Plants for Spring Color
Stage a color show in your yard by choosing plants that welcome spring. Start with the classics: spring flowering bulbs. Spring bulbs like daffodils and tulips actually go into the ground in fall. Look for bulbs in garden centers starting in early fall, and aim to get them planted at least six weeks before the ground freezes.
Traditional bulbs, including tulips and daffodils, bring reliable color each year. Tulip petals come in a rainbow of hues, while daffodils tend toward yellow, white and pink shades. Deer love tulips, so if they visit your yard, you might need to pass on tulips and plant twice as many daffodils, which all critters leave alone. Daffodil flowers turn toward the sun, so you may only see the backs of blooms if you view your planting areas from an east or west window.
Consider other spring bulbs, such as Dutch hyacinth, Siberian squill, fritillaria and alliums. Species tulips return reliably year after year. Some of them have flowers that open and close with the sun. These tiny jewels lack the stature of their taller cousins, but they make up for that with their ability to self-sow and multiply over time.
You’ll turn heads when you include azaleas in your spring landscape. When these shrubs burst into bloom, the vibrant color is impossible to ignore. Pink and red shades are common azalea colors, as are white, yellow and orange. Give azaleas acidic soil, and plant them in blocks of single colors for the greatest impact.
Other flowering shrubs include forsythia, which you can find in tidy, dwarf forms that won’t sprawl and spread across your yard. If you like the look of flowers that appear before leaves unfurl, check out flowering quince. This beauty opens blossoms in coral, pink, red and white. Fragrant spring flowering shrubs include Koreanspice viburnum and fothergilla.
Deutzia 'Yuki Cherry Blossom'
Deutzia ‘Yuki Cherry Blossom’ explodes with pink petals each spring. Hardy in zones 5a to 8b, this deciduous shrub needs part to full sun and grows 12 to 24 inches tall and wide. Hummingbirds are drawn to the flowers; in fall, the leaves turn rich burgundy and purple.
Snapdragon 'Twinny Appleblossom'
Double pink and cream flowers start to open on this dwarf snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) in cool spring weather. A 2010 All-America Selections winner, ‘Twinny Appleblossom’ attracts butterflies and tolerates heat.
Syringa 'Bloomerang Purple'
Fragrant and deer-resistant, 'Bloomerang Purple' lilacs open their flowers in spring and again from midsummer until frost. Butterflies flock to these sun-loving shrubs, which are hardy in zones 3a to 7b.
Rhododendron 'Bloom-A-Thon Red'
Azaleas are show-stoppers in spring, but this one—rhododendron 'Bloom-A-Thon Red'—repeats the flower show in fall. The small to medium-sized evergreen shrubs are happy in part sun to sun and have good disease resistance.
Cool Wave White Pansy
Cool Wave pansies, from the developers of Cool Wave petunias, produce a tidal wave of color in the spring. They're also available in 'Frost' (a pale blue), 'Yellow' and 'Violet Wing', a deep violet-purple and white combination.
Bare branches of spring flowering trees, like flowering crabapples and Japanese cherries, transform into magic wands of color as beautiful blooms appear. Spring flowering trees with a fruit background, like crabapples or cherries, are usually prone to pests and diseases. Do your homework to select the best variety for your region with the best disease resistance. If you’re not interested in dealing with fallen fruit later in the season, look for flowering trees with sterile blooms that don’t produce fruit.
Aside from intensely tinted tulips, the spring color palette tends to feature pastel hues, such as pink, lavender, light blue and white, along with yellow shades. Lady’s mantle opens flowers in a chartreuse tone, another classic spring color. The shrub snowball viburnum forms flower heads that start as chartreuse balls in spring that turn white later. Perennial cushion spurge flowers at the tail end of spring, opening striking blooms with chartreuse bracts.
Self-seeding spring flowers like larkspur, bachelor’s buttons, corn poppies, love-in-a-mist and sweet alyssum complete the colorful seasonal palette. In warm regions, these plants often sprout in fall, go dormant through winter and grow with gusto in spring. Allow plants to self-sow for a serendipitous look, or harvest seed to sow yourself.