Spring is a time of regeneration and renewal. With each passing day, there's exponentially more and more daylight. The whole world awakens, and it shows in all sorts of ways. Animals come out of hibernation, but so does something else. This is the time of year when some of our favorite flowers transform from bud or bulb to blossom. These 10 springtime plants made this list not only for their exquisite flowers, but also for other noteworthy characteristics. Some entertain the senses with their intoxicating fragrances, while others multiply so quickly, it makes gardening easy. Check out these top plant picks for this inspiring season.
It's fitting to kick off our list of top spring flowers with the primrose. The name means "first rose" because the wildflower is traditionally the first flower of spring. This hardy perennial can be identified by its crimped leaves and petals that surround a bright yellow center. It blooms in a number of colors, including yellow, pink, purple, blue and white. In the spring, it likes full sun exposure, but once the weather warms up, it prefers partial shade and cooler temperatures. Slightly acidic soil (pH 6.5) that is rich with compost and leaf mold is best for it. Plant newly purchased primrose in early spring. Simply divide and transplant older plants immediately after they're done blooming.
Easy to grow and adaptive to indoor conditions, the African violet is one of the more popular flowering houseplants. Florets come in a range of sizes and colors, including deep blue, white, lavender, pink, red and more. Whether you plant them in the ground outdoors or in a pot next to your kitchen sink, make sure they get indirect sunlight. The ideal daytime temperature ranges between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (23.8 and 29.4 degrees Celsius), while nighttime temperatures should be between 10 and 15 degrees cooler. Keep soil loose and well-drained. Mixing in sphagnum peat moss is recommended. Re-pot African violets as they grow in size.
Don't let the daffodil's ruffled petals and delicate appearance fool you -- it is as "tough as nails," according to the National Gardening Association. These dainty-looking but hardy companions easily resist common garden pests like gophers, rabbits and meadow mice. Smaller types of daffodils closer to the species' wild form dependably bloom without much maintenance. Daffodils can tolerate many kinds of soil but prefer cooler, moister areas in the garden. Plant bulbs in the fall, and come springtime, watch them bloom into bursts of yellow, pink, peach or white -- always with an orange trumpet in the center. When planting daffodil bulbs, cluster them together by the dozen for maximum visual impact.
The tulip is the great mixer of any garden. Since they're available in all colors of the rainbow except blue, tulips are a great way to paint your garden canvas. Mix them in with annuals or perennials, making sure to put shorter plants in the foreground. Tulip varieties range from short to very tall, and all are fit for cutting. In October or November, plant bulbs in a sunny spot that gets good drainage. (If you experience mild winters where you live, December may also be an acceptable time to plant.) Plant bulbs 4 inches (10 centimeters) deep for shorter varieties and about 8 inches (20 centimeters) deep for taller types. Always face the flat side of the bulb down.
Early risers, most crocuses pop up at the tail end of winter or beginning of spring, sometimes even shooting up through the snow. Only 3 to 6 inches (7.6 to 15 centimeters) tall, these cup-shaped flowers are popular in gardens or on lawn borders. You can spot them in purple, blue, yellow, white and striped varieties. They multiply over time, so select strains that mature at different times to prolong the bloom season. Find a spot in your yard with well-drained soil and full sun to minimal shade, and plant crocus corms there in October. First, loosen the soil with a garden fork, mix in approximately 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) of compost, then plant the corms 4 inches (10 centimeters) deep, pointy side up.
There are about 30 dahlia species, and each one offers an explosion of color for your garden. Dahlias can have disk- or ray-shaped flowers in purple, red, white or yellow -- depending on whether they're ornamental or wild. Most have segmented and toothed leaves. These striking flowers can be grown from seeds or tubers. Just sprinkle seeds over potting soil in a low, flat container. Then, lightly cover with more potting soil, making sure to water it carefully. Sprouts will pop up in less than two weeks. Tubers, on the other hand, need to be planted when the ground temperature is about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius), which is anytime from mid-April through May for most parts of the country. Plant dahlias where they'll soak in at least eight hours of sunlight per day; less sunlight translates to taller plants with fewer flowers. Soil should be well-drained and slightly acidic (6.5 to 7.0 pH).
Consider the geranium the ultimate multipurpose spring plant. Perhaps you've seen geraniums spilling over a window box. Their red, pink, blue, purple and other bright colors are hard to miss. But these bold beauties also make great garden borders, and you can use them to fill in as ground cover or to decorate rock gardens. "Geranium" is an umbrella term that includes an eclectic group of flowers, annuals and perennials. Some kinds enjoy sun and grow to be several feet tall, while others like shade and stay low to the ground. Despite these differences, geraniums are characterized by their ease of care and ability to multiply readily, as well as their resistance to deer. When planting geraniums, make sure the hole you dig is twice the size of the pot. Once the plant has flowered, cut it back to stimulate new growth.
Soft petals and an exquisite fragrance make petunias a natural choice for the garden. Whether you plant them in containers or in the ground, petunias will grace your outdoor spaces from springtime until the first frost. Wait until the soil warms to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 degrees Celsius) before you transplant petunias into your garden. There are hundreds of varieties that are categorized based on size and growth habit. Good drainage is more important than rich soil when it comes to maintaining your petunias' health. This plant needs a minimum of five solid hours of sun each day, as ample light is the single most important factor affecting how well it grows. Remember to remove faded flowers by deadheading, or pinching or cutting off the flower, to encourage more blooms and help the whole plant stay healthy and fresh.
Veronica's Choice is a special type of blooming clematis that's part of the ranunculaceae family. The vines of this deciduous climber can top 8 feet (2.4 meters) tall, while the flowers commonly reach 9 inches (22.9 centimeters) in diameter. Beloved for its enormous mauve flowers with lavender streaks, the buds of Veronica's Choice open in early spring and summer. This plant is considered hardy in zones 3 to 9, as determined by the United States Department of Agriculture. It does best when planted in moist, well-drained soil where it gets partial sun exposure. Right before it blooms in the springtime, prune the vine to give it the shape you desire.
Wisteria are twining vines with huge clusters of cascading flowers that are pale purple, white, blue or red. Its famously fragrant flowers and vigorous growth rate make this plant a particularly attractive option for any yard. Provide ideal conditions -- deep, moist soil and full sun to light shade -- and don't be surprised if your plant grows higher than 10 feet (3 meters) in one year. Be prepared to prune it heavily so that it doesn't take over surrounding vegetation. Plant wisteria 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.6 meters) apart in the spring or fall. The hole should only be as deep as the root ball and about twice as wide.
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- The African Violet Society of America, Inc. (AVSA). (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.avsa.org/Home.html
- Brown, Deborah. "Growing Petunias." University of Minnesota Extension. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg1120.html
- "Clematis." Backyard Gardener. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.backyardgardener.com/plantname/pda_b49c.html
- Lerner, B. Rosie and Michael N. Dana. "African Violet Care." Department of Horticulture, Purdue University. March 2001. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-10.PDF
- "Lily." National Gardening Association. 2010. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.garden.org/plantguide/?q=show&id=2066
- Perry, Leonard P., Ph.D. "Spring Perennial Geraniums." University of Vermont. 2001. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.uvm.edu/~pass/perry/sprgeran.htm
- "Primrose." Conservation Volunteers Northern Ireland. BTCV. 2008. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.cvni.org/wildflowernursery/wildflowers/primrose
- Swan Island Dahlias. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.dahlias.com/howtogrowdahlias.aspx
- "Tulip." Garden Guides. 2010. (Feb. 4, 2010).http://www.gardenguides.com/282-tulip-garden-basics-flower-bulb-liliaceae.html