The Japanese magnolias are among the first bloomers of spring. Three important types of early blooming Japanese magnolias are: The star magnolias (Magnolia stellata) and their cultivars; the saucer magnolias (M. x soulangiana) and their cultivars; and the lily magnolias (M. liliiflora) and their cultivars.
The star magnolias (M. stellata) and their many hybrids and cultivars are very popular in American gardens. These are small trees with star-shaped pure white flowers that open in very early spring before their leaves. The large flowers are held on low branches where their sweet fragrance can be appreciated as much as their innocent beauty.
The saucer magnolias are the most widely cultivated of the Japanese mags. Perfect Plants offers the ‘Alexandrina‘ magnolia (Magnolia x soulangiana ‘Alexandrina’), a saucer cultivar noted for its robust vigor in the landscape. This very early bloomer has rose-pink flowers with dark purple streaks up to four inches across and gets up to 25 feet tall.
The lily magnolias (M. liliiflora) and their hybrids have been cultivated in the United States longer than the others, and can sometimes be found persisting on old, abandoned home sites. Their goblet shaped pink flowers open in early to mid spring and are often the first sign that winter is almost over.
Perfect Plants offers the ‘Jane’ magnolia, which is a cross between the lily magnolia, M. liliiflora ‘Nigra’, and one of the star magnolias, M. stellata ‘Rosea’. ‘Jane’ flowers a couple weeks later than the star and saucer types, which reduces the chance of damage from a late frost. ‘Jane’ is smaller than some of the others, getting just 10-15 feet high. She has large purplish flowers with white interiors, up to 8 inches across.
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is a small, sometimes multi-stemmed tree that gets 20 to 30 feet tall. They are native in the eastern United States. Redbuds delight with reddish purple flowers in very early spring, before the leaves emerge. In the fall, the leaves often turn yellow before dropping.Perfect Plants offers the standard wild type redbud as well as the cultivar, ‘Forest Pansy’, noted for its pretty purplish leaves.
The iconic flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and its cultivars are small trees (20-40 feet tall) with horizontal branches that make an appealing silhouette when leafless in winter. In fall the leaves turn purplish and the bright red fruits make their own statement. Perfect Plants has the typical white flowered dogwood and also one with pink flowers. Both of these early spring bloomers make outstanding lawn ornaments.
The beautiful Taiwan cherry (Prunus campanulata) blooms in late winter and very early spring with neon pink clouds of joy. This is probably the first tree to bloom in most areas. Getting just 25 feet tall, Taiwan cherry is considered the most beautiful of the many flowering cherries.
There are several species of native American wild plums that bloom very early in the spring. Our favorites are Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) and Flatwoods plum (P. umbellata). These two species are so similar, we treat them as one. They both have pure white flowers that open before the leaves. Look for these harbingers of spring along road shoulders and fields throughout the eastern United States. Perfect Plants also has a few plum varieties you might be interested in!
Perfect Plants also offers several other flowering trees to fill out the rest of spring, including flowering pear, tulip poplar, crabapple, and several varieties of crape myrtle and southern magnolia. Check them out to see which one you like the best.