Gorgeous Spring-Blooming Woodland Flowers

Viola canadensis
Add early season cheer to shady spots in your landscape with these easy-to-grow woodland flowers.

Rue Anemone

In the dappled light of early spring, the forest floor is covered with the dainty white blossoms of rue anemones. Thin stems hold the flowers up to the sun like little umbrellas. The plant is easy to grow and incredibly charming.

Name: Thalictrum thalictroides

Size: To 8 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

Plant it with: Virginia bluebell, Dutchman's breeches, and early-spring bulbs such as crocus

Note: You may still find this plant sold as Anemonella thalictroides.

Snowdrop Windflower

This is a favorite woodland flower: It's impossible not to smile when you see the delicate white cup with its bright yellow center looking up at you. Snowdrop windflower is easy to grow and spreads to form nice little drifts. It blooms for a second time in the cooler weather of early autumn.

Name: Anemone sylvestris

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

Plant it with: Lady's mantle, Solomon's seal, and showy skullcap


Green-and-gold brings sunshine to a shady border. This is an amazing groundcover that blooms in May and then again sporadically throughout the rest of the season. While it's adaptable, it doesn't appreciate excessive moisture, so be sure to plant green-and-gold in well-drained soil.

Name: Chrysogonum virginianum

Size: To 12 inches tall

Zones: 5-8

Plant it with: Woodland phlox, foamflower, and viola

Dutchman's Breeches

Dutchman's breeches earned its common name: Its clear white flowers do look like tiny pairs of pants. This is a spring ephemeral, meaning it goes dormant in summer, so plant Dutchman's breeches with flowers that mature later in the season.

Name: Dicentra cucullaria

Size: To 10 inches tall

Zones: 3-7

Plant it with: Wild geranium, yellow trillium, and mayapple

Fairy Wings

Fairy wings is a tough shade plant (it even tolerates dry shade) that offers delicate spring flowers and forms a lovely dense groundcover. The blooms are small but profuse and appear in a wide range of colors, depending on the variety. Best of all, deer and rabbits don't seem to find fairy wings very tasty.

Name: Epimedium selections

Size: To 24 inches tall

Zones: 5-8

Plant it with: Hellebore, daffodil, and yellow wax-bells


Hellebore, also called Lenten rose (noting it blooms so early, sometimes during Lent), is a tough, easy-growing shade plant that has the amazing ability to bloom in subzero weather, even while there is still snow on the ground. It is such a treat for the early-spring garden! Be sure to plant hellebore where you'll be able to watch it bloom from a window.

Name: Helleborus selections

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 4-9

Plant it with: Jacob's ladder, purple phacelia, and celandine poppy


A top-notch perennial groundcover that's perfect for brightening shady areas, lamium is low-care and lovely to look at. It's available in a variety of flower and foliage colors; those with silver foliage look especially nice with purple-leaf companions such as coralbells. Even when it's finished flowering, lamium remains an eye-catching plant.

Name: Lamium maculatum selections

Size: To 15 inches tall

Zones: 3-8

Plant it with: Coralbells, black snakeroot, and bleeding heart


Umbrella-shape leaves form an emerald canopy and hide an applelike yellow berry that gives this spring-blooming perennial its common name. Mayapple goes dormant in summer and may be cut back. For that reason, it's ideal to plant with late-flowering perennials to extend the season of interest.

Name: Podophyllum peltatum

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 3-8

Plant it with: Woodland aster, ferns, and lamium


Lungwort flowers each spring in lovely soft shades of blue and pink. Select cultivars with silvery foliage to extend the season of interest. No shade garden should be without it, especially since it's wonderfully deer and rabbit resistant!

Name: Pulmonaria selections

Size: To 12 inches tall

Zones: 4-9

Plant it with: Hellebore, ferns, and crested iris


Though it has an unfortunate-sounding common name (derived from the reddish sap in the roots), its daisy-shape blossoms are precious as they emerge from the ground. Bloodroot doesn't flower for a long period, but like fireworks, the blooms will mesmerize you when they appear.

Name: Sanguinaria canadensis

Size: To 12 inches tall

Zones: 3-8

Plant it with: Rue anemone, Virginia waterleaf, and black cohosh

Celandine Poppy

It is remarkable how much color this plant lends to a woodland garden -- and how long it stays in bloom. The bright yellow flowers practically shine and are the perfect foil for blue and purple blooms on companion plants.

Name: Stylophorum diphyllum

Size: To 18 inches tall

Zones: 4-8

Plant it with: Virginia bluebell, purple phacelia, and twinleaf

Yellow Trillium

Trillium is like a queen in the woodland garden -- and this fine lady is one of the easiest trilliums to grow. Stately three-petal flowers stand at attention above beautifully mottled leaves and fill the air with a fresh lemony fragrance.

Name: Trillium luteum

Size: To 16 inches tall

Zones: 5-9

Plant it with: Dutchman's breeches, woodland phlox, and mayapple

Canadian White Violet

Lovely white flowers with yellow centers spring forth as the snow melts, and they appear sporadically throughout the rest of the season, making this plant a favorite. The cheery blossoms are edible and will dress up a salad or dessert. Canadian white violet will self-seed, so put it in a more informal border or woodland where it can form a groundcover.

Name: Viola canadensis

Size: To 16 inches tall

Zones: 3-8

Plant it with: Wild ginger, dwarf larkspur, and Jacob's ladder

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