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Top 10 Late Winter Blossoms for an early spring

We put together this list of the Top 10 plants that flower first in late winter (to give you that early spring feeling) because let’s face it: everyone loves spring. After the cold, dark gloom of winter, it’s always wonderful to hear the birds singing, see the sun shining and witness the flowers blooming.

While spring doesn’t technically begin until September in Australia, there are some wonderful plants that start flowering in late winter here in Melbourne, to bring the colour and joy of spring forward and let you start enjoying it as soon as possible.

These late winter blossoms offer a way you can make the feeling of spring come as soon as possible in your garden. Year after year, when these plants start flowering in Melbourne, we start getting calls, emails and photos rolling in from people wanting to know what they are and how to get them. We also notice people get excited about getting out in the garden again, and more booking for our garden design service come in.

Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

  1. Elvins Flowering Plum
  2. Blireana Flowering Plum
  3. Magnolia ‘Soulangeana’
  4. Flowering Quince
  5. Magnolia ‘Yulan’
  6. Hardenbergia
  7. Winter Daphne
  8. Camelia Japonica
  9. Loropetalum
  10. New Zealand Christmas Bush

1. Elvins Flowering Plum (Prunus elvins)

Elvins flowering plum in full bloom late winter in Melbourne

Prunus Elvins, or Elvin’s Flowering Plum, is a small, very compact deciduous tree, usually less than 2 metres tall, with a beautiful white blossom that is very pretty and mildly fragrant. Definitely one of the nicest early spring blossoms, the white flowers have a lovely dusting of pink over the top that makes them so gorgeous.

When planted in a row or group of 2, 3 or 5 they put on a great show in spring, and being very dense and bushy they are great for a compact garden. When not in bloom they are not the most spectacular of plants, so better to use Prunus Elvins in the background or part of a nice mixed planting where it can make way for surrounding plants for most of the year and then come into its own spectacular glory in late winter/early spring.

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 2. Blireana Cherry Plum (Prunus blireana)

The Prunus Blireana, also known as a Cherry Plum or a Purple-leaved Plum tends to bloom in late July or early August with soft, pink double blossoms that mass over the entire tree and last for ages. When the blooms disappear, the rich purple-red foliage keeps the colour show going until it changes to a bronzy red in mid-summer.

This is a flowering ornamental plum, not a fruiting plum tree. Feel free to plant singly, in clumps or even as an avenue or row. It grows to a maximum of 4-5 m tall but can be kept compact with some well thought out trimming. Extremely hardy, the Cherry Plum will grow in almost any soil and hardly needs to be pruned, making it a favourite of local councils as a street tree. It can tolerate both frost and heat well, and is also quite wind and drought hardy.

chris lucas hello hello plants Prunus x blireana - Purple-leafed Plum ornamental pink flowering blossom

Prunus x blireana - Purple-leafed Plum ornamental pink flowers

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3. Magnolia ‘Soulangeana’ Tulip or Saucer Magnolia)

Also known as the Tulip Magnolia or Saucer Magnolia, these small deciduous trees produce large purple flowers that are shaped like a tulip. One of Melbourne’s most popular late winter and early spring blossoms, we always start getting phone calls about Soulangeana Magnolias as soon as they start blooming in late winter.

The flowers actually bloom even before the leaves sprout, providing a great contrast against the dark branches. The flowers feature pinks and mauves at the base with white at the top. Tulip Magnolias will grow to a maximum of 7m but can easily be kept at half that size with yearly trimming. Quite hardy, they will grow anywhere in good soil and need only a little bit of summer watering and a touch of calcium.

A soulangeana magnolia in flower in Melbourne

Flowers of the Soulangeana Magnolia or tulip Magnolia flowering in late winter

Back to list: Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

4. Flowering Quince

red flowering deciduous bush feature chaenomeles japonica japanese flowering quince winter

The Flowering or Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles family) is an old-fashioned classic that is making a bit of a comeback. Different varieties feature either white flowers or a mix of half pink and half white flowers, but more common today is the red flowering variety.

Flowering Quinces aren’t trees, they’re a slightly prickly bush that grows around 1m tall. These late winter flowering plants are often used as a hedge. Hardy and long-lasting, this traditional herald of spring is ideal when you don’t have room for a big blossom tree, as it works just as beautifully as a blossom bush. It even produces small sour fruits that make a great jam.

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5. Magnolia denudata ‘Yulan’

Yulan magnolia denudata branches in flower late winter with white blossoms

The Magnolia denudata or ‘Yulan’ Magnolia features stunning pure white flowers with a heavenly fragrance that will waft throughout your garden. Originating from Japan and also called the Lily Tree, it was probably the first magnolia cultivated around 4,000 years ago. Beloved for its pure white, elegant flowers, it was regarded as early as 650 AD by Buddhist monks as a symbol of purity, and its exquisitely fragrant flowers were a gift worthy of an emperor.

The Yulan Magnolia doesn’t mind pruning so you can keep it small. It flowers in late winter, from early July to mid-August. The Yulan, like most deciduous Magnolias, likes full sun or partial shade and will thrive when placed deep in well-drained soil and sheltered from the wind. It has some light frost tolerance.

Back to list: Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

6. Hardenbergia

Hardenbergia violacea happy duo purple and white flowers together

An Australian native, the Hardenbergia (full name Hardenbergia violacea) is a low growing trailing and climbing plant sometimes called the Native Wisteria. It usually comes in purple but there is also a variety with lovely white flowers. It can be used as a bush or ground cover as it grows quite wide and only around 1m tall. It climbs and will happily cover a wire fence.

Hardenbergia grows in almost any soil, is drought hardy and flowers for weeks on end from mid-July onwards. For a really interesting look, grow one purple and one white variety next to each and they will happily intertwine and create a beautiful mix of two different coloured flowers. (When sold this way they are known as Hardenbergia Happy Duo.) Feel free to plant in full sun or part shade.

Back to list: Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

7. Winter Daphne (Daphne odora)

White flowering Daphne Perfume princess fragrant flowers

The later winter/early spring flower that possesses one of the most heavenly fragrances is the Winter Daphne. While the flowers themselves are quite small, a lovely mix of pink and white, the fragrance is so strong it will fill your entire garden. People love to make the most of their sweet scent by planting them near windows or doorways or along paths.

Daphne’s love really deep soil, so while they will grow in containers, they prefer the garden and can grow quite tall if given the right conditions including a good dose of Osmocote slow release fertiliser. They bloom from mid-winter through to spring and are happiest in full sun or part shade, with good drainage and a frost-free location.

Back to list: Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

8. Japanese Camellias (Camellia japonica)

Japonica camellias flower from the dead of winter to the middle of spring, so they really do start early. They come in many colours: there are white, pink and red varieties that flower in nice formal shapes, as well as loose ruffled style blooms to give you lots of choice. The “Volunteer” for example is a gloriously ruffled Camellia that produces a beautiful, large deep pink-red flower with gorgeous white edges.

Japanese Camellia japonica grows as an evergreen bush or small tree approximately 1-2 m tall. You will find they prefer afternoon shade rather than direct, hot sun, and in the right spot will last for years and years. You can create a full season of cool weather blooms in your garden by also planting Sasanqua camellias, which flower in late summer through autumn.

Ready for the show? We supply a lot of varieties of Japanese Camellias because they do so well in the Melbourne climate and really brighten up our winters.

Back to list: Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

9. Loropetalum

Hello Hello Plants Nursery Melbourne Australia Loropetalum chinense Chinese fringe flower Plum Gorgeous

Increasingly popular, the Loropetalum comes in many shades but a favourite is the China Pink variety. Featuring colourful, red/purple leaves that stay coloured all year round, it blooms with pink spidery flowers featuring long petals that emerge at the start of August and last around for up to 6 weeks.

Easy to trim and keep low as a ground cover or shape into a hedge or ball, Loropetalum are ideal for mass planting. Feel free to use to underplant trees, cover garden beds or use as an informal border around stone walls and paths. They are also happy in pots. Will need some pruning.

Back to list: Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

10. ‘Tahiti’ NZ Christmas Bush (Metrosideros)

The New Zealand Christmas Bush is a hardy plant that’s very popular. While the traditional varieties are larger, the Tahiti is a cute, compact version of its big sisters that’s just as tough and resilient. It also features scarlet puffs of orangey-red festive style flowers that burst forth into bloom in late winter.

Evergreen with a mix of lush green and silvery grey foliage, it will easily grow in a pot with little care. Or plant it in mixed borders or as a hedge, as it is quite fast growing and great for Melbourne because it copes with our heavy clay soils. This tough little beauty can survive even in windy spots to provide year-round colour.

Back to list: Top 10 late winter flowering plants for an early spring

In summary

Large old Saucer Magnolia soulangeana in flower

So there you have it. Get your spring on early with these wonderful flowering plants that blossom in late winter and early spring and you’ll be blooming with smiles for years to come.

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