Spring is a season of beauty and renewal. In the US South, vibrant flowers bloom from early to mid-spring. Some of the most breathtaking displays come from trees. They bring life and color to gardens, yards, and parks across the region. Flowering dogwood, magnolia, and redbud are well known for their beautiful blooms. If you love trees, you can also check out our tree identification blog or read more about endangered trees in the South.
You can spot these spring flowering trees growing everywhere there’s ample sunshine. Read on to learn more about these special trees and how they bring life and joy in springtime!
Dogwoods – white or pink flowers in early to mid-spring flowering trees
Flowering dogwood is a small tree that’s native to North Carolina and Virginia. You can also find them in other parts of the US South. These trees have beautiful white or pink flowers that bloom from early to mid-spring.
The buds on a dogwood tree appear before the leaves. This gives it an especially vibrant display when in full bloom. Dogwoods can reach up to 30 feet tall and often have many trunks or branches for a multi-stemmed look. As with many flowering plants, dogwoods need plenty of sunshine and consistent moisture.
They prefer acidic soil. Due to their shallow roots, they need mulching if you plant them as an ornamental. This helps keep moisture and prevent weeds from growing around them. Pruning is also important. These trees tend to have weak branches that can break under wind or snow load.
Magnolias – fragrant white blooms appear before leaves, native flowering trees throughout region
Magnolias are a type of large tree that are native to the US South and can be found in all states in the region. These trees are especially beloved because of their fragrant white blooms. Like Dogwoods, the blooms appear before the leaves do. Magnolia flowers are often solitary at the end of branches. They have 6-12 petals surrounded by glossy green leaves. They bloom from late February to early May and can sometimes reach up to 80 feet tall.
Magnolias need plenty of sunshine and don’t do well in very wet or dry conditions. These trees also need ample moisture for healthy growth. Unfortunately, their shallow roots make them more susceptible to drying out. Fertilizer is important to provide essential nutrients for their growth and development. Mulching helps keep moisture in the soil. Pruning will keep these trees looking neat and maintain optimal health.
There are many magnolia hybrids and crosses. For example, the magnolia “butterflies” variety will produce bright yellow flowers. This is a stunning look for a tree that can grow up to 30 feet tall. These ornamental trees are great for both beginning and experienced gardeners.
Other magnolia species and varieties include:
- Magnolia grandiflora
- Magnolia stellata (the star magnolia)
- Magnolia soulangeana (the saucer magnolia)
Both star magnolias and saucer magnolias are popular in suburban neighborhoods.
Redbuds – striking purple-pink flowers in early spring, common throughout region
Redbuds are a type of small tree common throughout the US South and can reach up to 30 feet tall. As the name implies, these trees feature bright purple-pink flowers. They bloom from late winter to early spring. The buds on redbud trees are very noticeable. They appear before the leaves do and provide a striking display.
Redbuds prefer plenty of sunshine and acidic soil. They need supplemental irrigation during drought periods. Mulching is highly recommended for their shallow roots. And fertilizer is important for providing essential nutrients. Pruning should be regular to keep the tree neat and promote healthier growth.
Another early spring tree: Flowering cherry trees and their iconic cherry blossoms
People have celebrated cherry trees and cherry blossoms for hundreds of years. From Japan to Europe, these beautiful trees and blossoms have captivated the imagination. They’ve even inspired countless works of art.
These trees are great not only for beauty, but also for the ecosystem. Cherry tree blooms play an important role in supporting local ecosystems. They create habitats for many species of wildlife. Plus, cherries provide essential nutrition for both birds and some mammals.
The beauty of flowering cherry season is truly breathtaking. Take a moment to admire the lush display of colors that each spring brings. Or, lie back and enjoy the fragrant air while you relax under a cherry tree!
Cherry blossoms bloom in March and offer stunning displays of white or pink flowers. These flowers will remain for weeks before falling off the branches as petals. Washington, DC is known as a hotspot for flowering cherry trees. But you can plant your own weeping cherry or other flowering cherries in your own backyard, too.
Other Trees: Flowering crabapple and apple serviceberry
Crabapples also bloom from March to April and feature deep red buds that open into white or pink flowers. These are then followed by green fruits, which ripen to a deep red or yellow in the fall. Serviceberries are similar with white flowers that bloom from early May through late June. They have small berries that offer an edible treat for birds, mice, and other wildlife.
Apple serviceberries have white flowers but they come in late April to May. An apple serviceberry is a hybrid between two native trees. It produces flowers in April and May, followed by blue berries. It’s a striking, bright native tree hybrid that’s great for your garden or yard.
These trees have similar needs when it comes to growing best. These needs include plenty of sunshine and acidic soil. Water these trees during a drought, and mulch to keep moisture. Prune as you’d like, and fertilize at regular intervals.
Invasive Species: Flowering trees and shrubs
Introducing non-native species into an environment can have devastating effects. These effects can disrupt the balance of established ecosystems. This is especially true for springtime flowering trees. Native spring flowering trees shouldn’t need to compete against invading trees.
Invasive species are plants, animals, or organisms that are not native to the environment. They can cause damage to native wildlife, plants, and habitats. They often:
- reproduce very quickly
- out-compete native species for limited resources like nutrients and space
- alter physical features of their new environments like water flow and sediment levels
As a result, they threaten the survival of our native plants and animals.
The bottom line is that invasive species often do more harm than good. It’s important to take steps to limit their spread before they get out of hand! Here are a few early spring blooming trees that are invasive – and what to watch out for!
The Callery pear: Flowering trees that look like native trees in early spring
The Callery pear (or Bradford pear) is an increasingly common species of deciduous tree native to China and Vietnam. It’s often used in landscaped settings and in street plantings. Callery Pear has showy flowers. It can tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions. The Callery Pear is an invasive species due to its prolific reproduction rates.
The Callery Pear blooms from early to late spring with white to pink petals. It’s a hardy tree that can grow pretty much anywhere, and it has a deep taproot that makes removal difficult. It was such a popular tree (and such a problem) in Ohio that the state actually banned the sale of Callery pear trees. South Carolina and Pennsylvania have also passed bans on these trees that will begin in 2024.
Invasive Japanese honeysuckle: invasive spring flowering shrubs and vines
The Japanese honeysuckle is a common shrub in many areas throughout the US. Known for its sweet-smelling flowers, it blooms in early spring.
Japanese honeysuckle features white to yellow blooms from March to June. It often produces berries in the late summertime. Japanese honeysuckle spreads rapidly and displaces native plants. You shouldn’t plant Japanese honeysuckle on your property. If you have some, remove it before it becomes a bigger problem.
How to identify early spring flowering trees
If you don’t know which tree species you’re looking at, apps can help. There are a few resources available to help identify them.
One of the most popular tools is iNaturalist. iNaturalist is a mobile app that helps people identify plants and animals. By submitting photos to the app, users can receive accurate species identification. This identification comes from both experts in the field and AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms.
Another useful tool is the PlantSnap tree identification app. This app allows users to quickly identify trees based on their leaves, bark, and fruits. It also provides helpful information like distribution range and any cultural benefits.
A good reference book can also be invaluable for more complex identifications. The National Audubon Society Field Guide to Trees is an excellent resource for beginners. It covers over 800 North American tree species in detail. Other field guides are also usually a safe bet. Be sure to find one specific to the state or region in which you live.
Beautiful spring flowering trees bring joy to those who appreciate them
Springtime flowering trees are beautiful and delightful to behold. Their beauty brings joy to many as new life unfolds. They also provide essential habitat for many species of wildlife.
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