Image by Sandy Repp


Early Flowers Q&A

By Pat Curran, Horticulture Educator,

Tompkins County Cornell Cooperative Extension
(Published May 2011)

Question: My tulips and daffodils aren't in bloom yet, but I see flowers in other people's yards. What can I plant for earlier flowers?

Answer:The two earliest spring flowers have been in bloom for two or three weeks already, depending on how warm and sunny the site is, and they are both deer-resistant! Winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis) have bright yellow flowers that resemble crocuses, but the foliage is a ruffle of green rather than linear. Mine were in bloom when the snow melted on March 11. Rodents and rabbits don't bother them either. However, the tubers may dry out in the store in the fall; soak first before planting. I collect seed in mid-May and sprinkle it where I want more (and avoid digging or planting there). They sprout the next spring, and two years later, they bloom and self-sow profusely.

Snowdrops (Galanthus species) are white with touches of green or yellow. Their foliage is linear like many other spring bulbs, but I have never had any animal problems. They come from true bulbs, and they will also self-sow into colonies. They look especially nice with the early-blooming rose or purplish flowers of Lenten 'roses' (hellebores).

Both of these flowers (like all bulbs) should be left to mature their foliage, but it will be dormant by mid or late May. They are especially suited for doorway gardens, I think, where they can be appreciated even in cold or drizzly weather (as one runs to get out of the snow or rain!)

Ask a Gardener appears weekly in The Journal during the growing season. For answers to other garden, lawn, landscape and pest questions, call Cooperative Extension at 607-272-2292 or email: This article was written by Patricia Curran, horticulture program manager at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.

Last updated January 29, 2021