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Gardening

The best early flowers for bees and other pollinators

Beekeepers and gardeners alike can’t wait until the world begins to shed the frost and snow and those first green tips begin to emerge from the earth.

But early spring flowers are even more important for bees and other pollinators, who start looking for food as soon as temperatures start drifting above 40 degrees. Cleaning and foraging flights all begin to burn energy, and it’s easy for colonies to suffer in those early months before the nectar flow begins if they don’t have sufficient winter stores or you haven’t begun feeding. 

What more encouragement is there then, for planting flowers that begin to bloom early?

Here are our five favorite early spring flowers for pollinators: 

1. Crocuses

  • Zone 3-7
  • Full Sun / Light Shade
  • Bloom: Late Winter / Early Spring

Crocus

These delightful little flowers (all just 2 to 4 inches tall) come in a variety of different colors and are some of the first to emerge, even through snow and frost. They're bulbs, so plant them in the fall in large drifts or amongst later-blooming shrubs for best effect. Most varieties will naturalize well and come back with very little attention.

2. Snowdrops

  • Zone 3-7
  • Full Sun / Light Shade
  • Bloom: Late Winter / Early Spring

 

Like Crocuses, Snowdrops are small perennial bulbs that should be planted in fall in close groups to maximize their show. They will grow to around 3-6 inches tall with 1" flowers. Because they bloom so early (February / March in areas), even those these love full sun, you can still plant them in below deciduous trees - they will leaf and flower before trees block the sunlight.

3. Hellebores

  • Zone 4-9
  • Part to Full Shade
  • Bloom: Late Winter / Early Spring

 

Long-blooming, low-maintenance, and practically evergreen, Hellebores are stars of the shade / woodland garden. With over 20 varieties, their blooms come in almost any color you might want: white, pink, apricot, deep purple and more. If grown from seed, these can take 2-3 years before blooming, so it's best to purchase them as plants or divide from existing plants. Purchasing when in bloom gives you the best chance of making sure you get the colors  you want.

4. Grape Hyacinth

  • Zone 4-10
  • Sun / Partial Shade
  • Bloom: Early / Mid Spring

 

Ideal for mass plantings (because they will spread aggressively) these bulbs produce clusters of tiny purple / white flowers on stalks and grow no more than 6-8" tall. Some varieties have a very light, sweet fragrance. Plant in fall for blooms in early / mid Spring.

5. Winter Aconite

  • Zone 4-7
  • Sun to Part Shade
  • Bloom: Early Spring

 

These small, sunny flowers naturalize easily through self-seeding and look best blanketing wide areas under trees or in rock gardens. 



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