Early spring blooming trees are a wonderful “welcome home” from your warm-weather winter vacation, and can be a simple cure to coach you out of your winter cocoon. Even better, these flowering trees and shrubs are almost effortless to care for.
If you’re yard could use a little spring pick-me-up, try planting one or more of the 10 varieties below to add color to your landscape as they herald a beautiful start to the season, year after year!
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CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about (creating the transformation).
- The Benefits of Spring Flowering Trees
- 10 Best Spring Flowering Trees
- Spring Flowering Shrubs
- Flowering Container Trees
- Final Thoughts
Why Spring Flowering Trees are Great
Purple crocuses, jubilant jonquils, and other bulbs planted in fall mark spring’s arrival when they emerge. But their petite proclamation is faint compared to the bold enthusiasm of early spring blooming trees and flowering shrubs. With their branches joyfully uplifted and magnificent colors and forms, it’s hard to deny that spring has sprung!”
There are many reasons why planting a few early spring flowering trees in your landscape is a good decision. Here are a few:
- Flowering trees are almost care free
- They provide a burst of color when you need it most
- In a mixed garden, flowering trees compliment spring bulbs and small ornamental shrubs
- Many trees that flower in spring provide year round interest
Without further justification, let’s get right to the best spring blooming trees so you can decide which one(s) suit you.
Related: Before you plant your trees, be sure to avoid these common spring gardening mistakes.
10 Best Spring Flowering Trees
You’ll find a wide selection of beautiful spring flowering trees from which to choose. These are some of our favorites.
Leading the spring procession in color is the Eastern Redbud (Cercus canadensis). Clusters of small, rosy-pink to purplish flowers shaped like sweet peas cover the twiggy branches before a single leaf emerges.
At a mature height of up to 35 feet and a loose, rounded growth habit, this tree works well to provide color in a naturalized setting with native perennials or as a stunning focal point.
2. Star Magnolia
The Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata), with chalk-white flowers in a 3-inch starburst of narrow petals is the earliest of the northern-hardy magnolias to bloom. It sometimes suffers damage to blooms from a late frost but most-often is a harbinger of an early spring.
Star Magnolias grow to about 10 feet tall with a spread of 20 feet and make ideal border plantings. It’s pink-flowered variety, “Rosea,” ads lovely soft tones to any yard.
3. Saucer Magnolia
The Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangeana) is breathtaking to behold! It’s dramatic mauve flowers average 6 inches across and starkly contrast the tree’s bare branches.
Flowers range from rosy pink and white, to deeper pinks and purples, and even buttery yellows.
Saucer magnolias grow to about 25 feet with a 25-foot spread and seldom require pruning. Homeowners are rewarded early with blooms on the youngest of trees.
The four-petalled, notched, or “bracted” blooms of the Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) develop color as they emerge. They are native to New England and the eastern United States. Those found in the woods are most often white, but nursery stock includes pink- to almost red-blooming varieties.
The Flowering Dogwood can reach up to 40 feet but usually averages about 20 feet.
The threat of the tree developing the anthracnose fungus is lessened by planting in full sun, and is less of a problem and some hybrids.
5. Ornamental Pear
The Ornamental Pear (Pyrus callaryana), particularly “Bradford,” is a common site along sidewalks and neighborhood developments. Its pyramidal to oval shape and tolerance of urban conditions makes it suitable for formal drives and entranceways.
It blooms in clusters of pure white flowers followed by glossy, attractive leaves. Small, edible pears set fruit in fall.
6. Crapapple Tree
Equally noted for its decorative fruit to make jams and jellies, Crabapples (Malus spp.) provide a spectacular but brief spring display of white, pink, or red flowers.
Most crab apples grow to about 25 feet and are attractive lawn ornaments or as a privacy screen along fences.
Look for varieties that are disease-resistant, since crabapples can be plagued with pests and disease. That shouldn’t be hard with over 600 kinds of Crabapple in cultivation.
7. Dwarf Flowering Almond
The Dwarf Flowering Almond (Prunus glandulosa) is more shrub-like in its habit, growing to about 3 to 5 feet. It flowers in single or double white or pink flowers that resemble the pom-pom shape of some chrysanthemums.
Its small size makes it perfect under low windows, alongside porches, and in smaller garden areas.
8. Flowering Cherry
The profuse, fluffy blooms of Flowering Cherry (Prunus spp.) are an old favorite. Most varieties prefer full sun and fertile soil, and grow to about 25 feet in an attractive vaselike sheep.
They make excellent focal points individually or when grouped.
Also popular is the Weeping Cherry (Prunus subhirtella pendula), which is prized for its grace fountainlike branches drenched in single pink flowers. It’s a real show-stopper!
9. Red Leaf Plum
An alternative to Cherry trees in less fertile soil is the Dwarf Red Leaf Plum (Prunus cistena), which blooms in delicate white or light-pink flowers. It sports handsome purplish foliage thereafter, and grows to 10 feet tall.
10. Cornelian Cherry
Despite its name, the Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) is actually in the Dogwood family. It has tight clusters of small star-shaped yellow flowers that bloom in early spring before leaves emerge.
This versatile specimen grows from 20- to 25-feet high and thrives in well-drained urban conditions, en mass, by a patio, or as a hedge.
After the glossy green leaves emerge in summer, this tree has the added benefit of producing dark red edible fruits that ripen in July.
Spring Flowering Shrubs
You can compliment spring-flowering trees with shrubs in bloom for a full landscape performance.
- The unbridled enthusiasm of brilliant yellow Forsythia is unmistakable. It makes a superb informal specimen planting or relaxed hedge.
- Early blooming Rhododendrons, like the Carolina Rhododendron (R. carolinianum) display pale pink flowers that contrast its blue-green foliage.
- PJM Rhododendrum (R. ‘PJM’) is another early bloomer in lavender-pink flowers; it makes and excellent foundation planting.
- And no spring landscape is complete without the heady perfume of Lilacs (Syringa spp.), available in an array of colors beyond the traditional bluish lavender.
Flowering Container Trees
Finally, you can look to container trees to add a flowering design element that’s needed in your outdoor living space, like your patio, deck, or balcony.
Choose a large pot or tub, be prepared to water frequently (as much as twice a day) and replace the topsoil each year to replenish lost nutrients.
If the tree will remain outdoors year-round, be sure the pot is frost-proof, as well as the tree.
Here are some to try. (Those with * are not frost-hardy.)
- Acacia (A. dealbata)*
- Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)*
- Dwarf Flowering Almond (Prunus glandulosa)
- Flowering Cherry (Prunus ‘Amanogawa’)
- Jacaranda (J. Mimosifolia)*
- Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
- Olive (Olea europaea)
- Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis)
- Weeping Chinese Banyan (Ficus benjamina)*
Final Thoughts on Spring Flowering Trees & Shrubs
Now, take another look at your yard. Does it fully reflect the jubilation of spring? Is the the welcome to a new season you’d hoped for?
If not, you’ll easily achieve the look you envision by adding a few of these early spring flowering trees and shrubs to your landscape.
If you love spending spring in the garden, you’ll want to read these top 5 easy spring gardening tips next.
This article first appeared in The Patriot Ledger as “Spring has Sprung / Flowering Trees and Shrubs A Colorful Sign of the Season” by Jaqueline Gately. (5/5/01). It may contain affiliate links. As always, all opinions expressed are my own. For more information, please see the following Disclosure.
Photo credits: Redbud – Mike Goad, Star Magnolia – Heidelbergerin, Saucer Magnolia – HeungSoon, Dogwood – Manfred Richter, Forsythia – Andreas Lischka, Lilac – Conger Design (Pixabay)
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