Written by Garden Manager Lisa Bartlett


spring ephemeral


any of various woodland wildflowers that appear above ground in early spring, flower and fruit, and die in a short two-month period.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

That is what makes these spring flowering plants so very special, though they go dormant and don’t really die. Spring ephemerals are some of the first plants to flower in the early spring long before most trees leaf out. They tend to not like the heat and will quickly disappear if temperatures get above 80. Spring ephemerals leaf out, bloom, go to seed, spread about and then go dormant. They do this all in a 2 month period making them some of the most efficient of the flowering plants.

Here are some tips to get started growing your own:

    1. Never under any circumstances collect seed or plants from the wild. Purchase your plants from reputable nurseries. They will be easier to grow and quicker to flower.
    2. Buy and plant them in spring or early summer.
    3. Choose a shady woodland-like site. They need rich soil, spring moisture, and summer shade. Prepare the bed ahead of time with a 3 – 4 in. topping of compost lightly worked in. Although ephemerals love spring rains, they don’t like to sit in wet soil while dormant. Be sure the soil is well-draining with a fairly neutral soil pH.
    4. They look best in mass plantings, but you can get them started with a handful of plants. If you start small, you’ll have an easier time of seeing what makes them happy.
    5. By planting plants like Hostas and ferns in the same beds assures that you will always have something of interest even when the Ephemerals are dormant.
    6. Mulch or side dress annually with compost or shredded leaves. This is best done in very early spring before they appear.

Your area of the country may have its own special and distinct Spring Ephemerals, but here are a few easy to find and grow for your own garden.


Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva Pursh)

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis )

Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa)

Celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum)

Dogtooth Violet (Erythronium dens-canis)

Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria)

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)

Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens)

Rue anemone (Thalictrum…MORE thalictroides)

Sagebrush buttercup (Ranunculus glaberrimus)

Shootingstar (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)

Squirrel Corn (Dicentra canadensis)

Toothwort (Dentaria diphylla)

Trillium (Trillium grandiflorum)

Trout lily (Erythronium americanum)

Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla)

Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica)

Yellowbell (Fritillaria pudica)

Not feeling up to growing your own? Take a walk in some of the wilder areas of your neighborhood you never know what you might see springing up on a warmish day in early spring.