My Favorite Early Spring Flowering Trees & Shrubs

Forsythia in full bloom.

Northern Gold and Meadowlark Forsythia.

These large shrubs are the first to reliably flower each spring with masses of bright yellow flowers that chase away the winter blues.  Good winter hardiness of flower buds on these two varieties.  Mature size is 8 foot plus.


Royal Star Magnolia

This one is hardy in Minnesota, has lovely pure white blossoms, and a modest mature size of 10-12 feet.  Magnolias usually flower just as Forsythia blossoms are fading.

Minnesota Strain Redbud 

Produced in either multi-stem or single stem tree form, this Redbud strain is tough enough to succeed here in southern Minnesota.  Beautiful purple/magenta blossoms erupt from the seemingly dead branches just as the blossoms of the Magnolia trees are fluttering to the ground.  Mature size in Minnesota is 20-25 feet in most cases, a size that can fit into most landscapes for eye-popping spring color.

Serviceberry – trees or shrubs

These beautiful plants unfold their mounds of numerous small white blossoms just before the Redbud trees start showing their color.  Serviceberry trees have gracefully wandering branches with smooth grey bark and hundreds or thousands of small flowers add up to produce quite a show.  By mid to late June, a delicious small fruit opens that I love to eat if I can get to them before the birds that come to the feast.  For a smaller version of Serviceberry (5′-8′), try “Regent” which makes a good dense shrub.  For a larger tree, either clump form or single stem, the Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is hard to beat, maturing to 20 feet or more.

American Plum

This native fruit tree pioneers on disturbed sites, forming dense thickets that offer both shelter and food for wildlife.  Unruly branch  structure and some thorns make this a good choice for acreages where you want to begin providing windbreaks and habitat.  Good for jelly making.  the wild plum and other cherry family trees have perhaps the most deliciously fragrant spring blossoms you will every experience.

Tart Cherry trees

The same wonderfully fragrant white blossom as wild plum, but easier to manage in an urban landscape, and producing big crops of bright red cherries in June/July that make sensational pies and jam.  The Evans Bali strain is reported to be okay for fresh eating but time tested varieties like Mesabi, North Star, and Meteor are best considered cooking cherries and “Sweet Cherry Pie” is a nice new release from Bailey Nurseries.