20 of the best spring flowers

20 of the best spring flowers

Looking for beautiful spring flowers to grow in your garden? We pick 20 of our favourites.

Nothing marks the end of winter like a cheery spring flower. From the first snowdrops and daffodils to primroses and hellebores, spring flowers are used by gardeners as a ‘spring marker’ to count down the days until temperatures increase again and we can spend more time in our gardens.

Advertisement

Spring flowers are important for pollinators, too. Many pollinators, including bumblebees and some butterflies, hibernate over winter and they rely on spring flowers to provide them with nectar and pollen when they emerge from hibernation. Nectar from spring flowers provides pollinators with the energy to fly and find a mate or nest site, while pollen from spring flowers helps bumblebees to start laying eggs for the next generation of bumblebees.

Choosing spring flowers

When choosing spring flowers it’s important to think about the site you intend to grow them in. Most do best in sun or dappled shade – indeed they will flower sooner if grown in a sunny spot, as the soil they’re growing in will be warmed by the sun. Consider also whether you’re growing spring flowers in a pot or the ground, whether you want a temporary or permanent display, and if you’re planting bulbs, which are usually planted in autumn.

Consider colour combinations, too. If planting spring bulbs, think about the flower colours – will they complement each other or clash? Will they flower at the same time or one after the other?

We’ve listed 20 of our favourite spring flowers to grow, below.


1

Primrose, Primula vulgaris

Spring flowers - primrose, Primula vulgaris
Spring flowers – primrose, Primula vulgaris

This beautiful British native primrose is one our most well-loved spring flowers, with its pale yellow blooms and fresh green, crinkled leaves. Over the years, primroses will grow into clumps that can be divided and replanted around the garden, for a larger display. Primroses will also self-seed in the right conditions, lending a natural look to your garden borders. Cultivated forms, known as ‘polyanthus’ are also available, and flower in a variety of colours including bright purple, red and pink.

Best grown in moist soil in partial shade, plant primroses among forget me nots, snowdrops and other spring flowers.

Flowers: March to May

Height x Spread: 20cm x 35cm

2

Snowdrops, Galanthus spp.

Spring flowers - snowdrops, Galanthus spp
Spring flowers – snowdrops, Galanthus spp

Snowdrops are some of the earliest spring flowers to bloom, sometimes flowering as soon as January. Choose from the species Galanthus nivalis to larger cultivars with different flower shapes, such as Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’ and Galanthus elwesii ‘Abington Green’.  Snowdrops gradually clump up over the years, making them easy to dig up, divide and replant for a bigger display.

Plant snowdrops ‘in the green’, after they have flowered in March and April, for the best results.

Flowers: January to March

Height x Spread: 12cm x 5cm

3

Crocus, Crocus tommasinianus

Spring flowers - crocus, Crocus tommasinianus
Spring flowers – crocus, Crocus tommasinianus

Crocuses are some of the cheeriest spring flowers, providing masses of pollen for early queen bumblebees. Most crocus flowers are purple but you can buy yellow and white varieties, too. They grow from bulb-like corms, best planted in autumn, and they grow best in full sun in moist but well-drained soil. Plant crocuses in pots on their own, in gaps at the front of the border or naturalised in your lawn.

Flowers: February to April

Height x Spread: 15cm x 5cm

4

Daffodils, Narcissus spp.

Spring flowers - Daffodils, Narcissus 'Hawera'
Spring flowers – Daffodils, Narcissus ‘Hawera’

Would spring even be spring without daffodils? These cheery yellow flowers bloom in even the harshest conditions, offering a splash of colour when there’s little else in flower in the garden. There’s a huge range of daffodils, or Narcissi, to grow, including white and salmon-pink flowered varieties, tall types and dwarf ‘Tete-a-Tete’ daffodils, and early- and late-flowering species. If you really love daffodils you can plant a range of early- and late-flowering types so you can have daffodils flowering in your garden from February to May.

Plant in moist but well-drained soil in full sun, in the ground or in pots.

Flowers: February to May

Height x Spread: 30cm x 5cm

5

Hyacinth, Hyacinthus

Spring flowers - Hyacinths growing in a pot with heuchera
Spring flowers – Hyacinths growing in a pot with heuchera

Hyacinths are lovely spring flowers that have fallen out of favour in recent years, due to their slightly old fashioned look. However they work well in pot displays and are extremely fragrant, offering a blast of spring colour and scent early in the year. Choose from purple, pink and white varieties. Plant hyacinths in moist but well-drained soil in full sun.

Flowers: March to April

Height x Spread: 25cm x 10cm

6

Tulips, Tulipa spp.

Spring flowers - orange and purple tulips growing together
Spring flowers – orange and purple tulips growing together

Tulips are some of the most popular spring flowers, coming in a range of colours, shapes and sizes. Choose brightly coloured tulips for a cheerful display or pair maroon and white tulips for a more dramatic look. You can also buy frilled and peony-flowered tulips for a different look. Although tulips aren’t popular with pollinators, they still make a worth while addition to spring pot and border displays in spring. Plant tulips in moist but well-drained soil in full sun.

Flowers: April to May

Height x Spread: 45cm x 20cm

7

Forget-me-nots, Myosotis sylvatica

Spring flowers - forget-me-not planted with yellow and white tulips
Spring flowers – forget-me-not planted with yellow and white tulips

Forget-me-nots are cheery, low-growing blue flowers. They’re perfect for growing at the front of a border or combined with tulips and daffodils for a bright spring display. Forget-me-nots self-seed readily but they do start to look tatty after flowering and it’s best to pull them out and plant something in their place, instead.

Grow forget-me-nots in moist but well-drained soil in partial shade.

Flowers: April to June

Height x Spread: 20cm x 15cm

8

Wallflowers, Erysimum cheiri

Spring flowers - wallflower, Erysimum cheiri
Spring flowers – wallflower, Erysimum cheiri

Wallflowers are popular in spring bedding displays. Most wallflowers are biennial, so you need to sow them in late spring, ready for flowering the following spring. Or buy bare-root wallflowers for autumn planting. Wallflowers come in dark red and yellow. Grow them in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade.

Flowers: March to April

Height x Spread: 50cm x 50cm

9

Lungwort, Pulmonaria

Spring flowers - lungwort, Pulmonaria
Spring flowers – lungwort, Pulmonaria

Lungwort is a gorgeous perennial herbaceous plant that tolerates more shade than other spring flowers. It’s named after the markings on its leaves, which were thought to resemble diseased lungs. Flowers can be purple or pink. Lungwort is a firm favourite with the hairy footed flower bee, one of the first bees to emerge from hibernation in spring. Plant lungworts with primroses and forget-me-not for a natural spring look.

Flowers: March to April

Height x Spread: 35cm x 45cm

10

Snake’s head fritillary

Spring flowers - snake's head fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris
Spring flowers – snake’s head fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris

Snake’s head fritillary is a gorgeous spring-flowering bulb, in the lily family. It bears chequerboard-patterned flowers in shades of mauve and pink, but you can also get white varieties. Grow snakes’s head fritillaries in moist soil in partial shade.

Flowers: March to April

Height x Spread: 35cm x 45cm

11

Hellebores, Helleborus spp.

Spring flowers - Helleborus niger
Spring flowers – Helleborus niger

Hellebores flower from late-winter to spring, in a range of flower colours including white to pink and dark purples. There’s a range of hellebores to try, including earliest flowering Christmas rose, hellebore niger, to the later-flowering hellebore hybrids. Stinking hellebore, Helleborus foetidus, is taller and more suitable for growing in larger beds and planting schemes.

Grow hellebores in moist soils in partial shade.

Flowers: January to April

Height x Spread: 45cm x 45cm

12

Reticulate iris, Iris reticulata

Spring flowers - reticulate iris 'Gordon'
Spring flowers – reticulate iris ‘Gordon’

Early flowering reticulate irises have delicate, fragrant purple flowers with yellow markings. Growing to just 15cm in height, they’re perfect for growing in pots and alpine displays on a table or windowsill. Plant them in pots for the best results.

Flowers: January to April

Height x Spread: 15cm x 15cm

13

Heather, Erica spp.

Spring flowers - Erica x darleyensis-'Darleydale'
Spring flowers – Erica x darleyensis-‘Darleydale’

Winter- and spring-flowering heathers, Erica carnea and Erica x darlyensis provide flowers when there’s little else in bloom. A magnet for bumblebees, they provide an essential source of pollen and nectar on early spring days. Unlike summer-flowering heathers, these hardy heathers tolerate neutral to alkaline soil. Plant them in pots with other spring flower displays, or at the front of a sunny border.

Flowers: December to April

Height x Spread: 50cm x 100cm

14

Winter aconite, Eranthus hyemalis

Spring flowers - snowdrops and winter aconites
Spring flowers – snowdrops and winter aconites

Winter aconites are early flowering perennials with bright yellow flowers. They’re perfect for naturalising in lawns and work well with snowdrops. Choose a sunny to partially shaded spot with moist but well-drained soil. As with snowdrops, plant them ‘in the green’ after flowering.

Flowers: January to February

Height x Spread: 13cm x 10cm

15

Pasque flower, Pulsatilla

Spring flowers - Pulsatilla flower
Spring flowers – Pulsatilla flower

The pasque flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris, is a beautiful late-spring flower, traditionally a symbol of Easter. It bears silky purple, star-shaped flowers, in contrast with ferny foliage. Grow pasque flower in well-drained soil in full sun.

Flowers: April to May

Height x Spread: 20cm x 20cm

16

Grape hyacinth, Muscari

Spring flowers - flowering muscari in tin cans
Spring flowers – flowering muscari in tin cans

Grape hyacinths, Muscari, are small, spring-flowering bulbs with bright blue flowers. Despite sharing part of their common name with regular hyacinths, they’re not related. Plant them at the front of a border, in grass or in pots. Be careful – they spread easily.

Flowers: April to May

Height x Spread: 20cm x 10cm

17

Bearded iris, Iris germanica

Spring flowers - bearded iris flower
Spring flowers – bearded iris flower

The bearded iris is a popular, tall-growing iris, bearing flamboyant blooms over sword-like foliage from May to June. Each flower is made up of large outer and inner petals, known as ruffs and falls. The hairs growing along the centre of the falls give the bearded iris its name.

Grow bearded iris in a hot, sunny bed, in moist but well-drained soil. Make sure the rhizome sits above soil level and gets sun for most o the day – this will ensure it flowers reliably.

Flowers: May to June

Height x Spread: 90cm x 10cm

18

Foxgloves, Digitalis

Spring flowers - foxglove flowers
Spring flowers – foxglove flowers

Flowering from late spring into summer, foxgloves bridge the gap between spring- and summer-flowering perennials. Foxgloves traditionally bear pink-purple tubular flowers with beautiful spotted insides, but you can also get white and orange-flowering varieties. Most foxgloves are biennial, meaning they flower and set seed in their second year, but perennial foxgloves are increasingly available.

Grow foxgloves in moist but well-drained soil in sun to shade. Biennial types self-seed readily.

Flowers: May to June

Height x Spread: 1.8m x 90cm

19

Alliums, Allium spp.

Spring flowers - Allium Purple Sensation and Allium aflatunense
Spring flowers – Allium Purple Sensation and Allium aflatunense

Alliums are bulbous perennials, typically with globe-shaped purple flowers. Flowering from late-spring into summer, they’re loved by bees. They make excellent cut flowers, both in fresh and dried flower arrangements.

Grow alliums in moist but well-drained soil in full sun, ideally among other foliage plants, which hide their unsightly strappy foliage.

Flowers: May to June

Height x Spread: 20cm x 15cm

20

Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis

Spring flowers - lily of the valley
Spring flowers – lily of the valley

Lily of the valley is a low-growing, spreading perennial plant with arching stems of bell-shaped, white flowers. It’s perfect for growing in shady borders and woodland settings. It works well as a cut flower.

Grow lily of the valley in moist soil in partial shade.

Flowers: April to May

Advertisement

Height x Spread: 25cm x 30cm