Signs of Spring: Crocus and Hellebore

Crocus and Hellebore are two of the first plants to bloom each spring. Learn how and where to grow them.

If you’re the type of person who starts longing for spring right after Labor Day, you’ll want to fill your garden with early-bloomers like crocus and hellebore. These flowers can appear while snow still covers the ground, brightening the last cold winter days until spring finally arrives.

Signs of Spring Crocus D AbercrombieD. Abercrombie
D. Abercrombie Crocus colors include blues, yellows, whites, and even some striped varieties.


  • Zones: 3 – 8
  • Location: Well-drained soil (bulbs will rot in soggy soil)
  • Grow From: Bulb/corm
  • When to Plant: Fall, before a hard frost
  • How to Plant: This small plant gets lost on its own, so plant these in large groupings for best impact. They can even be planted in lawns for naturalization. Space a few inches apart, about 3-4 inches deep with the pointed end of the bulb up.
  • When They Bloom: In warmer zones, as early as late January or early February, a little later further north. Crocus will poke their heads up through snow and can survive fairly cold temps, but cover new shoots if frigid temperatures are expected.
Signs of Spring Crocus Hellebore NJRootsNJRoots
NJRoots Hellebore deserves to be more widely grown than it is.


  • Zones: 5 – 8
  • Location: Part sun to full shade 
  • Grow From: Seed or nursery plant
  • When to Plant: Sow seeds in early summer for blooms the following year; plants can be set out anytime before frost
  • How to Plant: Grow hellebore where you will appreciate it as soon as it starts to grow and bloom in late winter or early spring. Space about 12 inches apart. If you like, plant them where they’ll get spring sunshine but become shaded when trees grow their leaves.
  • When They Bloom: Known both as the “Christmas Rose” and the “Lenten Rose,” hellebore may bloom as early as late December in warmer climates. Further north, expect to see it breaking through even frozen ground by late February or early March. The blooms last up to a month, and the foliage continues to be attractive throughout the summer.

Looking for deer-resistant bulbs? Click here.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.