Early spring is one of the most exciting times for gardeners. We’ve spent winter nurturing our houseplants, planning our vegetable gardens, dreaming up new beds, and starting seeds when we just can’t wait any longer. The first green shoots of tulips poking out of a litter of last fall’s leaves mean warmer weather is coming. Even if you don’t consider yourself a gardener, you’ve probably noticed the flush of bright pink and yellow that comes with the first spring rains. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite harbingers of spring to give you a much-needed pop of color after our bleak Nebraska winters.

Sargent Tina Crabapple

Sargent Tina Crabapple (Malus sargentii ‘Tina’)
5’ tall, 6’ wide. This tiny ornamental tree is perfect in a small garden. Bright red buds open to white, single flowers in early spring. The bright red crabapples that develop attract birds.

Royal Raindrops Crabapple

 

Royal Raindrops Crabapple (Malus transitoria 'JFS-KW5')
20’ tall, 15’ wide. This crabapple produces stunning, magenta-pink flowers in the spring. Deep purple, cutleaf foliage holds its color well through the summer, turning to bronzy orange in the fall.

Saucer Magnolia

Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana)
20-30’ tall, 25’ wide. One of the most popular flowering trees in the United States. Large, fragrant, pink and white flowers cover the tree in the spring. Lush green foliage makes this an attractive specimen all summer.

Magical Gold Forsythia

 

Magical Gold Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia 'Kolgold')
5’ tall, 4’ wide. Striking golden flowers cover the length of the bare stems on this shrub early in the spring.

Nova Zembla Rhododendron

Nova Zembla Rhododendron (Rhododendron x 'Nova Zembla')
5’ tall, 5’ wide. Rhododendrons are broad-leaf evergreens for shady gardens. Giant clusters of magenta flowers are showy in the spring.

Double Take ‘Orange Storm’ Quince


Double Take 'Orange Storm' Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa)
5' tall, 5' wide. Large, bright orange double flowers cover the branches of this shrub in early spring before it leafs out. Prune into a hedge or leave in its natural form, it looks beautiful either way, plus it's thornless and fruitless for easy care!

Bloomerang Lilac

 

Bloomerang Lilac (Syringa x 'Penda')
4-5’ tall, 4-5’ wide. This fragrant classic will rebloom with some deadheading help!

Lenten Rose

Lenten Rose (Helleborus sp.)
18” tall, 24" wide. These are some of the first flowers that bloom each spring. They're becoming a trendy plant, so there's a huge range of colors becoming available. Put these little beauties in a shady spot!

Origami Columbine

 

Origami Columbine (Aquilegia x hybrida 'Origami')
16-18” tall, 16-18” wide. Unique flowers begin early and can rebloom for up to 12 weeks with deadheading. This variety has extra-large flowers in blue, red, yellow and white on a compact plant.

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
12’ tall, 12’ wide. This low-growing groundcover forms a mat of pale flowers in white, pink, or blue in early spring.

Early annuals

Perk up your front porch by tearing your tired winter greenery out of your planters and replacing it with pansies, allium, flowering kale, and stock.

Plan ahead!

And this fall, remember to invest in your spring landscape by planting bulbs: tulips in all colors, daffodils, fragrant hyacinths, and crocus can be planted when the weather cools down around October.