Growing Blooming Shrubs: Spring Favorites

Early spring explodes with floral fireworks, courtesy of blooming shrubs. These beautiful plants kick off the season with eye-catching color. They grace the landscape even into summer with their artful forms, as they continue their attractive growth patterns.


Most flower on bare branches, which are great for cutting in bud stage and bringing inside to bloom.


Site Selection

Before you make room for a spring-flowering shrub, consider mature size and flowering window.

  • Some flowering shrubs can soar to the size of a small tree. Make sure you give your shrub plenty of elbow room – both above and around it – so it can achieve its full botanical potential.
  • In northern zones, flowering plants may burst into bloom while it's still cold outside. When possible, site early-flowering shrubs where they're visible from indoors.
  • In coldest regions, place blooming shrubs in a northern exposure to delay flowering. This may help prevent late-spring frost damage to flowers or buds.



With all early spring-blooming shrubs, wait to prune until after flowering – unless you want to bring a few branches inside for forcing into bloom. Otherwise, prune shrubs as quickly as you can following blossom time, because plants form buds for next year's flower show during the current growing season. Prune too late, and you'll remove flower buds.


Here are some of our favorite early spring bloomers.


Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles) bears mostly single pink to red blooms on bare branches, but there are also varieties with white or orangish flowers. A large, upright shrub, the Flowering Quince has thorny branches. There are also dwarf and thornless varieties.

Size: Up to 10 feet tall

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9 
Light Level: Full sun


Wintersweet (Chimonanthus praecox) produces small, pale yellow blooms marked with shades of brown to maroon. Although not spectacularly showy, they are intensely fragrant. Plant where you can enjoy the fragrance.

Size:  10-15 feet high, and half as wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 7-9 

Light Level: Full sun or partial shade


Cornelian Cherry (Cornus mas) is a colorful shrub with small yellow flowers followed by bright red berries and yellow (sometimes red) fall color.

Size: Up to 15 feet high, or trained into a small tree

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-8
Light Level: Full sun or partial shade


Forsythia (Forsythia) glows with bright yellow blooms on upright branches. Grows as a large shrub, but there are many dwarf hybrids.

Size: Up to 10 feet high

Hardiness: USDA Zones 6-9 but many hardy hybrids can be grown much further north
Light Level: Full sun


Witch Hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia) bears unusual, frilly yellow to orange-red blooms, which are usually nicely fragrant. Plants have attractive yellow, orange or red fall foliage. 

Size: 12-15 feet high

Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9 
Light Level: Full sun or partial shade


Star Magnolia (Magnolia stellata) strappy-petaled blooms burst from fuzzy buds in late winter to early spring. Leaves unfurl as flowers fade. Selections offer blossoms in white and pink shades; most are fragrant. Underplant with Blue Scilla for a striking scene. Use as a specimen in entry garden or edge of woodland garden.

Size: 10-20 feet high and wide (largest sizes occur in warmer zones).

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-9
Light Level:  Full sun or partial shade 


Dwarf Flowering Almond (Prunus glandulosa 'Rosea Plena')
In early spring, branches become magic wands of double pink blooms. Leaves appear after flowers. Gardeners hail this flowering shrub as bulletproof, reporting it survives desert heat, Texas drought, poor soil and below-zero cold. Regular moisture yields best growth. Use as a specimen shrub, flowering hedge or in mass (like Azaleas).
Size: 3-6 feet high by 4-6 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 3-8 
Light Level:  Full sun or partial shade 


Korean Spice Viburnum (Viburnum carlesii)
Round pink flower buds open to reveal richly perfumed, waxy white blooms. Flowers cluster at stem tips, forming balls. Blossoms fade to red fruit that birds love. Leaves turn red in autumn. Place beneath deciduous trees to provide full sun in winter and spring, light shade in summer. Use in an entry garden, as a foundation plant, hedge or in a mixed shrub border.
Size: 4-8 feet high and 4-7 feet wide

Hardiness: USDA Zones 4-9
Light Level:  Full sun or partial shade