The spectacle put on by flowering bulbs and perennials each spring is one of Mother Nature’s best performances. She keeps them hidden under a blanket of snow-covered soil until the lengthening days and warming sun signal that it’s time for their grand entrance. Right on cue, they rise out of their beds to banish our winter blues and remind us that spring has arrived. By planting a wide variety of spring-blooming bulbs and perennials, you can enjoy this glorious display from late February through mid-June. Here are some of the top performers for season-long color.

EARLY SPRING

HELLEBORE
(Helleborus ×hybridus)

Zones: 4-9
Bloom time: Late January to May
Height: 12-18 inches

All-star qualities: This long-blooming spring beauty, also called the Lenten rose, features exotic single or double flowers in a vast array of colors, often with dramatic contrasting stamens and interiors. (See Hellebore Flowers Offer Beautiful Late-Winter Blooms.) The flowers may appear even before the snow melts and will last two months or longer. In mild climates, the glossy dark-green leaves remain evergreen and can be used as a groundcover.

Best locations: Hellebores grow best in sites protected from extreme conditions, such as cold winter winds and full sunlight. They are ideal for brightening up shady locations under trees or shrubs and look stunning incorporated into woodland gardens.

Growing tips: Hellebores are easy to propagate by dividing or by allowing clumps to spread through self-seeding. To encourage the growth of new foliage, which can be enjoyed after the bloom season, cut back the stems after the flowers fade.

SNOWDROP
(Galanthus)

Zones: 3-7
Bloom time: February to March
Height: 6-12 inches

All-star qualities: This defiant cold-hardy plant isn’t the least bit intimated by Old Man Winter, and will often push its ethereal white flowers up through a blanket of snow. Under ideal growing conditions, snowdrops will naturalize freely to form sweeping drifts of color. Read more reasons to love snowdrops.

Best locations: Snowdrops prefer cooler climates and light shade, making them the perfect choice for woodland gardens where they can be planted under deciduous trees that will leaf out later in the spring. Their relatively short stature also makes them good additions to rock gardens and borders.

Growing tips: For the best massing effects, plant snowdrops in clusters of at least 25 bulbs, spacing them about 3 inches apart. They prefer moist, humus-rich soil in areas protected from full sun.

DAFFODIL
(Narcissus)

Zones: 3-9
Bloom time: March to May
Height: 6 to 18 inches

All-star qualities: Daffodils are one of the easiest and most dependable flowers to grow, making them a great choice for beginning gardeners and those who want a flower that will spread naturally throughout their garden. Their lovely trumpet-shaped flowers are typically yellow or white, but there are many hybrids available with features such as double flowers, contrasting cup colors, and various bloom sizes. See these five-show stopping selections: Delightful Daffodils

Best locations: Plant in masses in the perennial garden or let them naturalize in a woodland garden. Daffodils grow best in full sun or light shade, but do quite well planted beneath deciduous trees that leaf out after the flowers have finished blooming.

Growing tips: Once planted, daffodils require very little care. As with most plants grown from bulbs, you should leave the foliage in place until it yellows in order to supply food to the bulbs for the following season. To hide the fading foliage, intermingle your daffodils with annuals or other later-blooming perennials in the garden. For more growing tips, visit the American Daffodil Society.

TULIP
(Tulipa)

Zones: 4-8
Bloom time: Early-flowering tulips from March to April, mid-season varieties from April to May, and late-flowering tulips from late May through June
Height: 8-30 inches

All-star qualities: Tulips are one of the most indispensable flowers of spring and are as popular in floral arrangements and bouquets as they are in flower beds. With over 3,000 different cultivars available, they come in virtually every color of the rainbow, including striated and multicolored varieties. Although their exquisite flowers typically last only a few days, you can extend the bloom period from March through June by planting early-, mid-, and late-season varieties. See six tantalizing tulips to plant now.

Best locations: Excellent for borders, rock gardens, and container gardens. They can also be integrated throughout the perennial garden instead of being planted in mass.

Growing tips: Don't plant tulips in the shade or they will grow weak and spindly with small flowers. Though tulips are perennials, not all of them will come back the following season. Some hybrids may need to be replanted annually. Get more tulip growing tips.

MID-SPRING

GRAPE HYACINTH
(Muscari)

Zones: 4-9
Bloom time: February to May
Height: 6 to 8 inches

All-star qualities: The grape hyacinth adds breathtaking tones of deep violet to the garden, a color that pairs beautifully with other spring-flowering bulbs such as yellow daffodils and red tulips. The delicate bell-shaped flowers resemble upright clusters of miniature grapes and will last as long as three weeks. Unlike other spring-flowering bulbs, the foliage of the grape hyacinth will reemerge in the fall after dying back in late spring and will remain through winter, until the plants burst into bloom again the following season.

Best locations: Grape hyacinths grow well in full sun or partial shade. For the greatest visual impact, plant in clusters of 50 or more in open areas to create spectacular drifts of colors. They also make a big impact when planted under shrubs and trees, in rock gardens, and in perennial borders.

Growing tips: This easy-care naturalizer quickly self-propagates by bulb offsets and seed dispersal, but not aggressively. In the fall, use the reemerging leaves to identify the location of your plants and to mark the location of other bulbs you may have planted alongside them.

LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY
(Convallaria majalis)

Zones: 2-9
Bloom time: May to June
Height: 8 inches

All-star qualities: The dainty bell-shaped flowers of lily-of-the-valley perfume the spring air with a heavenly fragrance. They spread by creeping rhizomes to form a thick carpet of white flowers arching out from upright stems. Bright red berries form on the plant after flowering, and the attractive lance-shaped leaves last all summer, serving as an attractive groundcover.

Best locations: This shade-loving plant will thrive where few other plants can’t and is not fussy about soil conditions. It’s an ideal groundcover for shady slopes, beneath deciduous trees, or in woodland gardens. However, lily-of-the-valley spreads aggressively, so avoid placing it near the perennial garden or in borders.

Growing tips: Don’t let lilies-of-the-valley become overcrowded because they won’t flower as vigorously. When necessary, divide them after flowering by digging up and separating their root clusters and replanting in a space that gives them room to spread.

PEONY
(Paeonia lactiflora)

Zones: 2-8
Bloom time: May to June
Height: 24 to 36 inches

All-star qualities: The sumptuous blooms of the peony are among the most magnificent in the garden, opening to the size of a grapefruit to display their silky petals. There are hundreds of cultivars to choose from including striped and bicolor varieties in single, double, and anemone forms. When the flowers are spent, the shrub-like foliage remains attractive throughout the summer and often turns burgundy tones in the fall. Once you plant peonies in your garden, you can enjoy them for a lifetime. It’s not unusual for these long-lived perennials to last 100 years or more with minimal care or need for dividing.

Best locations: Use as an informal hedge along walkways, fences, or retaining walls. Because the foliage remains attractive throughout the summer, you can also use peonies as an accent plant or backdrop in the perennial garden.

Growing tips: Peonies grow best in full sun or part shade. When planting the roots or divisions of peonies, don’t go deeper than 2 inches below the soil surface. Planting peonies too deeply is the most common reason they fail to bloom. For more growing tips, see Peonies Deliver Showstopping Blooms with Little Effort.

LATE SPRING

FLOWERING ONION
(Allium spp.)

Zones: 3-8
Bloom time: Late May and June, some through late summer
Height: 1 to 5 feet

All-star qualities: With spherical blooms dramatically poised on slender stalks, alliums put on a striking show wherever you plant them (see Allium Flowers Bring Star Power to the Garden.) Their late-spring bloom period is an asset in many gardens, providing floral beauty that bridges the gap between early spring-flowering bulbs and summer-blooming perennials. Another plus: The oniony scent naturally repels deer, rabbits, and other garden pests.

Best locations: Because of their tall, upright stature, alliums don’t take up much space in the garden, so they can easily be interplanted among other perennials and annuals. They make the greatest impact when planted in groups of five or more. Alliums also are stunning when used in borders alongside walkways and garden beds.

Growing tips: Plant in full sun in well-drained soil to avoid weak flower stalks and bulb rot. After blooming, allow the foliage to die back naturally. Once established, flowering onions require very little care. If they become overcrowded, you can divide and replant the bulbs in the fall.

ORIENTAL POPPY
(Papaver orientale)

Zones: 3-7
Bloom time: June and July
Height: 2 to 4 feet

All-star qualities: These brightly colored flowers, available in vibrant shades of red, orange, and pink, add welcome bursts of color to the early-summer garden when few other perennials are blooming. Their thistle-like grayish-green leaves also provide attractive textural contrast. After the flowers fade, they are followed by large seedpods that add interest to dried floral arrangements.

Best locations: Plant oriental poppies in full sun where they will serve as focal points in the early-June garden. Because their foliage yellows and dies back shortly after blooming, plant them among other perennials or annuals that will hide their dormant roots. These plants love cool weather and need a period of winter dormancy, so they aren’t good choices for areas that experience high summer heat and humidity.

Growing tips: Plant in mid to late summer when dormant or when just beginning to produce leaves in the fall. You can easily propagate oriental poppies by root divisions, but the roots prefer to be left undisturbed, so only divide when needed. Get more growing tips: How to Grow Pretty Poppies.

BEARDED IRIS
(Iris germanica)

Zones: 3-9
Bloom time: March through June, depending on the variety
Height: 8 to 16 inches (dwarf varieties); up to 28 inches or greater (tall varieties)

All-star qualities: The bearded iris may be the only plant you need for the spring garden, since they come in an amazing range of colors, heights, and bloom times. Their “falls,” or lower petals, give them an exotic orchid-like appearance and often display different colors and markings than the uppermost petals (“standards”). The shortest varieties begin to bloom as early as mid-March while the tall bearded iris will bloom from mid-May to June. Some varieties will even rebloom again in the summer or fall.

Best locations: Place the bearded iris, especially taller specimens, wherever you need a bit of drama. The attractive sword-like leaves will last all season, adding nice contrast to perennials with delicate, lacy foliage. Dwarf varieties are excellent for use in rock gardens and borders.

Growing tips: For the best results, plant iris rhizomes in July through September while the plants are dormant. If your iris beds become overcrowded, you can divide each plant by lifting up the entire clump with a garden fork and separating the newer growth from the older center rhizome and replanting. For more growing tips, visit the American Iris Society.

Also try these spring-blooming favorites

  • Bleeding Heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis aka. Dicentra spectabilis)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia)
  • Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus)
  • Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis spp.)
  • Johnny Jump-Up or wild pansy (Viola tricolor)
  • Primrose (Primula polyantha)
  • Trillium (Trillium spp.)
  • Virginia Bluebell (Mertensia virginica)

RELATED:
18 Stunning and Offbeat Spring Blooming Bulbs
9 Spring Wildflowers for Planting in Your Garden

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