By Ray Greenstreet
Alexandria, VA – After a long, gray winter, we’re just itching to be greeted by beautiful colors and lovely fragrances each time we open the door. That’s what makes planting native, early spring-blooming plants such a great idea! Say goodbye to winter even sooner with these five fantastic native shrubs and their early-season blooms!
Aronia also goes by the name chokeberry, and while that nickname suggests a less-than-tasty berry, the fruit is actually loaded with antioxidants! Aronia produces stunning clusters of pink and white flowers that resemble mini cherry blossoms. The spring flowers and summer berries are a major draw for birds, bees, and butterflies, and their brilliant red in autumn is simply divine!
Aronia is a self-sufficient shrub, but plant in a sunny spot to encourage more profuse blooming. Your Aronia might benefit from light annual pruning for a tidier shape. Watering Aronia at ground level helps to avoid fungal disease and keep the shrub looking its best.
Azaleas are often confused with rhododendrons, and they are, in fact, members of the rhododendron family. Azalea foliage has a somewhat finer texture that beautifully complements their bold blooms.
With such a large plant family comes a wide range of growth preferences and bloom times. Some of our favorite native early-spring bloomers include Piedmont Azalea and Flame Azalea. However, there are plenty of early blooming hybrid varieties that can be grown in our zone, such as Coral Bells Azalea. Our native azaleas are deciduous and bloom profusely when planted in full sun.
Witch hazel is arguably one of the most unusual flowering shrubs native to our region. These aren’t your regular spring flowers. The firework-like blooms feature long, thin petals that protrude from a reddish-brown center. Plant witch hazel close to your entrance or walkway so you can enjoy its pleasant fragrance every time you go outside.
This native shrub is tolerant of most conditions and tends not to be bothered by many common pests. Witch hazel can adapt to a range of sunlight conditions, as long as you keep up a consistent watering schedule. Due to its upright branching habit, mature witch hazels sometimes grow into small trees if left unpruned.
Viburnum is among the most versatile and well-loved flowering shrubs for any garden. There are plenty of early spring varieties, such as Mapleleaf Viburnum and Nannyberry Viburnum, that will welcome the season with large white flower clusters composed of small blooms. Most viburnum flowers are white, but some display light pink hues. In the fall, your viburnums will grab your attention yet again with their vivid berries.
These pollinator-friendly flowers are native to Virginia and Maryland, so they don’t demand much maintenance on our part. Plant in full sun for the best blooms, but they can adapt to partial shade as well.
Also called spicebush, this native shrub is an absolute treat for the senses in early spring. Crush one of the leaves between your fingertips and the spicy fragrance will tell you exactly how this shrub’s nickname came to be! Eye-catching yellow flowers will emerge in early spring before the shrub has leafed-out, immediately commanding attention from anyone who passes by—including bees and butterflies!
Over time, the flowers fade and are replaced by vibrant green foliage and red berries. In autumn, Lindera fades to bright yellow as the foliage takes on its autumn colors. Lindera performs best in moist, well-drained soil with a springtime application of balanced fertilizer. Plant in sun or partial shade, and prune after flowering to keep it looking tidy.