Spring-flowering shrubs – 11 choices for beautiful seasonal blooms

Bring your backyard to life after winter with our favorite shrubs for spring flowers

three shrubs with spring flowers in yellow, white and pink
(Image credit: Alamy)

It’s easy to be seduced by spring bulbs as the main source of color and interest as we move out of winter gloom. But it’s good to mix things up with low-growing and mid-height spring-flowering shrubs to add to the seasonal texture and interest in our yards.

There are many great early flowering shrub choices, some that will carry color for up to two months. Plenty bring scent into the garden too. This gives gardeners the opportunity to embrace the seasonal changes, with focal point shrubs to entice you – and the early pollinators – into your yard as it emerges from hibernation.

Another great advantage of many spring-flowering shrubs is that the flowers really stand out. The tight buds can be beautiful in their own right and they are often carried on the bare stems of deciduous shrubs, appearing before the new foliage unfurls. 

headshot of Camilla Phelps
Camilla Phelps

An expert gardener, Camilla has designed planting schemes for gardens large and small in the UK, as well as working on TV gardening shows for the BBC. She has also written an extensive range of features on plants and how to grow them, and is a regular contributor to Amateur Gardening magazine. She loves how effective spring shrubs are for introducing color and interest to a garden after the darker days of winter. 

11 spring-flowering shrubs for seasonal blooms

Plant for different stages of your spring garden – early, mid and late – and, as the buds start to break it really is like a symphony of spring, bringing waves of color into the garden as the season warms up. 

These are 11 of my favorite options for stunning blooms and color. 

1. Forsythia x intermedia

yellow flowers on a forsythia shrub in spring

Yellow forsythia flowers are a welcome sight in spring

(Image credit: Getty Images)
  • Best for: Spring flowering hedges and borders
  • Height: 6ft
  • Spread: 6ft
  • Hardiness USDA zones 3-5

The intense golden flowers of forsythia make a truly brilliant display in early to mid-spring and are guaranteed to lift winter-weary spirits. Plant them mid border as a focal point, or as a tightly clipped hedge. Forsythia are perfect flowering shrubs for a sunny spot in the yard. 

There are many to choose from with variations in height and habit. Forsythia Show Off, recommended by White Flower Farm, is just one of many perfect for hedging. . It’s a compact French cultivar with larger flowers tightly packed on the leafless branches. Nature Hills recommends Forsythia x intermedia 'Meadowlark' saying it’s good for areas with late frosts that might damage early spring blooms. 

To ensure your shrubs blooms well every year, pruning forsythia is a key task that should be done once the spring blooms have faded. 

2. Ribes sanguineum

Ribes sanguineum 'Pulborough Scarlet' in bloom with pink flowers in spring

Ribes sanguineum 'Pulborough Scarlet' 

(Image credit: Craig Joiner Photography/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: Naturalized planting areas and shady mixed borders
  • Height: 10ft
  • Spread: 6ft
  • Hardiness USDA zones 6-10

The flowering currant is a real joy, with raspberry-colored drooping flower clusters adding to the spring fanfare, and berries following in the summer that are great for cooking with. 

It’s native to the Western USA, so ideal for supporting wildlife such as hummingbirds, bees, moths and butterflies and for adding to a woodland-style garden. It’s very drought and shade tolerant too and it makes a good hedging plant

One warning is to avoid planting near pines as it can host the white pine blister rust spore. Try cultivars such as ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ or the white variations ‘White Icicle’ or ‘Elkington’s White’. 

3. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’

colorful flowers of a Hamamelis 'Jelena' witch hazel

The vibrant orange flowers of 'Jelena' can appear as early as mid winter

(Image credit: Deborah Vernon/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: Transition from winter to spring color, underplanting with first spring bulbs such as snowdrops and crocus
  • Height: 13ft
  • Spread: 13ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 5a-9b

There are many witch hazels to choose from, including native North American species Hamamelis virginiana, available from Nature Hills, and Hamamelis vernalis, also available from Nature Hills

Many start blooming in midwinter but have a long flowering season taking borders through into early spring. 

White Flower Farm says: 'We love witch hazels for the color they bring and for their hardy, problem-free nature. ‘Jelena’ is a favorite, with large ribbonlike petals that gleam coppery orange.' It has an RHS Award of Garden Merit. Plant in full sun, to catch the gleam of the flowers. 

'Jelena' witch hazel is available from Monrovia. 

4. Magnolia stellata

white flowers of a Star magnolia Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star'

Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star' is a popular choice

(Image credit: Steffen Hauser/botanikfoto/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: small to medium gardens, in large containers, or as a focal point in a border
  • Height: 5-8ft
  • Spread: 15ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 4-9

Although most magnolias are definitely in the tree category, stellata is among the smallest and so sneaks in as a medium to large shrub, making it a good choice as a shrub at the front of your house or in a small backyard

It’s one of the earliest magnolias to bloom and justifiably popular, so it’s hard to believe that it’s currently on the endangered species list of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. 

At Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in the UK, the tree conservation team is supporting M. stellata. However, there are many garden worthy cultivars to choose from. 

Try M. stellata ‘Royal Star’ (available at Monrovia), ‘Centennial’ or the pink flushed ‘Jane Platt’, all with an RHS Award of Garden Merit to recommend them. Or New Zealand bred 'Genie’ as recommended by White Flower Farm, for its second flush of blooms in midsummer.

5. Edgworthia chrysantha

Edgworthia chrysantha in bloom in spring

Edgeworthia should be planted in a sheltered spot

(Image credit: Wirestock Inc/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: focal points and mixed borders, good for underplanting with bulbs
  • Height: 5ft 
  • Spread: 5ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones: 7-10

Also known as the paper bush, Edgeworthia starts flowering as early as February, and continues through to April in cooler areas. The blooms appear at the tips of bare stems and fade as the leaves appear. 

Native to the Himalayan Mountains and China, Edgeworthia is hardy to just below freezing, but requires a sheltered spot. It’s quite compact, with a really attractive open habit, that looks good in borders, underplanted with spring bulbs

Notable cultivars speak for themselves, with ‘Red Dragon’ having brilliant orangey blooms and ‘Grandiflora’ having much larger floral clusters. 

You can shop Edgworthia chrysantha at Monrovia

6. Viburnum carlesii

large flowers on a Viburnum carlesii shrub in spring

Viburnum carlesii features eye-catching white blooms in spring 

(Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images)
  • Best for: mixed borders and focal points
  • Height: 6ft
  • Spread: 6ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 4-7

Viburnums offer some fantastic choices for winter plants and, as we change seasons, Viburnum carlesii, brings glorious spicy, vanilla-scented, white blooms from March to May. 

It’s a great garden shrub, suitable for mixed borders in sun or part shade. Plant in rich, well-drained soil and keep well watered as viburnums aren’t a great choice for drought-tolerant planting

Plant in pairs to encourage cross pollination for fall berries. For viburnum pruning, V. carlesii (available from Monrovia) only needs minimum trimming after flowering to keep it in shape. Try RHS Award of Garden Merit winning cultivars ‘Aurora’ or ‘Diana’ or, for more smaller spaces, petite cultivars ‘Compactum’ or ‘Spice Baby’. 

7. Kerria japonica

bright yellow flowers on a kerria japonica shrub in spring

You'll need to keep on top of pruning to keep the growth of kerria japonica shrubs in check

(Image credit: JIPEN/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: Screening and height, informal boundaries
  • Height: 10ft 
  • Spread: 6-10ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 4-9

The delightful yellow pompom flowers held on long, arching stems can’t fail to bring an explosion of spring happiness to the garden. Great for planting along boundaries, kerria looks good accompanied by evergreen bamboos, and adds spring color to contemporary design looks. 

They do have a spreading habit, so beware they don’t get out of control – prune rigorously after flowering, removing suckering shoots. Cultivars such as ‘Florepleno’ have extra ‘fluffy’ double flowers. 

Shop for Kerria japonica at Nature Hills

8. Daphne odora

Daphne 'Aureomarginata' in bloom

Daphne 'Aureomarginata' is known for its strong scent

(Image credit: Malcolm Haines/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: shady areas, scented blooms and evergreen structure
  • Height: 4ft
  • Spread: 3ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 6-10

In winter, the scent of the first Daphnes hits you out of the blue, with ‘Aureomarginata’ (available from Monrovia) among the most potent of the early flowering shrubs. These clusters of gorgeous pink, fragrant blooms will continue through to spring, a magnet for early pollinators. 

D. odora is a compact evergreen shrub, great for borders and pots. Nature Hills recommends ‘Marianni’ for its heat-tolerance and attractive golden edged leaves. For more conventional glossy green, non-variegated foliage try ‘Sweet Amethyst’. 

9. Chaenomeles x superba

pink flowers of a Chaenomeles x superba, also known as flowering quince

Certain varieties of flowering quince are ideal for growing up a wall or fence

(Image credit: RM Floral/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: boundaries
  • Height: 5ft
  • Spread: 6ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones: 5-9

With bare stems covered in flowers resembling apple blossom, Japanese flowering quince is delightful in early spring, taking center stage in the lull before other flowers burst. 

The blooms continue for several weeks and while C. speciosa is taller and good for training against a garden wall or at the back of a border, the more compact japonica and x superba varieties make good low-growing hedges. 

There are many different varieties to choose from in shades from apricot and white through to pink and red. Notable x superba cultivars include ‘Pink Lady’. 

10. Loropetalum chinense

vibrant pink flowers on a Loropetalum chinense 'Jazz Hands'

Loropetalum chinense 'Jazz Hands' combines evergreen foliage with unusual purple/pink flowers

(Image credit: John Crowe/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: containers, edging borders and paths
  • Height: 3ft
  • Spread: 3ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 7-10

Loropetalum is relatively new to home gardeners who have yet to discover the amazing all-year interest this evergreen shrub brings. In addition to its compact habit and evergreen foliage, in spring it’s covered in clusters of ribbon-like flowers. 

While the classic dark green foliage with white flowers combination is elegant, it’s the purple-leaved varieties, ‘Ever Red’, Jazz Hands’ or ‘Purple Diamond’ (all available from Monrovia), that add a new depth to spring planting. The rich foliage and magenta pink flowers are wonderfully vibrant and make a great contrast with the lighter spring colors of bulbs and early perennials.

11. Pieris

Pieris japonica 'Redhead' in bloom

As well as vibrant flowers, Pieris japonica 'Red Head' has interestingly colored foliage

(Image credit: Lindsay Constable/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Best for: acid soils, mixed shrub borders
  • Height: 5ft
  • Spread: 3ft
  • Hardiness: USDA zones 5-8

Pieris are a valuable evergreen in any backyard, and in spring the white bell-like flowers really light up the garden, contrasting with the glossy foliage. 

They are a magnet for early pollinating bees and other insects. Pieris japonica ‘Red Head’ has the added spring feature of tender new leaves that emerge bronzey-red. 

While the japonica varieties are most common, look out for native North American Pieris floribunda with large clusters of white flowers. It hails from the south-eastern states, so a great choice if you are looking to add to a natural, wildlife garden planting scheme.


What is the earliest flowering spring shrub?

Included in the Morton Arboretum’s recommendation for best spring blooming shrubs is the Cornelian cherry dogwood (Cornus mas) which is one of the earliest woody plants to bloom in the spring, covered in clusters of acid yellow flowers. A large shrub or small tree, the arboretum experts suggest using some of the denser cultivars as a privacy shrub.

Which shrubs bloom in mid-spring?

The Moreton Arboretum has suggested a few reliable mid-spring bloomers, including two native midwestern shrubs. First is the Black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, ‘a dependable small shrub which gets clusters of white flowers in spring, followed by glossy black berries’. Also, the spicebush, Lindera benzoin, that ‘blooms bright yellow to green in mid-spring before the leaves appear. The berries produced later in the year are attractive and useful for birds.’

Which spring flowering shrubs would look good in containers?

Choose the compact varieties for example, as recommended by Moreton Arboretum experts, slender Deutzia gracilis, a ‘graceful, mounded shrub that is a prolific bloomer. The new, very compact cultivars come in white and pink.’ Also, the dwarf fothergilla Fothergilla minor, a ‘small, mounded shrub with excellent four season interest. Bottlebrush, white flowers appear before the blue-green leaves.’

Planting shrubs that will flower throughout spring is a wonderful way to introduce some much-needed color to any outdoor space in those early days after winter. It ensures there is something vibrant and interesting to look at before the rest of the garden bursts into bloom in the warmer days of late spring and summer. 

Camilla Phelps
Freelance writer

In her years of gardening, Camilla has designed planting schemes for gardens large and small in and around London, written about plants and how to grow them, and worked on BBC gardening TV shows in the UK. She's also works as a therapeutic horticulturist, teaching growing for wellbeing and mental health.