gardeners can grow the flowering quince with minimal effort. You might actually have the opposite problem with this shrub. It can spread quite fast so make sure you control it by eliminating suckers at ground level before they start to develop. The hardiness of this shrub can be very appreciated as you can take advantage of its beautiful blooms for many years once the flowering quince gets fully established. The height of this spring-blooming shrub will usually grow to 6-7 feet but some varieties can reach even 10 feet. Another advantage of this shrub is that it bears green fruits that can be turned to jellies.

8. Lilac

Lilac shrubs are very commonly found in northern regions. They’re appreciated for the ability to produce stunning flowers in early spring. The colors of the blooms can range from delicate shades of white and pink to more intense purple hues. Another great feature of lilac is the fragrance created by its flowers. If you want to enjoy their pleasant smell, it’s recommended to place cut lilac flowers indoors. They will also craft an exquisite visual display.

This spring-blooming shrub lives quite long and won’t pose too many issues when it comes to growth and maintenance. For the best results, it’s a good idea to stick to a sunny area of the garden. Lilacs are very attractive for beneficial insects like bees and butterflies. While common lilac shrubs can reach a maximum of 15 feet, there are more compact varieties if you have a small garden. The ‘Miss Kim’ lilac reaches heights of only 6 feet. That’s just one example as there’s an impressive number of lilac cultivars that can fill the yard with perfumed flowers.

9. Mock Orange

Similar to lilacs, mock orange shrubs will produce some excellent fragrant flowers. The plant is known for being able to bloom early in the spring. Its flowers show off an eye-catching look in multiple shades of white. The distinctive scent represents the main highlight as it closely resembles the aroma of orange blossoms. That’s the reason for the name of the shrub. Keep in mind that you have to be careful to choose the correct variety to enjoy a strong fragrance.

Mock orange is known by its scientific name Philadelphus. Most varieties grow quite large as they can reach up to 15 feet in both height and width. There are some dwarf cultivars such as ‘Miniature Snowflake’ which only reach 3 feet. Caring for mock orange shrubs will usually involve a combination of well-drained soil and full sun. Pruning isn’t necessary unless you want to sculpt the shrub a bit or reduce the overall size. Mock orange is resistant to deer and recommended for adding a layer of privacy.

10. Deutzia

Despite not being as popular as other shrubs that bloom in early spring, deutzia can surprise you with its visual punch and sweet scent. Closely related to hydrangea, this shrub has many varieties that produce flowers in the spring. This is a versatile plant that can be easily incorporated into all types of gardens. There are more than 60 species of deutzia shrubs so you should be able to find the right one without difficulties. The flowers show off different shades of white and pink.

Once it reaches a full bloom stage, this shrub has a tendency to get completely covered in brilliant white blooms. It can create a mesmerizing sight when you can barely glimpse a single leaf. The beauty of the flowers is accentuated by the shape of the buds which resemble small spheres. There’s actually a deutzia variety called ‘Chardonnay Pearls’ that comes with a special focus on the style of the buds. Another reason why this shrub deserves to be more popular is its ultra-low maintenance requirements. Deutzias tolerate drought well and only need full sun to maximize flower production.

11. Japanese Andromeda

Offering good shade tolerance and a pleasant fragrance, the Japanese Andromeda is another great spring-flowering shrub. The plant is also known by the name lily of the valley. It tends to grow large in height and width but modern cultivars are usually smaller. The white or pink flowers have a bell shape which can seem very attractive for pollinators. But this is not everything that makes this shrub stand out in the garden. It also grabs the attention thanks to its distinctive ornamental foliage.

You will be able to notice the unique style of the glossy leaves in early spring. The foliage gets a bronze tint that gives them a tropical vibe. Even if you choose a partially-shaded spot for this shrub, it can still develop its beautiful floral display. The Japanese Andromeda shrub’s characteristic smell can sometimes be less appreciated by people deeming it too intense. It’s probably best to check the shrub at a garden center before deciding on adding it to your yard.

12. Daphne

Growing daphne shrubs can be a rewarding experience considering the scented flowers that start blooming in late winter. You will also be delighted to see the shrub flowering in early spring while some varieties can bloom later in the summer again. Daphne shrubs produce bright red fruits that are toxic to eat. In fact, the plant’s foliage is poisonous as well if ingested. This can be a great shrub to plant for its attractive floral display but it’s not recommended if you keep pets in the garden.

As opposed to other shrubs on this list, daphne has a reputation for being a bit more complicated to grow properly. You need to be careful about providing the right conditions and maintain a delicate balance. Your daphne plants can often die quickly if there are slight soil drainage issues. The shrub doesn’t seem to perform as expected when transplanted. In terms of sunlight exposure, it’s safe to say that daphne shrubs are better off with partial sun to partial shade locations.

13. Bridal Wreath Spirea

Anyone looking for a drought-tolerant shrub that flowers in early spring should check out the bridal wreath spirea. This is a charming addition to any garden thanks to the showy clusters of white flowers. The blooming time doesn’t really occur very early in the spring but you will be rewarded by vibrant foliage that changes colors throughout the summer and fall. This shrub tends to grow an abundant amount of flowers so it’s recommended for creating a focal point in the yard.

As its name suggests, the bridal wreath spirea can be used for various floral arrangements, including bridal bouquets. The deciduous shrub shows off an arching branching style that goes well with the pure white blooms. The visual effect can be best described as a cascading waterfall. When it comes to the plant’s care requirements, the bridal wreath spirea shrub isn’t particularly fussy. It’s a hardy plant that can tolerate extreme temperatures but you need to reserve a sunny spot for it if you want to maximize flower production.

14. Camellia

Camellia is an evergreen shrub that can flower in early spring but only if you choose the right variety as some species flower in the fall. When selecting a type of camellia, you will usually have many choices in terms of flower color and bloom shape. Camellia shrubs will produce stunning flowers in various hues of pink, white, and red. If you wish to take advantage of the natural fragrance of camellias, it’s essential to opt for a variety that has smaller flowers. They’re usually more concentrated when it comes to scent strength.

As this is an evergreen shrub, it will make your garden feel full of life even during the cold winter season. Pick a partial-shade place that’s sheltered from the wind to grow camellia. The shrub is fairly easy to grow in dappled shade and acidic soil rich in organic matter. The first year is usually more difficult because camellias have to be properly irrigated during dry spells. Due to having similar care requirements, camellias can be grown well together with azaleas or rhododendrons.

15. Dwarf Fothergilla

With eye-catching white flowers that emerge in early spring, dwarf fothergilla is an excellent shrub to consider. The blooms resemble the look of bottlebrush and attract pollinators due to their distinctive fragrance. The dwarf fothergilla’s flowers will start appearing before the leaves. While most gardeners like this shrub for its ability to flower in early spring, it actually has other uses as well. It has solid landscape value due to the plant’s foliage that can craft a beautiful visual display from spring to fall.

The leaves of this North American native shrub will transform into brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow as the seasons come and go. As its name suggests, this isn’t a particularly large shrub as it barely reaches a height of 3 feet. You can easily incorporate it into mixed borders or perennial gardens. The charming dwarf fothergilla has minimal pruning needs. It can keep producing flowers even on mature wood. Rich, moist soil together with full sun conditions are ideal to allow this shrub to thrive.

16. Loropetalum

Native to Asia regions, the loropetalum shrub is a solid addition for any garden in the Southern area. It produces clusters of fragrant flowers quite early in the spring season. Loropetalum is an evergreen that’s related to witch hazel. Besides the visually captivating flowers, this shrub also boasts attractive foliage. Certain varieties show off purple foliage that works great for landscaping purposes. The shrub can reach a maximum height of 12 feet. It seems to grow very wide as well.

As this shrub grows best in USDA zones 7 to 10, it means that you might have issues with planting it in colder regions. Mulching has to be used if you want to provide adequate protection against the cold. It’s possible to grow it well in colder areas assuming you try to create a sheltered microclimate. When it comes to sun exposure, it’s recommended to find a good balance. Partial shade is usually beneficial for loropetalum shrubs in very hot areas. The downside is the lack of abundant blooms and the less-intense color of the leaves.

17. Oregon Grape Holly

This is a hardy type of grape holly that shows off clusters of yellow flowers and blue fruits. It can bloom in the spring while offering a distinctive smell to make a better impression in the garden. The berries of grape hollies should appear around the summer season. They’re edible fresh and can be incorporated into various deserts. A considerable advantage of this shrub is the ability to draw the attention of beneficial pollinators and hummingbirds.

When it comes to growing conditions, the Oregon grape holly tends to prefer part sun and shadier areas. This is a broadleaf evergreen that you can also use as groundcover. It’s known for its low maintenance features and can grow up to 5 feet wide and 6 feet tall. The plant is deer resistant and can be ideal for any woodland or shade gardens. While it’s a small ornamental shrub, this type of grape holly is considered the State Flower of Oregon.

18. Ninebark

Although it blooms a bit later compared to other shrubs on this list, ninebark is still worth a shot for its many attractive qualities. Fluffy clusters of flowers appear in the spring and summer. There are lots of ninebark shrub varieties with diverse foliage colors. The white blooms can look even more eye-catching when contrasted against rich purple leaves like in the case of the Diablo ninebark cultivar.

Growing this shrub is a breeze thanks to its special features like the excellent drought tolerance. Ninebark is a garden favorite due to its fast-growing habit. Full sun allows it to perform ideally as it can reach a height of up to 8 feet and a maximum width of 12 feet. The shrub is easy to maintain and highly versatile considering the growing number of modern cultivars. Ninebark shrubs are attractive for birds and can work well in containers while they bring visual interest in many seasons, including the winter period.

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