10 Unusual Spring Flowers You Need To Grow This Year

These elegant early blooms carpet the ground with color.

March 8, 2017
Peter Stevens/Flickr

These spring flowers may not be as popular as zinnias, tulips or crocuses, but I like to mark the arrival of spring with ephemeral flowers. Ephemeral means their days are short-lived, and refers to the fact that once their seed is ripe, the blooms and foliage of these perennials disappear, reappearing like a magic bouquet the following spring.

Related: Why People Are Obsessed With Tree Blossoms

Ephemeral wildflowers are relatively pest-free, and you don't have to worry about Common Plant Diseases. Since they flourish on the slow release of nutrients common in garden soils, they don't need organic fertilizer. Several even thrive under dry conditions. Skip the carnations and pansies this year, and show off with some of our favorites; they grow in most regions of the country.

(Whether you're starting your first garden or switching to organic, Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening has all the answers and advice you need—get your copy today!)


The majority of these beautiful spring flowers grow in full sun to light shade in rich, well-drained soil. They are easy to grow in a woodland garden or under deciduous trees because they go dormant as the trees leaf out. The soil should be evenly moist in winter and spring, but it can be allowed to dry out in the hotter days of summer. Our 6 favorite sun-to-light-shade flowers include Fawn Lilies, Chinese Hellebore, Oriental Polly, Siebold Primrose, Pasque Flower, and Atamasco Lily.


The deciduous forests of North America put on one of the most dazzling shows of spring flowers seen anywhere in the world. Why such a show? Wildflowers are taking advantage of the light and moisture before the trees and other plants block out summer sunshine. For gardening gurus, especially those surrounded by trees, this means a brief but glorious floral display. These plants thrive in neutral, humus-rich soil that is moist in winter and spring but can become dry in summer. Our 4 favorite woodland-shade flowers include European Wood Anemone, European Toothwort, Leopard's Bane, and Trillium.

fawn lily
1/10 Peter Stevens/Flickr
Fawn Lilies

Fawn lilies (Erythronium), such as the creamy White Beauty, are beautiful additions to spring's floral tapestry (these white blooms are perfect for an early spring wedding arrangement). The leaves are mottled like a fawn. Several yellow-flowered varieties are available, among them Pagoda. 

Chinese Hellebore
2/10 Leonora Enking/Flickr
Chinese Hellebore

Chinese hellebore (Helleborus) has graceful, nodding pink flowers. Winter moisture doesn't harm it, but dry soil is necessary during summer days, when all the leaves completely disappear.

Oriental Poppy
3/10 Daryl Mitchell/Flickr
Oriental Poppy

Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) have huge crepe-paper blooms in fiesta colors that seem to usher in the vacation months. After their springtime flowering, however, the plants quietly fold up and remain dormant until autumn, when a fresh rosette of foliage appears. Patty's Plum has enormous dusty purple flowers that make a festive floral bouquet.

Related: Meet The Family On A Mission To Plant A Billion Flowers

siebold primrose
4/10 peter o'connor/flickr
Siebold Primrose

Siebold primrose (Primula) works well for winter-wet or moist spots. The starry, five-petaled flowers emerge in late spring, and by midsummer when conditions are dry, the plants retreat underground. This spring flower is easy to grow throughout most of the country, even in semi-arid regions, as long as it is planted in humus-rich soil. Show them off in a basket just in time for the Easter holiday.

Pasque Flower
5/10 Liz Jones/Flickr
Pasque Flower

Pasque flower (Pulsatilla) have gorgeous purplish blue blooms and demand a well-drained spot with sandy or gravelly soil and a neutral pH. For areas with wetter and warmer winters, try European pasque flower. Pasque flowers do not grow well in regions with hot, humid days.

Atamasco Lily
6/10 Katherine Fries/Flickr
Atamasco Lily

Atamasco lily (Zephyranthes) also known as rain lily, loves growing in gardens with wet soil in spring and winter, and it does fine in any moist, acidic soil. The pure white trumpets bloom around Mother's Day, and make a beautiful bouquet to gift to your sweet mother (hint, hint!). Foliage persists through early summer, so provide ample sunshine while plants are in active growth. Voles and other garden critters usually don't eat the bulbs.

Related: 7 Flowers That Can Survive Without Your Help

european wood anenome
7/10 l.c. nottaasen/flickr
European Wood Anemone

European wood anemone (Anemone) form solid drifts of white or blue flowers. Show off the white and green Bracteata Pleniflora, the late-blooming white Vestal, the green-flowered Monstrosa, and the yellow-flowered buttercup variety.

European Toothwort
8/10 Hickory Rose/Flickr
European Toothwort

European Toothwort (Cardamine) makes a bouquet that anybody would love. Try the dramatic C. pentaphyllos. It has showy pink flowers.

Related: 3 Shade-Loving Perennials That Shine In Spring

Leopard's Bane
9/10 l lauzuma/shutterstock
Leopard's Bane

Leopard's bane (Doronicum) opens its yellow daisylike flowers with the daffodils. Little Leo makes a showstopper arrangement with double glowing golden flowers. Leopard's bane does well as far south as Virginia but wilts miserably farther south where spring days are hot. Plants produce fresh foliage in autumn after spending the summer underground.

10/10 Peter Stevens/Flickr

Trilliums (Trillium) fascinate me with their range of colors and intriguing shape. The great white trillium is native throughout the east and Midwest and is easily cultivated in rich soil. Gardeners on the west coast can grow the coast trillium. The unfortunately named bloody butcher is a purple trillium that forms an open ground cover. The dramatic yellow trillium has mottled leaves and fragrant lemon-scented yellow flowers.

Related: The 8 Prettiest Places In The World To See Flowers In Full Bloom

Many native wildflowers, especially trilliums and fawn lilies, are illegally collected from the wild. Please shop responsibly. Buy only from nurseries that clearly state that their plants are nursery-propagated.