There’s a certain pleasure (and shall we say relief?) that comes when the early spring buds show up on trees and bushes in February and March. The early spring buds signify the coming change of season and, for many, represent a shift toward more sunlight and the joys of spring and summer weather.
While there are many flowers and bushes whose early spring buds are evident—sometimes while there is even still snow on the ground—which trees species have the promise of warmer weather visible early in the springtime?
1. Rosebud Cherry
Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’
This may not come as a surprise, as flowering cherry trees are celebrated the world over, with millions of people traveling to various locations in the northern hemisphere to witness their bloom. While they are not very conspicuous in the early months and are perhaps most notably recognized for their blossoming flowers, cherry trees still have early spring buds that show up while winter still lingers.
In the promise of warm, sunny weather to come, the tiny buds of rosebud cherry tree varietal begin to arrive but are not as showy and evident as other varieties of cherry trees. This tree has buds that bloom over a long time, but they are generally more sparse and don’t quite appear to be “fully” in bloom.
2. Flowering Cherry Tree
Prunus serrula ‘Kwanzan’ and P. yedoensis ‘Akebono’
These varietals bloom a bit later in the spring but are often the specific flowering cherry trees that people think about when they discuss the spring cherry bloom. The buds on these trees open a bit later than the ‘Autumnalis’ and are more densely populated on the branches, so they give the sense of a full bloom with the vibrant pink flowers speckling the branches.
In Portland, these can be seen near the Japanese American Historical Plaza by Waterfront Park. The flowers here puff up a bit like little mini balls of cotton candy. When the bare tree starts to show its small buds, it can sometimes be mistaken for another tree with early spring buds, the flowering plum.
3. Flowering Plum Tree
Prunus cerasifera ‘Atropurpurea’
This variety of flowering plum is notable for the fact that it blooms very early, sometimes as early as January or February. Yet, for an untrained eye, it might be initially mistaken for a cherry tree. The primary distinction between the flowering plum and the flowering cherry is that plum trees have a darker bark color (somewhat similar to a blackish-purple color), and the branches from the plum tend to be denser and contain more twigs than that of the cherry tree. The branches themselves are also a bit rounder, and once the leaves fill out, it becomes clear it’s a plum tree, as they are a rich purple color.
As for cherry trees, the bark more commonly has little, more visible marks. Additionally, the buds (and flowers) of a cherry tree will curve downward and be more pointy, initially bright red before the blossoming phase, when the soft pinks come out.
4. Cornelian-Cherry Dogwood
Commonly called only “dogwood,” this tree is one of the earliest bloomers in the spring, flowering sometimes as early as late February. It’s a non-native species that originated in Europe and Asia, yet does well in the Pacific Northwest climate.
Walking around almost any neighborhood, you are sure to find dogwood trees, as they do well in urban areas. They are medium-sized and can grow anywhere from 10 to 25 feet tall. As the buds bloom, the clusters brighten against the bare bark, showing displays of yellow, white, or pink flowers. They have concentrated buds that flower in early spring and cover the whole tree before the leaves appear. By summer, the tree is more balanced in the flower-to-leaf ratio, and then fruits dark-red berries in July.
5. Crabapple Cultivar Tree
There are over 200 named species within the genus Malus, and their growth is dependent on the location, but they usually do well in urban landscapes. They bloom fully in the middle of May, but the early spring buds can show up at the end of winter.
This sort of tree can vary in height, width, fragrance, and color, but the buds are usually red and bloom into white or pink flowers. The ornamental fruits that grow on crabapple trees generally ripen between July and November. One of the key things to consider with this species is that it is rather susceptible to various illnesses, such as fungal issues or early fruit drops. They also are very appealing to pests, so take this into consideration when deciding if the early spring buds are worth the potential hassle. While it may look lovely in the spring, its aesthetics don’t necessarily last through the season.
If your primary focus is on finding trees with early spring buds, it’s fair to consider any of the above species, but if you’re also interested in shrubs and flowers that offer buds with promise, check out these other shrubs:
- Winter heath (Erica carnea)
- Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia)
- Andromeda (Pieris japonica)
- Japanese rose (Kerria japonica)
- Daphne shrubs (Daphne)
- Golden Oriole azalea (Rhododendron ‘Golden Oriole’)
For any of your tree needs in both spring and throughout the year, Mr. Tree is your full-service tree expert, offering residential services, commercial services, and industrial services. Our trained and certified experts are available to help discuss tree planting choices, survey the landscape, remove both trees and stumps, prune, diagnose tree diseases, and more. Reach out today to discover how we can help keep your trees and foliage healthy and help keep your yard looking its best, year-round.