22 Perfect Plants for Spring
Image: Clumps of galanthus (snowdrops) cosy up to clipped topiary balls at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens
Spring is the busiest season in the garden and the time when a vast number of plants are available. To help you plan your spring garden, we share some of their favourite spring plants and how best to grow them.
1. Amelanchier Canadensis
Amelanchier canadensis is a dense, upright shrub, which produces abundant sprays of dainty white flowers in early spring, followed by red-purple fruits in the Summer. In the autumn, the plant takes centre stage again as the bush sets the garden alight with its vivid colours of reds, oranges and yellows.
It is an ideal choice for the back of the flower bed as a small tree or an informal hedge. This easy-going plant grows in any soil conditions and orientation, but to enjoy the best of its autumn colour plant it in full sun.
Aquilegia – also known as ‘Granny’s Bonnets’ - are brilliant cottage garden plants. They have show-stopping flowers in a fantastic range of flower colours.
“Some, like ‘Nora Barlow’ are shaped like pom-poms while others, such as the ‘Mckana Hybrids’ have flowers shaped like stars. They are really easy to grow, but do self-seed around the garden and tend to hybridise easily.
Azaleas are an easy to care for genus of shrubs, either evergreen or deciduous, and available in many colours. Some are even fragrant.
Azaleas are good for statement planting in borders or for mass, woodland-type planting schemes. They prefer well-drained, ericaceous soil, or can be planted in tubs if your soil type is not correct.
Brunnera are, arguably, the understated heroes of the shady border. They have lovely forget-me-not blue flowers in spring. If you get varieties such as ‘Jack Frost’ or ‘Looking Glass’, the silver leaves look tropical in a woodland border. Like Pulmonaria, they like shady woodland situations so their leaves will scorch in the sun. They are a great planting partner with Pulmonarias and Hardy Geraniums.
Camellia is a genus of evergreen shrubs with a variety of flowers, from single to semi-double. As they flower from winter to spring, they add interest to the garden at a time little else is in bloom. Camellias prefer a sheltered position, as the flowers can suffer in frost. They do need a bit of care – plant in ericaceous soil and water well with rainwater to avoid bud drop.
6. Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’
Ceanothus ‘Puget Blue’ is a real stalwart of the garden. This evergreen sets small, dark, purple buds in early spring. These often begin to unfold a couple of weeks after Easter, creating dense masses of vibrant powder-blue flower balls that stand in stark contrast to its dark-green, veined leaves. Reduce any new shoots by a third after flowering has finished, feed generously after pruning and apply a mulch.
7. Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’
Cercis chinensis ‘Avondale’ is a form of the Chinese redbud that makes a large shrub or small tree. It has masses of purple-pink pea flowers on bare shoots in late March and April. The leaves then unfurl; they are very big, heart-shaped, pale green in colour, turning yellow in autumn.”
8. Coronilla glauca ‘Citrina’
Coronilla glauca ‘Citrina’ is an evergreen shrub with scented yellow flowers, ideal for a sunny sheltered spot near a path or wall. It will also grow in a container as it doesn’t get too large is ideal for a smaller garden. It is a pretty easy-going plant as long as it gets plenty of sun and will grow in most soil types.
9. Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’
Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ is an amazing evergreen mound. It looks great all year round, with its deep green foliage and dazzling red flower buds throughout the winter. The buds open in early spring to reveal the sweetest of fragrances from its white flowers. “For me, this is a must for any planted container, either mono planted or as a centrepiece within a mixed bedding arrangement. Avoid planting it in bright sun, as it will make the leaves turn a yellowish-green.
10. Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’
Exochorda x macrantha ‘The Bride’ is a fantastic hardy shrub with great garden presence, earning it the RHS Award of Garden Merit. The startlingly white flowers are quite large (3cm across) and thickly carried in 10cm-long racemes at the end of short side-shoots. The branches tend to weep, and it has been spotted growing on a slopy banks near water. Immediately after flowering, remove flowered shoots and thin out the others.
11. Euphorbia wulfenii
Euphorbia wulfenii is a fantastic, tall plant. This unusual, architectural, evergreen shrub grows to 1.5m with big spikes of lime green flowers. It is great to brighten a hard-to-fill shady spot. It looks lovely planted in combination with Brunnera, with their little blue flowers; Bergenia ‘Overture’ and Polypodium ferns. Be aware that Euphorbias can be irritants as their sap can be a bit potent.
12. Forsythia intermedia
Nothing says spring is on its way like a Forsythia. The branches of neat-growing Forsythia intermedia will be wreathed in bright-yellow flowers that light up the garden. Team this easy-to-grow plant with other spring-flowering shrubs and early Crocuses or Narcissus in beds and borders. Reliable and hardy, it’s equally good as an informal hedge or wall shrub, reaching a height and spread of 3m x 3m.
13. Genista ‘Porlock’
Genista ‘Porlock’ is a plant to look forward to seeing in spring. It produces masses of short sprays of fragrant, bright yellow flowers in spring. It is ideal for sheltered areas of the garden and grows well even in poor soil, so long as it is well-drained. It is also best in full sun. Be aware, it will not tolerate hard pruning and new growth will not rejuvenate from old wood.
Hellebores are fantastic plants as they are small, evergreen, reliable and adaptable. They have the added benefit of being suitable for shade situations, even under established trees, which is unusual. In borders, they tolerate a wide range of normal soil types, making them a reasonably easy plant to grow. If your Hellebores have old, untidy foliage, this can be removed before flowering to better show off the flowers when they emerge.
15. Loropetalum var. rubrum ‘Fire Dance’
This underrated plant offers lovely purple foliage that it goes on to keep during winter. In early spring, it produces spidery, lightly fragrant pink flowers from. This is a good plant for a small garden, or for a sheltered spot. It will tolerate shady areas but prefers sun. It also grows best in ericaceous compost.
Magnolias can grow into striking shrubs or trees with beautiful white to deep-pink flowers. They are a great specimen for sunny spots, but will also grow in light shade. Avoid planting in frost pockets in the garden, as this can damage the flowers. They only need a light prune as hard pruning can reduce volumes of the lovely flowers.
17. Narcissus 'Tête á Tête'
Narcissus 'Tête á Tête' is a daffodil variety that produces abundant flowers, as they are multi-headed. It is easy to grow and excellent for all bright situations, even those that are too exposed for other taller spring bulbs. It needs to be dead-headed as the first flowers fade to keep it tidy.
18. Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’
Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Tom Thumb’ is an unsung hero. It produces lovely dark-red leaves thought the year. These turn green at the tips then change to dark red as the leaves mature, meaning the plant is always changing colour. This is a good plant to bring out the beauty of other coloured plants.
19. Polystichum setiferum
In spring, Polystichum setiferum - as with all ferns - will delight with unfurling fronds, along with a lovely feathery foliage that softens the edges of the borders. This variety is quite tall – it will reach around 0.6m. It is a pretty easy-going plant – just make sure it doesn’t get too dry.
20. Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-Mai’
Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’ is always one of the first plants to look for in spring, with its attractive zig-zag branching. The arrival of its nice, pale pink flowers in early spring indicates warmer weather is on the way and the season is just about to begin. It is suitable for a number of situations, including flower borders and beds, city and courtyard gardens, Japanese-themed gardens and rock gardens. It also makes an ideal container plant. It is a low maintenance plant and grows in any moist or well-drained soil.
21. Prunus ‘Tai-haku’
Prunus ‘Tai-haku’ is a fabulous flowering cherry that can get to 8m tall. In spring, it produces clusters of white, scented flowers in combination with bronze new leaf. It does need space – this is not the best choice for a small garden – but otherwise it is a reasonably easy plant to care for and very hardy.
Pulmonaria make great groundcover plants for shade, are a good pollen source for bees and have lovely spotted leaves giving them year-round interest. Varieties with two-tone flowers are particularly striking, such as ‘Victorian Brooch’, ‘Majeste’ and ‘E.B. Anderson’. Be aware that the leaves will scorch in full sun, particularly the variegated types. Cut back the old flowers after flowering to allow fresh foliage to develop and mulch to retain moisture during dry spells.
Find a range of top quality seasonal plants, many grown on our own nurseries in Hampshire, at all Hillier Garden Centres