Top 10 Early Spring-Blooming Natives for Your Yard
There's nothing more uplifting than the first flush of fragrant spring flowers to mark the beginning of another growing season. With early spring-blooming American Beauties Native Plants®, your garden will be one of the first to wake up from its winter sleep and show signs of spring's arrival. Luckily, there's no shortage of gorgeous, flowering plants to choose from! From perennial plants to trees and shrubs, here are some of our favorite spring-flowering natives for any yard.
Native Flowering Perennials
Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis): Many native flowers are favorites amongst pollinators, but not all can catch the eye of the beloved hummingbird. Wild columbine, with its showy tubular blooms and bright red color, is one of the best flowers for attracting hummingbirds to your garden. Showy, yellow stamens hang from wild columbine, illuminating American gardens almost everywhere east of the Rockies. While they can adapt to full sun, they prefer the cool comforts of partial or full shade and can be grown in USDA Zones 3-8. Our favorite is ‘Little Lanterns’—long blooming and deep red and yellow flowers! Learn more here.
Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata): This native groundcover isn't quite as compact as its creeping cousin, producing a loose mat that reaches up to a foot high. Woodland phlox is popular for its fragrant, spring flowers that tend to conceal the plant's foliage, leaving your garden with a pretty cloud of white, purple, or blue color for weeks on end. This species thrives in dappled shade and along riverbanks, as indicated by its native woodland habitat. Most woodland phlox varieties are hardy to USDA Zones 3-8. Our favorite is ‘Blue Moon’ - always loaded with butterflies, this fragrant deep blue Woodland Phlox is easy to grow!. Learn more here.
Creeping Phlox (Phlox stolonifera): Creeping phlox is a low-growing, evergreen groundcover—the perfect year-round carpet for your yard. While its purple and pink spring blooms may not be as abundant as woodland varieties, creeping phlox is much more tolerant of the sun. In fact, these flowers reach their fullest blooming potential when allowed to bask in full sun. Creeping phlox is native to areas with sandy or rocky soil conditions and is hardy to USDA Zones 3-8. Our favorite is ‘Sherwood Purple’ - later blooming and a superb nectar source for those hungry pollinators! Learn more here.
Wild Pinks/Catchfly (Silene caroliniana): A fantastic native alternative to Dianthus, this cheerful perennial brightens up just about any area of your garden with long-blooming, deep pink flowers. This compact, versatile beauty is tougher than it looks; it soldiers on through periods of rain or drought, in either full sun or shade. Under cooler spring conditions, you may be lucky enough to enjoy these vivid blooms for up to eight weeks!
Wild Pinks are much more than a pretty face, however. Their bright, nectar-rich blooms attract both butterflies and hummingbirds. We love the 'Short and Sweet' cultivar for adding personality to garden borders and containers. Hardy to USDA Zones 4-7. Learn more here.
Native Spring-Blooming Shrubs
Rhododendrons and Azaleas (Rhododendron sp.): These classic spring flowers are equally stunning garden favorites, although the untrained eye may struggle to spot the differences between them. Rhododendrons and azaleas have been recognized as different plants in the past, but all azaleas now belong to the rhododendron family. Their differences are minor—mainly, azaleas have thinner leaves and they can be either deciduous or evergreen, whereas rhododendrons have thick, leathery, evergreen foliage. Rhododendron flowers also tend to bloom in clusters, called "trusses," while azaleas bloom individually from small stems.
American Beauties Native Plants® has many different Rhododendrons and Azaleas, all with varying bloom time and flower colors. With cold-hardy and heat-tolerant varieties available, they're native to a wide range of USDA Hardiness Zones. Lucky for you, that means there's bound to be a gorgeous rhododendron or azalea variety that is either native or hardy to your region! Our favorite Azalea is Pink Shell Azalea (Rhododendron vaseyi) and our favorite cultivar of Rhododendron is Rhododendron diversipilosum 'Milky Way'—a truly unique native!
Red Chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) : This shrub's delicate, white flowers are a soft, elegant addition to your spring landscape. While these dainty blooms might land chokeberry a spot on the list, its impressive multi-season interest is what makes it a real winner. Red Chokeberry's lush, green summer leaves turn into a fabulous fall display of crimson red or red-orange, depending on the cultivar. During autumn, the shrub displays clusters of bright red berries that persist throughout the cold season—a favorite for winter birds! Known for their minimal maintenance and high tolerance to drought, these are plants you can essentially set and forget. Red chokeberries are hardy to USDA Zones 4-9. Our favorite cultivar is ‘Brilliantissima’—brilliant red fall foliage, the perfect replacement for non-native and invasive burning bush. Learn more here.
Native Spring-Blooming Trees
Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis): The bright white blooms of this native tree will illuminate your early April garden while filling it with one of the sweetest fragrances of the season. At a mature height of 10-15 feet with a slightly smaller canopy, this upright tree is a perfect size and shape for landscapes of any scale. In the summer, serviceberry trees will decorate your yard with more than their light green leaves and small, edible blue berries—they'll attract lovely birds to your garden, too. Use these trees to brighten the fully- or partially-shaded areas of your garden. They can be grown in USDA Zones 2-7. Learn more here.
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia): Pagoda dogwood is easily one of the most attractive ornamental native trees you can add to your landscape— and if you've ever witnessed one of these magnificent trees in full bloom, you'll know precisely what we mean! We love the fine texture of this dogwood’s creamy white, feathery blossoms, which make for excellent contrast with the large ovate leaves. Pagoda dogwood’s most famous feature is its eye-catching, horizontal branching, allowing this native tree to fit right into Japanese gardens. Through spring and summer, the flowers and fruit attracts birds, butterflies, and a few mammals, while in the fall, it attracts attention from neighbors with its stunning show of fall colors! Hardy to USDA Zones 4-9 and ideal for shade and part-shade locations. Learn more here.
Grancy Graybeard (Chionathus virginicus): Naturally found in damp woods, the floral display of this fringetree cultivar is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind. With flowers composed of delicately fragrant, creamy-white, fringe-like petals, this tree is sure to add a soft, feathery touch to your landscape. With a mature height of 12-18 feet and a width of up to 12-20 feet, this tree makes a dramatic statement and attracts scads of butterflies and birds. Grancy Graybeard is also an ideal specimen tree for urban landscapes thanks to its high tolerance for air pollution. Grows best in full sun to part shade and prefers moist, fertile soil. Hardy to USDA Zones 3-9. Learn more here.
By planting spring-blooming natives in your garden, you'll be greeted each year with reliable color and effortless beauty—something that's always appreciated after the bleakness of winter! Beneficial pollinators will appreciate them too, as some of these flowering natives provide an early food source when spring arrives. Visit your local garden center to get to know the spring-blooming American Beauties Native Plants to your area!