Spring is the time when Mother Nature gives us her most beautiful and intense shows of flowers. When these displays of flowers are seen, oftentimes we desire to have our yards look the same. There are many types of flowers that can be planted in our gardens and yards that are low maintenance and beautiful.
One item of note is although springtime is when many flowers bloom, it is still desirable to plant summer and fall blooming perennials so that there will be flower color in the yard throughout the entire growing season.
Bulbs to Plant in Spring
Although bulbs are a part of the spring garden they must be planted in fall. Here are a few of the more common types.
CROCUS: Crocuses are usually the first bulbs to bloom. Oftentimes they will come up through the snow. These flowers are usually less than 6 inches tall and come in a variety of colors from white to yellow to purple. Crocuses look best planted in clusters of 10 to 25, and plant at a depth of around four inches.
DAFFODILS: Daffodils and their relatives Jonquils are usually yellow, but sometimes are cream colored or white. Blooming in early, mid and late spring, depending on the variety, bulbs look good in flower beds, rock gardens and in woodland settings. Daffodils are very low maintenance, but need periodic dividing to keep them vigorous. Plant them to a depth of six inches in sun to partial shade. One cousin of the Daffodil, Paperwhites, is not cold hardy in the northern Utah climate.
HYACINTHS: Hyacinths have been grown in western gardens since the eighteenth century. They will bloom in early spring and come in colors including white, pink, salmon, blue and purple. These bulbs were traditionally used in more formal gardens, but look great used in other settings. Plant them at a depth of six inches. Hyacinth flowers may become leggy after a number of years, and it is desirable to periodically replant them every few years.
TULIPS: Tulips are the most popular bulbs in Northern Utah. The reason for this is that they come in almost every color of the rainbow, they vary in size from three or four inches tall to over a foot tall, and there are different varieties that bloom from very early spring to late spring. Depending on the eventual size of the Tulip plant, plant them at a depth of four to eight inches. It is important that tulips get as much sun as possible so that they will have good flowers the next year. A group of tulips, called Darwin Hybrids, are among the easiest to get to re-bloom year after year.
Perennials to Plant in Spring
Spring blooming perennials can be planted at any time of the growing season, although spring is usually when the best selection is available in the nursery industry. It is worth planting spring blooming perennials throughout the summer and fall to get them a head start for their flower displays in the spring. The following list of perennials includes plants that are more commonly planted in the home landscape, but is in no way a complete list of what is available. There are literally hundreds of perennials that have attractive spring flower displays.
BASKET OF GOLD: Basket of Gold, also known as Alyssum, is unique in that it offers a mass of yellow flowers in early spring when almost no other plants will do this at this time of year. It flowers at the same time as Spring Phlox, and Candytuft. Alyssum has a weeping habit that works well in rock gardens. Baskets of Gold will flower profusely for three or four years but will probably fade after that, so replanting is sometimes necessary to maintain vigorous flowering. One other factor that should be taken into consideration is Alyssum foliage is not the most attractive after it is done blooming. Plant it in places that other plants and flowers can hide it later in the year.
BLEEDING HEART: Bleeding Heart has been a popular spring perennial for many years, and many people remember seeing it in Grandma’s flower garden. Bleeding heart has the advantage of being one of the few perennials that will flower in the shade. In fact, it must be planted in the shade for it to thrive. Flower color ranges from white to red. Bleeding Hearts can reach a size of two to three feet high and wide, and there are also dwarf fern-leaf varieties available that will only reach a maximum height of 18 inches. Bleeding Hearts will naturally die back in late June or early July, but have no fear; they will be back the next spring.
CANDYTUFT: Candytuft is an awesome perennial. It has white flowers in early spring at the same time as bulbs, Phlox, Basket of Gold, and Rock Cress. After it is done blooming it still has nice evergreen foliage that will add interest to the flower garden. Candytuft has a weeping habit that naturally lends itself to rock gardens, but it also works well anywhere else as long as the location has good sun. Severely cut back Candytuft every other year to keep the plant vigorous.
COLUMBINE: Columbine is one of the most popular spring flowers. Flower colors will range anywhere from yellow, lavender, white, and purple. Columbine looks good in rock gardens, woodland and other naturalized settings, and it will reach a size of two feet high and wide. Cut back dead flower heads and then cut the foliage back as it turns yellow in late summer.
CREEPING PHLOX: The Phlox family is a large family whose members are all North American natives. This is the purple or pink flower that is seen in mass in early spring. Phlox come in colors from white to pink and purple, and are nicely planted in mass in rock gardens and other flowerbeds. They are also sometimes used as groundcovers. Phlox is best planted in the fall but also does well when planted in spring. Phlox does best in a well-drained soil and is sometimes susceptible to spider mites.
DIANTHUS: The Dianthus family includes many popular flowers. Some of the more common varieties include: Carnations, Sweet Williams, and Pinks. Most Dianthus will start blooming in late spring or early summer. If the dead flower heads are cut back they will bloom for much longer. Dianthus either grows in large clumps or as a groundcover, and it will grow six inches to a foot high. Some of the better varieties to plant are: Sweet Williams, Raspberry and Strawberry Parfait, Zing series, Telstar series, and Cheddar Pinks. Some Dianthus are short lived so periodic replanting may be necessary.
FOXGLOVE: Foxglove is a very interesting plant. Not only are they beautiful, but they have been used medicinally for over three hundred years. A drug called Digitalin is taken from the leaves and used to treat heart ailments. Do not try to cure your own heart problems with it because of the powerful nature of Digitalin. Foxglove is biennial or a short lived perennial. It will reach a height of two to three feet when in flower; because of this it is a good background plant that will create height in the flower garden. Foxglove does best in partial shade, and it also likes a moist but not excessively wet soil. It comes in colors of white, red, and purple.
LUPINE: Lupines are probably best known as a mountain flower. In the spring they bloom at the same time as many other alpine perennials such as Columbine and Phlox. The types of Lupines that are most commonly grown in the home garden are the Russell hybrids. They are the easiest type of Lupines to grow, coming in a variety of colors, and thriving in full sun to partial shade. Lupines are biennials or short -lived perennials.
PERENNIAL GERANIUM (CRANESBILL): Perennial Geraniums are another native wildflower that will grow well in the home garden. They flower profusely in mid-spring in colors of pink, white and purple. There are many varieties available, but Johnson’s Blue is one of the most popular. Most Geraniums will grow to 18 inches tall and will spread a couple of feet. Cut back Cranesbill after it has flowered and it will sporadically flower through the summer. It is also possible to divide Geraniums in the fall every three to four years.
ROCK-CRESS: Rock-Cress is a good border plant and also works well in rock gardens. Not only does it have nice flowers but has visually pleasing foliage so it will look good all season long. Rock-Cress has white flowers in early to mid-spring and works well when planted along with Phlox, Basket of Gold, and various bulbs. It will reach a height of only six to 10 inches, and so it should be planted in areas where it is more visible. Rock-Cress can be easily divided every couple of years.