Planting hardy annuals in early spring will ensure that your garden begins blooming as early in the season as possible. Hardy annuals can be sown from seed in very early spring, as they do not need warm soil temperatures to germinate, according to the University of North Carolina Extension. Small starter plants of hardy or half-hardy annuals can also be safely planted in very early spring for even earlier bloom.
Developed in part by crossing varieties of wild violets and miniature violas (also called "Johnny Jump-Ups"), pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) are the quintessential spring flowering, cool weather-loving annual. They are available in a wide range of colors, from white to yellow to blue, purple and red. All pansies have markings on their petals which resemble a face. Their blossoms are much larger than their parent violas, but they are more sensitive to heat. Pansies will survive temperatures well below freezing and bounce back to continue blooming. Once the heat of summer arrives, however, they will fade and wilt.
Classified botanically as Dianthus chinensis, they are also commonly referred to by the name of their genus, "dianthus." Also commonly called "pinks," dianthus are a hardy, spring-blooming annual or perennial that will fade as summer heats up. Low-growing to a height of only 6 to 12 inches, dianthus can be sown in very early spring and will bloom before hot weather arrives. Pinks are also widely available as bedding spring plants at garden centers and make ideal plants for hanging baskets, borders or in mixed container gardens. Kept in a shady location during the heat of summer, dianthus may continue blooming, depending on the variety and weather.
Native to Southern Europe but now naturalized throughout North America, sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is a half-hardy annual suitable for spring growing, but small seedlings cannot withstand a heavy frost, according to Texas A&M University Extension. Sweet alyssum grows to a height of about 8 to 12 inches high and is an excellent plant for edging flower gardens or spilling over the sides of a container garden. It produces dense clusters of tiny white, purple or pink flowers, depending on the variety. Sweet alyssum grows well in sun or partial shade in virtually any type of soil, often reseeding itself. The tiny flowers emit an intoxicating, sweet aroma when in full bloom. It is excellent used in a moon garden, where the white flowers seem to glow in the moonlight.