It is always a delight when spring returns brightening our lives with spring flowering plants. As the days lengthen and the temperatures start to warm, many of the most beautiful flowering trees and shrubs spring to life. It is possible through judicious selection to have a blooming specimen at all times in your garden from late winter on.
Clients often ask us what plants or trees are flowering on a particular date or month as they are thinking of birthday gifts for family or friends. In this post, we will focus on spring flowering plants and trees for the months of March, April and May.
The popular Magnolia Stellata or Star Magnolia can fit into even a small city garden, where its lightly-scented blooms will delight each March. Tucked into a sheltered spot with a south or west aspect, this small tree or shrub will start to unfurl its white, star-shaped flowers before the leaves emerge. It makes an excellent specimen planting where the early blooms will make it stand out in the landscape, or as a background planting in a mixed border, where the white flowers will complement the early flowering bulbs such as daffodils.
Flowering Quince, including stunning new cultivars such as Chaenomeles Superba Cameo is a delightful early bloomer for the Spring garden. Its double-petalled peachy blossoms emerge from March into April, soon followed by the bright green leaves which complement the blooms. As a bonus, the fruits which develop into the autumn make delicious jams and jellies! Trained against a sunny wall to showcase its spring display, or planted towards the back of a mixed border to accompany spring-blooming bulbs and perennials, this fragrant early-blooming shrub will never fail to delight.
Stachyurus Praecox is one of the first spring flowering plants to emerge after the winter. Starting in February and continuing until April, tiny, creamy yellow flowers hang in profusion from the bare red-brown branches.
As we move into April, the stand-out flowering tree is without a doubt the flowering cherry, which puts on stunning displays both in public parks and private gardens across the UK in mid-spring. With many beautiful cultivars available, it is only a question of which one to choose! One possibility is the well-established Prunus Sargentii or Sargent’s Cherry, which is blanketed with fragrant pink blooms in mid-April. This is a larger tree, growing to more than 10 metres in 20 or more years. One specimen makes a perfect focal point in a large lawn, and several planted in a row along an avenue or roadway will create a breath-taking display.
Some Magnolia cultivars bloom in April, including the beautiful Magnolia Heaven Scent. Its upright, beautifully-scented waxy blooms are pale pink with a magenta stripe on the outside and white inside, and last for 4 to 6 weeks, an unusually long time for a Magnolia. The deep green leaves make it an attractive landscape tree throughout the summer. This small tree is an excellent specimen plant for the middle of the lawn, where its long-lasting blooms will create a stunning spring display, and also will do well tucked into a sheltered spot where the fragrance of the flowers can be appreciated.
Another lovely tree which flowers in April is the Malus Robusta Red Sentinel, or Ornamental Crab Apple Tree. Starting as dark pink buds, the small scented flowers, white with yellow stamens, blanket the tree in April, accompanied by the light green foliage, creating a lovely garden picture. The deep red glossy fruits that follow can be made into jellies, or left on the tree to provide interest through the autumn and well into the winter, when birds will find them a good food source. Growing to a height and spread of 3 metres, it’s an excellent choice for a small garden.
Another spring flowering plant, Exchorda Macrantha The Bride has an explosion of pearly white flowers during April and May.
The Lilac is another spectacular spring flowering shrub, whose large, strongly-scented clumps of flowers are always a favourite. Coming into their own in May, lilac varieties such as Syringa Vulgaris Sensation will be loaded down with blooms in colours ranging from pure white to dark purple. Depending on the size of your garden, you can find cultivars from 1 metre to 4 metres at maturity. Pruned after flowering, your lilac will remain compact and bloom abundantly each May. Find a spot with a sunny aspect and you will enjoy years of fragrant beauty!
The Common Hawthorn, or May Tree, also known as Crataegus Monogyna, is a UK native that is well worth planting in your garden! Every May, this thorny tree is covered with 5-petalled creamy white flowers, lasting into June, and followed by attractive red berries in the autumn. Tolerant of a wide range of planting conditions, it will thrive in any soil, even in wet spots, and is equally well-suited to coastal or city environments, as well as providing valuable shelter for wildlife.
Wisteria Sinensis or Chinese Wisteria is an absolutely stunning May-blooming vine. Grown up the side of a house or over a pergola or garden shed, or grown through the branches of a tree, this show-stopper will reach a height of 9 metres and produce an abundance of drooping racemes of fragrant, lilac-blue or white flowers up to 30 cm long. Trained up a sunny wall with a south or west-facing aspect in a sheltered spot, this long-living specimen can be counted on for a century of blooms!
Rhododendrons are another early-blooming species, with many available cultivars to choose from. Available in shades ranging from white through cream, pink, and brilliant red, these shade-loving evergreen shrubs will burst into bloom from March to May, depending on the variety. These are low maintenaince shrubs once established in the acidic soil that they need to thrive. In your own garden, find a sheltered spot with dappled shade, and be prepared for an explosion of colour in spring.
One May-blooming cultivar is Rhododendron Nancy Evans. This bushy, compact evergreen shrub is covered in early May with clusters of trumpet-shaped golden- yellow flowers flushed with orange, creating a beautiful picture in a spot with the dappled https://www.paramountplants.co.uk/plant/csjt/chaenomeles-superba-jet-trail.html shade that rhododendrons thrive in. The new foliage is bronze, coordinating beautifully with the flowers, then changing to a glossy dark green.
Worth a mention too is Fothergilla Major with fragrant flowers appearing in late April, forming white spikes up to 5 cm tall, and covering the plants throughout May.
Few things lift the heart as much as a beautifully blooming tree or shrub in the early seasons of the year. Take the time to browse the possibilities before choosing those that you find most pleasing and are best suited to your garden. The choice is wide indeed and here we mention only a few of the possibilities. Other well know spring flowering shrubs including Evergreen Camellias. Camellia Japonica are an excellent spring flowering choice for a warm sheltered spot. Camellia Japonica varieties tend to flower in March and / or April. If it is a smaller shrub you are after consider the spring flowering Azaleas which come in a variety of colours and tend to punch well above their weight in terms of floral impact. Varieties such as Azalea Japonica Hotshot have the added interest of variegated leaves. Remember that camellias and azaleas also favour acidic soil so make sure to plant with lots of ericaceous compost if you soil is not naturally acidic.
Other spring flowering plants of note include Cercis Chinensis Avondale (Chinese Redbud) an ornamental tree with spectacular pink flowers in mid spring. For something more unusual, Raphiolepsis Indica Springtime is also known as Indian Hawthorn Pink Lady has a profusion of pink star shaped flowers which have a light scent in springtime. Kolkwitzia Amabilis Beauty Bush is a spring-flowering plant producing clusters of pink flowers with yellow throats in late spring and early summer.
See also Summer Flowering Plants for June, July and August.