Gardeners eagerly anticipate the appearance of the first green shoots breaking through the soil in spring. It's a sign that winter's end is near, says the University of Vermont Extension's Dr. Leonard Perry. Early spring blooming plants include bulbs and bulb-complementing perennials. Use their textures, forms and fragrances to jump start your garden before peonies, irises, and lilies put on a late spring display.
Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris), a European perennial hardy to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, grows 9 to 12 inches high and wide. Before its foliage appears in April, the clumping plant sends up stout stems with single, 2- to 4-inch cup-shaped blooms. As the yellow-centered, pale to deep purple flowers decline, silky, greenish-gray basal leaves appear. Pasque flower also produces plumed seedheads. Use the plant in rock gardens or borders, suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden. It grows in full sun to partial shade and likes well-drained, humus-rich locations.
Moss phlox (Phlox subulata) is perennial native to dry clearings and slopes throughout the eastern United States. Its evergreen, needle-like leaves form low---less than 1 foot---mats that disappear beneath profuse, pink or pale purple blooms between March and June. Moss phlox cultivars in a variety of colors are commercially available. This is a very popular rock garden plant. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends planting it in sun to partial shade and dry, rocky or sandy acidic (pH below 6.8) soil.
Lungwort "Berries and Cream"
Another clump-forming perennial, lungwort (Pulmonaria) withstands temperatures to minus 40 degrees F. This borage family plant brings colorful foliage to early spring gardens. The "Berries and Cream" lungwort hybrid has large, green-splotched, silvery gray leaves spreading up to 18 inches wide. Foliage suffers in high heat or excessive sun. In April, "Berries and Cream" has nodding clusters of raspberry-colored blooms. Give it partial or full shade and moist, well-drained rich soil, advises the Missouri Botanical Garden. Regular summer watering will maintain the foliage.
Winter aconite (Eranthus hyemalis) is a March-blooming bulb plant hardy to minus 40 degrees F. Its 3 to 4 inch high stalks have cup-like blooms. Their vivid yellow color often emerges while there is snow on the ground. Green, lobed foliage follows the flowers. Plant winter aconite 2 or 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart in well-drained, averagely moist, rich soil. It tolerates full sun to partial shade. Used under trees, it will bloom before their leaves appear and benefit from their shade later on, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden.