Among the things we like best about late winter and early spring are the blooming, flowering trees and shrubs that proudly announce that summer is just around the corner.
We’re not talking about the crape myrtles, southern magnolias, and fringe trees that bloom later in mid-spring and early summer. Dogwoods, redbuds, Japanese magnolias, flowering plums, and cherries are also among the earliest bloomers that flaunt the first bright colors of the year.
In USDA Zones 8-10 the redbuds, wild plums, crabapples, flowering cherries, and Japanese magnolias start blooming in January and February. Formosan cherry is typically the first of them all. Later in the colder months the dogwoods, Walter viburnum, peach trees, apple trees, and fringe trees also begin to flourish.
The earliest bloomers tend to be small trees or large shrubs since they fit nicely in the home landscape. Therefore, position them in the front yard so your neighbors can appreciate them too. Most of the earliest flowering trees are deciduous and their blossoms open along bare branches before the leaves appear. While other early blooming trees continue to show off their color when leaves begin to turn shades of yellow, orange or red.
Perfect Plants offers two varieties of redbud — Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) and Forest Pansy redbud (Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’), one of the earliest blooming North American natives. Forest Pansy redbud has leaves that emerge (after the flowers) red-purple, gradually changing to a dark maroon-green in summer. In the fall, they develope splashes of yellow and orange before dropping. Redbuds are so-often situated near dogwoods that it seems like they grow together – and in nature they often do. Perfect Plants offers the standard flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) as well as a lovely pink-flowered variety. With its beautiful maroon tinged leaves throughout the summer, the crabapple hybrid, Summer Wonder (Malus ‘Summer Wonder’), is an early spring bloomer like the regular crabapple.
The earliest flowering tree is the Formosan cherry (Prunus campanulata), often mistaken for a redbud. Here in North Florida, we sometimes see these flowering in peoples’ yards in mid-January. Chickasaw Plum (Prunus angustifolia), seen most often on country roadsides throughout much of the United States is another American native that is of the first harbingers of spring. They are easy to care for and make great additions to the home landscape.
The Japanese magnolias, with their big, upright purple, pink or magenta flowers always turn heads in early spring. Japanese magnolia (Magnolia liliiflora), star magnolia (M. stellata) and the hybrid, saucer magnolia (M. x soulangeana), are some of the most vibrant flowering trees in this popular group. In its hardiness zone the Japanese magnolia often begins to bloom before any of the native American trees.