After a long winter, the welcome site of blooming plants in February is a sure sign that spring is not far behind. After a long, dreary winter, nothing could be more exciting than seeing the first signs of green foliage followed by white, pink or yellow flowers. Hardy cyclamen, snowdrops and winter aconite typically bloom weeks before other bulbs start to show signs of emerging, making these three flowers the first blooming plants in February.
There are two types of cyclamen, the hardy cyclamen that grows outdoors in USDA zones 5 to 9, and the florist cyclamen, which is hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11. Cyclamen coum, Cyclamen hederifolium, Cyclamen pseudibericum or Cyclamen purpurascens are the winter hardy varieties. Cyclamen coum may grow in USDA zone 4 with protection.
Hardy cyclamen have smaller flowers than florist cyclamen. Their heart-shaped leaves are mottled with silver or shades of green. The leaves emerge in the fall and persist through winter. Deep snow hides the leaves, but will not damage them. As the snow melts, the leaves emerge.
Hardy cyclamen may bloom in early winter, then repeat the bloom cycle in February. Plant these tiny garden gems at the front of a flowerbed border. During the summer they will go dormant, but will reemerge in late fall or early winter.
Galanthus, an old-fashion, beloved English bulb commonly known as snowdrops, has 19 species and 500 named forms. Snowdrops are a woodland plant, although they grow in full sun.
Snowdrop bulbs should be planted dormant in August or September, but the best way to plant them is "in the green," that is, right after they flower but before the foliage dies back. As their name suggests, snowdrops will bloom in the snow. The white flowers with green accents need a spot close to the front of the border, and they look lovely interplanted with cyclamen.
The bright yellow, lemon-scented flowers of winter aconite are a welcome site in spring. Botanically known as Eranthis, there are eight species available, the most popular ones being Eranthis hyemalis and Eranthis cilicica.
Winter aconite is a low-growing ground cover that thrives in rock gardens or woodland gardens. Hardy in USDA zones 3 to 7, this plant thrives in sun or partial shade. The typical bloom time is February, although it may bloom in mid-January.
The buttercup-like flowers open only during the time of bright sunshine. As soon as the sun goes down, the flowers close. Winter aconite dies back after it blooms, but will reemerge the following year. Plant winter aconite out of reach of children and pets, because all parts of the plant are poisonous.