Favorite Early-Blooming Natives

In summer, my Pollinator Garden is filled with bright native summer-blooming plants, a riot of color and swarm of pollinators.  The early-blooming natives, May through June, are more modest, but perhaps more appreciated after the winter and the Cape’s slow spring. Here are a few from my garden last year, and I am on the lookout for more to plant this spring.


Bluet Houstonia caerulea, early May

These bluets are wonderful tiny plants that I grow on the edge of a border.  The clumps slowly expand and merge together to form a nice restrained ground cover.  The flowers, with their yellow centers, bloom right after the daffodils, when it’s a quiet time in the garden, so they are all the more welcome.


Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), early May

The first of my woodland plants to bloom, this one is a treat.  It’s actually a cultivar of the native – the species is just a single flower while this one is a double flower.  It’s an ephemeral, so by early summer this plant has disappeared, leaves and all.



Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana), early May

Wild strawberry runs around everywhere on the Cape, and it was a volunteer in my woodland area.  I gratefully let it stay, and it forms a nice non-competitive groundcover.  It also runs around among the grass and the clover, and that’s good too.  In May, I get lovely blossoms like this, and if I were faster than the various critters in the yard, I might also get fruit.


Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy, mid-May

This is the bloom of the shrub fothergilla (Fothergilla ‘Mt. Airy’) in mid-May.  The shrub itself is about 4’ high, with interesting veined leaves that turn red in the fall, so there are two great seasons of interest here. ‘Mt. Airy’ is a hybrid cultivar, most likely of the larger Fothergilla major and the dwarf Fothergilla gardenia, both native in the southeastern US.


Wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), early June

Many native flowers are white or pale colors, but this beauty, native to the eastern US, grabs my attention.  This columbine can bloom earlier especially with good light, but in my woodland area in the cooler Cape spring, it blooms in late May and always seems to be moving in the breeze.  It’s supposed to be attractive to hummingbirds, but I’m still waiting to see that!



Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), early June

It seems like summer is almost here when the bright yellow flowers start appearing. This coreopsis starts in late May and continues through all of June.  Many of the coreopsis species only last a year or two in my garden, but this one has been persistent, probably because if prefers poor, sandy soils, which are the hallmark of most Cape gardens.


Blue star (Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’) and Salvia (Salvia x sylvestris ‘May Night’), mid-June

I am enamored of this combination and spend time photographing it every year.  The lavender flower is the Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’, which is likely a naturally-occurring cultivar of the native A. tabernaemontana.  Even though it is a cultivar, the bees like it – I can see at least 2 bees, maybe 3 in this photo.  The salvia that it is planted with is the ‘May Night’ non-native hybrid that is easily found in local garden shops.

Can’t wait to see what blooms this spring!


One comment

  1. What a great post, Cathy. I love getting the scientific name as well as the common one. I’m going to look for the “Mt.Airy” plant for our garden. The photos are excellent, too. I can tell you are anxious to see these spring plants flowering and to dig in the dirt. Keep posting.


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