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Beautiful Early Spring Flowers for Your Iowa Garden

Bright, cheery flowers are certainly a welcome sight after a long dreary winter in Iowa. Sure, there are the show-stealers like tulips and daffodils, but what about tiny jewels of early spring? The dainty little blooms that bravely burst into blossom early on, standing proud in the garden—and sometimes even in the snow!

We’ve got a few all-time-favorite must-haves for our own flower gardens that herald the arrival of spring. By the way, if you find yourself wanting to get your hands on these for your garden, you can pre-order them as bulbs to plant this fall and fill your garden with early spring flowers next year!

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) are bright yellow little charmers, each standing about 5″ tall. Don’t let their small size fool you, though; even a small clump will produce an impressive display of vibrant flowers in March when everything else is still dormant and brown. These little guys are native to dark woodlands of France and Bulgaria, which means they will perform well even in dense shade gardens. Did we mention they are rabbit, deer, and squirrel-proof?

Snow Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus) are dazzling flowers, not to be confused with the larger Dutch Crocus (usually solid in white, purple, and yellow). Instead, Snow Crocus is a bit smaller in size and blooms two weeks earlier in March. They’re available in a variety of pastel and even variegated colors! Snow Crocuses are about 5″ tall and naturalize easily into lawns because their foliage looks just like grass. 

Snow Iris (Iris reticulata) is a favorite among our staff. Many of our employees have these in their gardens, and they all agree: they are amazing! They bloom about the same time as Snow Crocus, in early March. These beauties of late winter come in colors like electric blue, royal purple, or golden yellow. They grow to be about 6″ tall, look stunning in clumps, and they will naturalize over time.

Lenten Rose (Hellebore) is a little different from the others on our list. They are not technically a bulb, though we plant them in a similar way! Lenten roses come in a wide range of solid or mixed colors ranging from white or buttery yellow to intense black or purple. Some varieties even have luscious double blooms! They grow to about 1′ tall and usually flower in mid-March, although their little flower buds can often be seen poking up even earlier. This perennial has nicely shaped leaves that hold up well throughout summer and even into early winter. Hellebores are a gardener’s joy as they’re squirrel, rabbit, and deer-resistant, and they love a good shade garden! Hellebores should be purchased and planted in spring.

We saved the best for last: Greater Snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii). Snowdrop is our absolute favorite early spring flower, but not just any snowdrop–it has to be the Elwesii Snowdrop! This plant is incredibly hardy and is the first to flower every season, usually popping up and blossoming in February. It has even been known to bloom as early as January here in Iowa! They grow to about 5″ tall and feature a graceful white bell-shaped flower. Early foraging pollinators flock to its pollen. Snowdrops are also rabbit, squirrel, and deer-resistant. This flower is one of the few plants that pop up like magic at the first sign of warmth in spring! 

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Are you ready to add some early spring flowers in Iowa to your garden? Stop by our garden center to ask about our favorites or pre-order online. Hellebores will be available as bedding plants for planting later this spring; the rest of this list should be planted in fall. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on what to plant each month for a full year of gorgeous color!

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Beautiful Blooms for the Holidays

We’ve already talked about the classic Christmas plants like poinsettia and Christmas cactus, but they’re only a few of the many winter-blooming plants that can complement your festive decor. If you’re looking for something just a little bit different to add some bright color to your home, try one of these beautiful blooms for the holidays in Iowa.

Phalaenopsis Orchid

Orchids are an elegant and exotic bloomer. Phalaenopsis orchids, in particular, are quite easy to grow and are available in a variety of colors. The best part about orchids is that their blooms last for ages. You may still have the same blooms on your orchid well into January! Orchids can be prone to root rot, so err on the side of underwatering. Orchids like bright but indirect light, so they don’t need to be too near a window. If you’d like to try getting your orchid to rebloom later, it’s a good idea to re-pot it from time to time. They perform best in a chunky, fast-draining orchid-specific potting mix.

Bromeliads

Bromeliads are sensational houseplants. Their dramatic shapes and bright colors bring a tropical flair to any room. Their blooms also last an extremely long time, for several months usually. They also like indirect light and do prefer to be a bit drier, especially in winter. Water bromeliads when the soil is dry to about 2″ deep. When you do water your bromeliad, be sure to water into the center, where the leaves and flower stalk meet. Bromeliads also absorb water through their tank in the center. Unfortunately, bromeliads only bloom once in their life, so once the colorful central stalk starts to fade, you can cut it back. Hopefully, your bromeliad will then begin to develop “pup” plants, which you can transplant into new pots and enjoy all over again.

Azalea

Small azalea plants are another option that is commonly available around Christmas. They have large, cheerful, blousy-looking blooms. They like bright indirect light and prefer moist, but not wet soil. Azalea is best watered with a tray when the water starts to run through, stop watering. After an hour, dump any excess water sitting in the saucer. Some varieties of Azalea are hardy enough for our chilly zone 5 winters in Iowa, and you can plant them outdoors to grow into a lovely shrub. Just check the tag to make sure the variety you’ve picked out is appropriate for our climate.

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe is another popular holiday houseplant. Similar to poinsettias, they’re often kept for the season and then composted once the blooms finish in January. As a succulent, kalanchoe need excellent drainage, they’ll do best in a succulent or cactus soil. The best way to water kalanchoe is to set it in the sink in an inch or two of water and let it soak until it stops, but don’t water until the soil is dry. They’ll suffer more from overwatering than underwatering. They love lots of sunshine, so a spot near a south window is perfect for them. They can be kept and successfully rebloomed again next year. Starting in September next year, they need 12-14 hours of complete darkness to initiate the blooming process in time for Christmas.

Winter Begonias

Winter begonias are profuse bloomers through the holiday season, with pretty blossoms and showy leaves with pink, red, silver, or white centers outlined with brilliant green. Begonias prefer filtered light, evenly moist soil, and humidity. Begonias propagate very easily, so you can quickly grow yourself many more begonias just from leaf cuttings. You can pinch back some leaves and blooms (when they finish blooming) to encourage a bushier growth habit.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

If you are looking for a more unexpected holiday houseplant than the traditional choices, stop by our garden center. We can help you find a beautiful new houseplant that reflects your personal style and adds a cheerful hit of color to your home through the holiday season.