Early Spring Planting: Which Native Plants to Grow and Why (2023)

by Lauren Landers April 13, 2023

Enjoy bright flowers earlier in spring by sowing these colorful Maine natives!

After the long winter, there is much to be excited about when spring finally arrives. The weather warms, migratory birds return and, of course, flowers start to bloom!

Spring-blooming native plants are some of the first plants to flower, and they may begin to bloom long before non-native ornamentals—like hyacinth and tulips—emerge. If you want to enjoy early color in your garden this spring, these colorful native flowers are some of the best plants to grow.

Tip: You’ll be able to find some of these plants at our upcoming annual spring native plant sale!

15 native plants to grow for spring flowers

Whether you have a sunny or shady garden, you’ll find native flowers to plant in your spring garden in the list below. Try out one of these plants this year, or plant a few of them together in your garden beds for lots of springtime color for you (and pollinators!) to enjoy.

(Video) 7 Spring Blooming Native Plants for New England Gardens 🍃🌸🌻

Photo credits (l-r): Aquilegia canadensis, Martha B. Moss; Sanguinaria canadensis, NGBH; Tiarella cordifolia, NGBH; Polygonatum biflorum, NGBH; Caltha palustris, Martha B. Moss

1. Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

A native wildflower that grows along the edges of wooded areas, red columbine are hardy plants that can adapt to both sun and shade. Well-known for their spurred red and yellow flowers, Eastern red columbine blooms throughout spring. They are highly attractive to pollinators, including hummingbirds and hawkmoths. Growing up to 30” tall, these plants can handle dry soil, although they will grow even better with regular watering. Eastern red columbine can be planted in spring or autumn, but seeds should be cold stratified when planted in spring. These plants are also prolific at self-sowing if you don’t deadhead spent blooms!

2. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot is a curious looking spring ephemeral with large, lobed leaves and delicate white flowers. Like other ephemerals, bloodroot blooms early in the season, and then the plant dies back as temperatures rise in late summer. But not to worry—bloodroot is a sturdy native perennial that will come back year after year, even in shady locations.

3. Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)

Foamflower blooms frothy sprays of white to pale pink flowers, which pollinators can’t resist. These easygoing plants grow best in full sun and moderately moist soil. When mature, foamflowers spread via underground rhizomes and can form an attractive groundcover for weed suppression.

4. Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

Another woodland favorite, Solomon’s seal is native to areas throughout North America and prefers part shade. A very distinct looking plant, Solomon’s seal isn’t as showy as some other native plants, but it still has a lot of charm. Solomon’s seal features finely arching stems that come alive with tubular, white flowers in spring.

5. Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)

If you happen to have a rain garden or a poorly draining spot in your yard, you may want to try out some marsh marigold. Also known as cowslips, marsh marigolds are more closely related to buttercups than marigolds. When in bloom, marsh marigolds produce bright, golden-yellow flowers that attract butterflies and other beneficial insects. These water lovers will grow happily in boggy soil or in small ponds with their roots fully submerged in water, but they do require full sun. While marsh marigold can be grown from seed, it can take up to 3 years to get flowers this way. For earlier blooms, you can also divide existing marsh marigolds to create new plants.

(Video) “Plant Only Natives” : This Trendy New Garden Pedantry Misses the Mark

Photo credits (l-r): Erythronium americanum, NGBH; Anemonella thalictroides, NGBH; Anemone americana, Cathy Rees; Trillium , Martha B. Moss

6. Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria), not pictured

Another spring-blooming native plant, dutchman’s breeches have oddly-shaped white flowers that look a bit like inverted pantaloons! Flowers bloom on slender stems that appear above the plant’s lacy foliage. A good choice for shady spots, dutchman’s breeches spreads easily by underground corms, and the flowers are irresistible to bumblebees!

7. Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)

For lots of spring garden color, trout lilies are hard to beat. These ephemerals die back in summer, but before they do, they produce noddy, yellow flowers that are primarily pollinated by mining bees. This plant is named for its patterned foliage, which is said to resemble the scales of a trout. Sow trout lilies in full to part shade and be patient, as it can take these flowers a few seasons to begin to bloom.

8. Rue anemone (Anemonella thalictroides)

Another member of the buttercup family, rue anemone has delicate white to pale pink flowers that look a bit like strawberry blossoms. Flowers appear in early spring, and the plant is easy to propagate by dividing its tuberous root system. Sowing rue anemone beneath deciduous trees can work quite well as these plants will benefit from the dappled light and then go dormant before the trees fully leaf out.

9. Liverwort (Anemone americana)

Also known as blunt-lobed hepatica or liverleaf, liverwort is a diminutive spring-bloomer with darling purple flowers. When mature, this plant maxes out at around 6” tall. It blooms in April or May. Growing best in shade, liverwort is a good plant to try if you’re looking for a native flower that will easily become naturalized in a woodland garden.

10. Trillium (Trillium spp.)

Trillium are very distinct looking plants with three large petals. Maine has 3 native trillium varieties: white trillium, painted trillium and red trillium. Trilliums are slow growing plants and they are often overharvested in the wild, so be sure to only purchase trilliums from reputable suppliers.

(Video) Winter & Spring in Cal Native Plant Garden (in a year of drought)

Photo credits (l-r): Arisaema triphyllum, NGBH; Lupinis perennis, Martha B. Moss; Packera aurea, Martha B. Moss; Chamaepericlymenum canadense, Martha B. Moss

11. Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Always popular with children, jack in the pulpit is a funky looking species that resembles carnivorous plants, like pitcher plants. However, despite its unique look, this plant isn’t carnivorous, although its flower is meant to lure in insects for pollinator purposes. Growing best in shade, jack in the pulpit prefers moist soil and it sometimes produces clusters of red berries in autumn.

12. Sundial lupine (Lupinis perennis)

Sundial or wild lupine are native to New England; however, they’ve become hard to find due to habitat loss and other factors. Today, you’ll only find sundial lupine growing in people’s gardens, since they no longer live in the wild in Maine. Compared to non-native bigleaf lupines, sundial lupine blooms a bit earlier in spring, and they have smaller flowers. Sundial lupine look best when planted in drifts, where their purple, blue and white pea-like flowers will show to their fullest. Lupines thrive in full sun to part shade and prefer well-drained, sandy soil. And, don’t forget, lupines are nitrogen-fixers so they can improve poor soil too!

13. Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), not pictured

Blue cohosh flowers aren’t particularly showy, but they bloom reliably in spring. When the yellow flowers fade, blue cohosh produces bunches of bright blue berries, which are pretty although inedible. Sow blue cohosh in part shade and water your plants regularly for best results.

14. Butterweed (Packera aurea)

Also called golden groundsel, butterweed is a member of the Aster family and it will warm up your spring garden with bright yellow, daisy-like flowers! Growing up to 2’ high, butterweed can grow in sunny or shady gardens. It is also naturally deer resistant, which makes it a good choice if you have a lot of deer in your area. Butterweed naturally grows along stream banks and in other moist areas. In the garden, it prefers a bit of extra water and it can even be grown in damp locations.

15. Bunchberry (Chamaepericlymenum canadense)

A member of the dogwood family, bunchberry is an attractive groundcover that blooms pretty, white flowers in spring. But this plant can also be enjoyed later in the growing season when it produces red berries and the leaves change color in autumn. A shade-loving plant, bunchberry will naturally grow in thick patches, and it can be sown beneath deciduous or evergreen trees.

(Video) Springtime Native Plant Tour

Why are early spring natives so important?

Native plants are stunning additions to any garden and will liven up your beds with new colors, forms and textures. But there are so many more reasons to grow native spring perennials—because native plants are some of the first flowers to grow in spring, they are an essential food source for early emerging pollinators, like native bees. Sowing spring natives will ensure that any pollinators that arrive in your garden will have plenty of nectar and pollen to feast on. This supports pollinator populations and helps them bounce back after the long winter season. What’s more, because native plants and native pollinators evolved side by side, native plants are especially suited to the foraging habits of our local pollinators. While non-native plants may have pollen and nectar, native plants are up to 4 times more attractive to native pollinators!If you’d like to learn more about the best native plants to grow in Maine, be sure to consult the Native Gardens of Blue Hill plant database!

Sources:

· Native Gardens of Blue Hill: Plant Database

· Maine.Gov: “Native Perennials: Flowering Plants”

· Wild Seed Project: “Native Pollinator Plants by Season of Bloom”

· Native Plant Trust

· Penn State University: “Provide Food for Pollinators”

(Video) 7 Must Have Early Spring Natives for Your Yard 🌳🌸🍃 // Garden Ideas

FAQs

What are the first plants to grow in spring? ›

In late February to early March, start cabbages, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, leeks, endive, escarole, fennel, lettuce, and artichokes indoors. In mid- to late March, direct sow peas, spinach, fava beans, and arugula outdoors. Start peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, Swiss chard, and tomatillos indoors.

What are three reasons to plant native plants in your yard at your school or in a local park? ›

Five Reasons to Add Native Plants to Your Garden
  • They provide a home and food source for a variety of butterflies, including monarchs, and other insects. ...
  • They're low maintenance. ...
  • They give back. ...
  • They are simply beautiful. ...
  • They connect us to the natural world.
Mar 20, 2017

What is one advantage of planting in the spring? ›

Warmer temperatures, longer days, and more sunlight provide ideal conditions for plants to take root and grow. Spring is also an important time for planting because it allows for the timely maturation of crops, while pests and diseases are less active.

Why do so many plants grow so well in the spring? ›

A change in temperature is one signal that helps plants know when to grow. As plants sense temperatures rising, they release a combination of chemicals called hormones. They help tell the seed to start producing different parts, like roots, stems and leaves.

What perennials come up first in spring? ›

Here are 10 of our favorite early blooming perennials:
  • Wood Phlox.
  • Leopard's Bane.
  • Creeping Speedwell.
  • Variegated Solomon's Seal.
  • Cushion Spurge.
  • Chives.
  • Basket of Gold Alyssum.
  • Epimedium rubrum (Barrenwort)

What are the 3 most important things plants need to grow? ›

Plants of the same species are strongly competitive because they have the same requirements for sunlight, water, and nutrients.

What are 4 things you should keep in mind about choosing your planting area? ›

Things To Consider When Choosing A Planting Site
  • Determine the Soil Content at Your Planting Site. ...
  • The pH (Acidity) Level in Your Soil. ...
  • Soil Depth in the Planting Area. ...
  • Determine Your Light Exposure. ...
  • Determine Your Hardiness Zone. ...
  • Microclimate. ...
  • Determine Your Water Source.

What are the three main things that plants need to grow? ›

Plants need air, water and sunlight.

What produce grows best in spring? ›

Beans provide an abundant crop.
  • Beans. I grow lots of different beans, choosing both climbing beans (grow climbers up a tepee or on a trellis) and bush beans (suitable for pots or the edge of a garden bed). ...
  • Carrot. ...
  • Cucumber. ...
  • Eggplant. ...
  • Lettuce. ...
  • Potato. ...
  • Pumpkin. ...
  • Sweet corn.

What are three crops to plant in the spring? ›

12 Fruits And Veggies To Plant This Spring
  • HONEYDEW. Honeydew is best planted in late spring, when the soil is warm. ...
  • CUCUMBER. Cucumbers are great for spring planting. ...
  • BEETS. Beets are a great choice for early spring. ...
  • CARROTS. ...
  • TOMATOES. ...
  • PEPPERS. ...
  • BEANS. ...
  • BROCCOLI.

Why is spring the best time to plant trees? ›

Benefits of planting trees in spring:

Weather – For many gardeners spring is the best time to plant trees because of the weather. The temperature is going up, the soil is still cool (which is good for root growth), and there is often plenty of rain.

Why do plants grow faster in spring? ›

Plants are growing faster earlier

As plants absorb atmospheric CO2 in spring and summer, levels of atmospheric CO2 drop in the high latitudes. As plants decompose after the growing season ends, the atmospheric CO2 levels climb up again.

Do plants grow fastest in spring? ›

From spring to fall is the growing season. The most vigorous growth of plants will be in the summer when the sun is up and out the longest. During winter, the sun is neither as high in the sky, nor in the sky for as long as it is in the summer. For your plants, that means less light.

What are the 5 factors affecting plant growth? ›

The main factors those influence plants development include light, heat, water, humidity, and nutrition. It is essential to know how these barriers impact plants development.

What is the most popular spring flower? ›

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.

Is it better to divide perennials in fall or spring? ›

Divide fall blooming perennials in the spring because

Plants have stored up energy in their roots that will aid in their recovery. Rain showers that generally come along with the early season are helpful. Plants divided in spring have the entire growing season to recover before winter.

Which flowers do hummingbirds like? ›

Brightly-colored flowers that are tubular tend to produce the most nectar, and are particularly attractive to hummingbirds. These include perennials such as bee balms, columbines, daylilies, and lupines; biennials such as foxgloves and hollyhocks; and many annuals, including cleomes, impatiens, and petunias.

Do black-eyed Susans come back every year? ›

Black-Eyed Susan Vine, also known as Clock Vine, is a unique, quick-growing annual that delights with large, bright orange blooms on tall, vining foliage. Perfect for trellises and fences! Annual.

What is the #1 thing plants need to grow? ›

Water, air, and sunlight are the most important things that a plant needs for growth. Plants take in carbon dioxide from the air and convert it into glucose through the process of photosynthesis, which is powered by sunlight.

What are 5 things all plants need? ›

All plants need space to grow, the right temperature, light, water, air, nutrients, and time.

What are 3 ways to make a plant grow faster? ›

So What Makes Plants Grow Faster & Bigger? Water, air, light, soil nutrients, and the correct temperature coupled with affection and care are the most basic factors to make a plant grow faster and bigger.

What is the best planting layout? ›

As a general rule, put tall veggies toward the back of the bed, mid-sized ones in the middle, and smaller plants in the front or as a border. Consider adding pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects that can not only help you get a better harvest, but will also prey on garden pests.

How do I choose what plants to grow? ›

Aesthetic considerations for plant selection include:
  1. growth habit, i.e. pyramidal, columnar, spreading, etc.
  2. season and color of bloom.
  3. foliage color, texture, and shape.
  4. winter interest of bark, fruit, or structure.
  5. benefits to wildlife.
  6. fall color.
  7. longevity.

How do I decide what to plant? ›

Here are some things to consider when choosing plants:
  1. What are the sun/shade requirements of the plant? ...
  2. What are the water requirements of the plant? ...
  3. What is the habit of the plant and how large will it get?

What is the most important factor for plant growth? ›

Water: Water is an essential factor for plant growth. They grow well in a sufficient amount of water. They even respond to the scarcity of water. Soil Nutrients: Plants require an adequate amount of nutrients for proper growth.

What are 4 reasons to grow plants? ›

Not only do indoor plants enhance the overall appearance of a space, but studies show they boost moods, increase creativity, reduce stress, and eliminate air pollutants—making for a healthier, happier you. Indoor plants don't just look good—they can make us feel good, too.

What herbs are good to grow in spring? ›

Suggested Herbs for Spring Planting
  • Anise. Anise (Pimpinella anisum) is a small annual grown for its seeds. ...
  • Basil. Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a pleasant-smelling annual with a spicy taste. ...
  • Borage. ...
  • Cardamom. ...
  • Chervil. ...
  • Coriander. ...
  • Cumin. ...
  • Horehound.

What are plants doing in the spring? ›

Spring can be an exciting time of year not only for us, but for plants as well! As the daytime hours get longer and temperatures rise, you may notice your plants start to drink more water, move toward the light, and produce new leaves, shoots, and roots.

What are the 4 most important crops? ›

Rice is a leading food crop. Corn is a leading feed crop. Cotton is a leading fiber crop. Soybeans are a leading oil crop.

What are the 3 root crops? ›

Individually, potato, sweet potato, cassava, and yam rank among the most important food crops worldwide in terms of annual volume of production.

What are the first trees to leaf out in spring? ›

certain groups of plants tend to leaf out early (birches, willows, alders, many poplars and aspens) and others late (hickories, walnuts, and ashes).

What is the first tree to flower in spring? ›

Dogwoods, redbuds, Japanese magnolias, flowering plums, and cherries are also among the earliest bloomers that flaunt the first bright colors of the year. In USDA Zones 8-10 the redbuds, wild plums, crabapples, flowering cherries, and Japanese magnolias start blooming in January and February.

When should you not plant trees? ›

Late snow or excessive rainfall can make the soil too wet and unstable to properly plant. If an extended rainy period is immediately followed by hot, dry summer weather, new trees and shrubs can suffer.

Do plants need more water in spring? ›

Plants will need more water as the temperature rises in late spring and summer, as more heat causes moisture to evaporate before the plant can use it. You may find that your plants need watering a few times a week or even daily.

What plant grows the fastest? ›

Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on Earth. In fact, the Chinese moso bamboo can grow almost a metre in a single day. Bamboo grows in dense forests where little light reaches the ground and there is strong evolutionary pressure to reach the sunlight as quickly as possible.

What grows first in spring? ›

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).

These are the earliest of the spring-blooming bulbs, often poking out above the snow as early as January or February, even in the Northeast and Midwest. Snowdrop flowers have three white petals that hang down like milk drops dripping off the stems.

Is spring the best season to plant? ›

The ideal soil temperatures for planting most plants, especially vegetables, is between 65-75 degrees. That means the safest time to plant in the spring is in mid-to-late May.

What weather factors affect plant growth? ›

Air temperatures influence all growth processes including seed germination, respiration, transpiration, and photosynthesis. Warmer than average temperatures cause plants to mature early, but extreme heat leads to slower growth. Colder than average temperatures also slow growth leading to dormancy in some plants.

How does temperature affect plant growth? ›

In particular, temperature is a critical factor affecting plant growth. Each plant species has a suitable temperature range. Within this range, higher temperatures generally promote shoot growth, including leaf expansion and stem elongation and thickening. However, temperatures above the optimal range suppress growth.

What are the 4 stages of plant growth? ›

The plant life cycle consists of four stages; seed, sprout, small plant, and adult plant.

Which plant grows first? ›

The primary root, or radicle, is the first organ to appear when a seed germinates. It grows downward into the soil, anchoring the seedling.

What tree blooms purple in early spring? ›

There are at least 49 known varieties of jacaranda trees, but the one most likely to fill your Instagram feed is Jacaranda mimosifolia. It produces a vibrant show of purple flowers in late spring. It's native to northwestern Argentina and Bolivia but can be found in tropical and subtropic regions worldwide.

What grows on trees in spring? ›

Trees grow faster in the spring and early summer. The branches and the roots reach and strengthen. Tree buds grow in spring. The buds on deciduous trees will open up into leaves, blossoms, or new twigs.

What are the yellow flowers that bloom in spring called? ›

These flowers come in many varieties and sizes, according to TheFlowerExpert.com. As a symbol of friendship and hope, they're also one of the first flowers to appear in the spring months.

What grows first on a tree? ›

Stage 1: Seed

The first stage in the life cycle of a tree is a seed. A seed begins to grow when warmth and moisture swell the seed causing its skin to split. A tiny root grows downward, collecting water and minerals from the soil and anchoring the seed. At the same time a shoot pushes up towards the light.

What triggers trees to bud? ›

It turns out the all-important environmental cue for spring budbreak is cold. That's right, trees must first go through prolonged exposure to chilling temperatures (-5 C to 10 C) before subsequent exposure to warmth will force bud break.

What tree turns all yellow in the fall? ›

Species that generally change to a golden yellow in the fall include American elm, black cherry, cucumber magnolia, hop hornbeam, quaking aspen, shagbark hickory, striped maple, sugar maple, tulip poplar and witch hazel.

What trees don't lose their leaves until spring? ›

Broadly speaking, there are two major types of trees: evergreens and deciduous trees. Evergreen trees, like firs and junipers, keep their needles all year round. Many of these trees grow needles or scale-like leaves. Because they don't lose their needles in the fall, they stay green, thus the name evergreen.

What trees lose their leaves during winter and regrow them in spring? ›

Deciduous woody plants

Trees include maple, many oaks and nothofagus, elm, beech, aspen, and birch, among others, as well as a number of coniferous genera, such as larch and Metasequoia. Deciduous shrubs include honeysuckle, viburnum, and many others.

Which is the first fastest growing plant? ›

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth. Some species of bamboo can grow more than 1 meter per day, which is about 4 cm per hour. No other plant grows faster. Two examples of such fast growing bamboos are Madake (Phyllostachys reticulata) and Moso (Phyllostachys edulis).

What is the earliest plant to appear on Earth? ›

The first land plants appeared around 470 million years ago, during the Ordovician period, when life was diversifying rapidly. They were non-vascular plants, like mosses and liverworts, that didn't have deep roots.

Videos

1. Michigan Native Plants for Your Garden
(Farmer John's Greenhouse)
2. Gardening with Native Plants: Learn From our Mistakes and our Successes
(Xerces Society)
3. Native Plant Choices for your BC Garden
(FVConservancy)
4. Webinar: Native Plants for New England Gardens
(New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill)
5. 30 medicinal plants the Native Americans used on a daily basis
(Blissed Zone)
6. May Garden Tour & tips for eco-friendly cleanup! #native plant garden #pollinator garden
(Native Plant Channel)

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