Many of the early blooming shrubs at Shrub Source are newer varieties of old favorites. Flowering quince, lilacs, azaleas, and forsythias factor into many a childhood memory. These are some of the first shrubs to bloom after a long winter. They welcome spring, indoors as forced branches and outdoors when they burst into color. These shrubs have the flowers that serve as centerpieces for Mother’s Day celebrations and graduation parties.
If your garden doesn’t kick into gear until June, chances are good that you need a few early flowering shrubs to extend the season. Here are some of our favorites.
In warmer areas, Spice Ball Viburnum blooms as early as mid to late March. This is a specimen shrub to plant near your front door or back porch so that you can enjoy the wonderful scent of the flowers when it is in bloom.
Calycanthus is a lesser-grown shrub, but one that everyone should make some room for, if possible. Dark burgundy flowers appear in greatest numbers during the spring, but the shrub will sporadically re-bloom throughout the summer. When not in bloom, glossy green leaves serve as an excellent foundation, screening, or backdrop plant in the landscape.
A few of the early bloomers are excellent for forcing. You can cut branches from these shrubs in February and bring them inside to put on a spectacular floral display long before the snow melts outside.
Two of our favorites are forsythia and flowering quince.
Older varieties of forsythia were huge and rangy, but newer varieties, such as Show Off™ Starlet are more compact growers. This one is also absolutely covered in blooms each spring.
Double Take™ Pink Storm Flowering Quince always gets lots of appreciative glances when it shows off hundreds of rose-like blooms when everything else in the landscape is still deep in winter slumber. Plus, the Double Take™ series are thorn-less. It cannot get any better than this.
Don’t Forget Roses!
We are big fans of the Oso Easy™ roses for their, you guessed it, easy care attributes. These are some of the latest of the early bloomers, but they fill the gap nicely between extreme earlybirds such as forsythia and the summer blooming hydrangeas and crape myrtles. These roses will also re-bloom throughout the summer. For unusual color in the garden, plant Oso Easy™ Italian Ice (pictured, yellow center with pink blushing petals), Oso Easy™ Cherry Pie (bright pink single flowers), and Oso Easy™ Paprika—with bright orange blooms.
Most of these plants are fairly low-maintenance, but timing on what little maintenance that's required is crucial. Here are some tips to keep early-flowering shrubs looking great!
- Prune right after the plants are finished flowering in the spring. Early bloomers set flower buds for next year during the summer. If you prune them hard in late summer, you'll cut off all of the flowers. If you make no other change to your gardening habits, MAKE THIS CHANGE!
- Fertilize after blooming. Most of the spring flowering shrubs will push new growth immediately after flowering. (Pruning can make this new growth bushier and fuller.) Fertilize shrubs with the proper fertilizer at the same time that you prune. (Azaleas, rhododendrons, and hollies all benefit from Holly-tone or holly fertilizers.)
- Water shrubs after pruning. Whenever you do something that could stress a plant or require it to use more reserves than usual, it's a good idea to water it. (That is, unless you're having higher than usual rainfall.) So, after pruning and fertilizing, make sure to water!
Following these tips will help you keep your early bloomers looking gorgeous!