Spring Fever – A Gardener’s Chronic “Illness”


Spring Fever:
Hit by spring’s fever pitch?
Turn off the technology switch!

Many gardeners suffer from a chronic disease called Spring Fever that occurs when the direct rays of the sun cross the equator into the Northern Hemisphere. The symptoms of Spring’s Fever Pitch, while not considered a malfunction of the human body, may be a malfunction of the brain of avid gardeners. If you have been known to return from a plant foray with perennials wedged into every square inch of your vehicle, including the lap of a passenger, you might as well admit you are suffering from Spring’s Fever Pitch.

The increased sunlight must cause an energy surge of irrational excitement. I see it in many of my gardening friends, including one who was so “hyped” in spring, she conned her husband into selling their home with its amazing showcase gardens in order to build a new home she could landscape again. When she rushed to Secrist Gardens (the perennial nursery I own) in a fevered frenzy for new perennials, I had a good laugh, and then I finally had to ask. “Would you rather have a garden or create a garden?”

Common Spring Fever Symptoms:

Another recognizable symptom of Spring Fever is a greenhouse tucked away on a gardener’s property. They simply can’t wait for the warmer days and increased sunlight to instill the renewed physical energy and euphoria they have waited for all winter to kick in; so they start spring early and go out and play in their greenhouse when there is still snow on the ground.

In spring, something’s in the air besides pollination and its love, for gardeners are passionately in love with their flowers. A gardener’s physiological response to Spring’s Fever Pitch is to design garden plans bulging with plants they can’t live without under the guise that there will be no room left for weeds and no need for staking. My own case is probably one of the worst obsessive spring’s fever pitch disorders on record. I actually started Secrist Gardens as an excuse for growing enough perennials to landscape both my gardens and the entire community.

Another Spring Fever symptom that can be used as part of the diagnosis would be to carefully examine the load of new plants when the gardener returns from a plant gathering spree. If it is a true case of Spring Fever, you’ll see that every single plant purchased is in bloom. There will be very few that are just green foliage or starts. This may be due to the hope and joy flowers symbolize or the extra endorphins the brain secretes with increased sunlight. In reality, it’s probably that spring-blooming plants are just too gorgeous for any sensible gardener to go without. The following is a gallery of spring-blooming, western acclimatized perennials that every garden deserves:

Gallery of Early Spring Blooming Perennials – The Perfect Medicine for Spring Fever


The first flowers of spring are the specie bulbs like crocus and glory of the snow. These early flowers peek through the snow on the first warm days of spring, triggering a sudden violent fevered pitched attack on winter-weary gardeners.

galanthus -snowdrops

Galanthus or snowdrops are one of the first flowers to cause the pangs of Spring Fever to surge. When Galanthus wakes up to welcome another gardening season, the gardener wakes up too! As with most specie bulbs, they need no foliage removal and naturalize easily.


Lenton rose - spring fever
Heleborus – Lenton Rose

Helleborus or Lenton Rose often makes its entrance through the snow. The flowers are interesting, exquisitely colored bells that droop downward and will hold their blooms until summer temperatures start. Helleborus’s handsome evergreen foliage looks fine all seasons.

heartleaf bergenia
Heartleaf Bergenia

Heartleaf Bergenia keeps its huge bronzed leaves throughout winter no matter how deep the snow. With spring’s first warm days, bergenia will start to form tight buds, that open gradually, similar to the way a gardener’s heart starts to open as bergenia appears through the snow.


daffodils - spring fever

Daffodils are the hardiest and longest-living of any bulbs in Western Gardens for they are deer- and disease-resistant and thrive while dormant in our hot dry summers. Daffodils will naturalize year after year, only needing division when they cease blooming.

creeping phlox
Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox blooms in a dense carpet mass of pastel-colored flowers. The secret to growing attractive creeping phlox year after year is no trimming until after they bloom. Then cut the spent stems, leaving only a nice tuft of the moss-like foliage. This spring fever-inducing perennial will grow throughout the summer and winter and again bloom in early spring.


Brunnera’s tiny masses of forget-me-not like flowers add a new dimension to a shade garden. The blue lacy clouds lift and wind through other spring perennials presenting a soft blue haze above the garden. Brunnera’s leaves enlarge, forming a clump of distinctive leaves after finishing its blooming.

Doronicum – Leopards Bane

Doronicum or Leopard’s Bane is a surprise when it blooms because it is the first daisy-shaped flower of the year. Doronicum’s bright look lifts the mood of any viewer. It grows about fifteen inches tall and wide with dark green holly-like foliage that is every bit as delightful as the blooms.


Rockcress brightens moods with their dense carpets of rich-colored blooms. Rockcress are dependable alpine plants that bloom in full sun and well-drained soils. Cut rockcress back to a neat, tidy mound after it finishes blooming.

bleeding heart - dicentra
Bleeding Heart or Dicentra

For height in a shady spring garden, plant Dicentra or bleeding hearts. The amorphous hearts of dicentra seems to coincide with the increased heart rate of gardeners when they gaze at this spectacular partial shade garden perennial.

armeria - thrift
Thrift or armeria

The colorful balls sitting on top of wiry stems are armeria or Thrift. They shoot up in early spring from a grassy clump that has stayed evergreen throughout winter. A white form of Thrift has fuzzy balls and is called rabbit tails.


Spring-blooming primroses are famous for leading a couple down the primrose path of courtship. Primroses are long-lived and hardy as long as they are the true perennial primrose or cowslip. The variety pictured above is known as the drumstick primrose.

pulmonaria or lungwort
Pulmonaria or Lungwort

Pulmonaria or Lungwort is a pleasing addition to the early shade garden, but is also pleasing in the summer and fall gardens. Its delightful silver or silver-dotted foliage is every bit as attractive as it’s ethereal flowers. The unique flowers start out as pinky coral buds and open into delicate shades of violets and blue.

aurina - basket-of-gold
Aurina or Basket-of-Gold

Aurina or Basket-of-Gold is a neon light that turns on in spring. The golden flowers glow in gardens, brightening gardening moods with their bright golden-yellow flowers.

Iberis, or Candytuft

Iberis, or Candytuft, with its small evergreen shrub size and lacy doily-like blooms is as close to perfection as any perennial can be. Spring renews candytuft’s biological bloom time of dainty beauty. With a haircut after candytuft blooms, the foliage stays in a perfect clump.

Dwarf Crested Iris

Dwarf Crested Irises start blooming as soon as they break their early dormancy and start to push up through the ground so their exotic blooms gradually lift up from the ground to open to the sunlight.

avens - geum
Avens, or Geum

Avens or geum are the rose of rock gardens. They grow well in sun and are zone five so they need to be planted in a warm microclimate. Orange is a great welcome color for spring and brings an excited energy to both the gardener and the garden.


Heucherella, with its high-wattage foliage, brings evergreen energy to the early spring garden. This fine new hybrid blooms for over a month with fuzzy, bottle brush, pink and white blooms. Their eight-inch blooms resemble excited exclamation marks shouting “welcome spring!”

papaver - poppies
A gardener’s eye view of spring sunlight filtering through the petals of Papaver or poppies.

Spring Fever sufferers will need a good dose of Papaver, or poppies, with their enormous, dazzling scarlet, red, salmon or orange petals surrounding black-eyed centers can energize any garden.  Their huge, showstopping colorful blooms are a sight to behold. Poppies go dormant after blooming and will need to be cut to the ground.

Centaurea, or Amethyst in Snow

The snowflake shapes and amethyst centers on this fifteen-inch, early-blooming hybrid centaurea will excite any senses still mired in winter woes. Cutting amethyst back by late May will ensure another round of blooms in late summer.

Which is sweeter; the nectar-rich spurs full of columbine or the child sampling the flavor?
colulmbine - aquilegia
Columbine or aquilegia

Columbine are versatile and grow as wildflowers in the mountains but are just as happy in a partial shade, cultivated garden. The early daisy flowers of golden doronicum are in the background. The very unique and perfect proportions of the exquisite columbine with its long spurs of nectar gave it the name of aquilegia, for the Latin word aquile means eagle.


Hesperis or Sweet Rocket
Hesperis or Sweet Rocket

Hesperis or sweet rocket is a fine blooming spring perennial to add height to the back of a partial shade border or flower bed. Hesperis will naturalize quickly, so needs to have its seeds removed as soon as it finishes blooming.


Every garden needs a celebrity plant like Edelweiss. Because of its amazing survival skills, it was used as a symbol in the movie, The Sound of Music. Edelweiss grows well in the Rocky Mountains and blooms with beautiful delicate white flowers in spring.

Spring-blooming perennials are often shade-loving perennials

You may have noticed that many of the Spring Fever Favorites and spring-blooming bulbs and perennials are plants that perform better in shady gardens. The logical reason for this is they bloom before trees and shrubs leaf so they are the benefactors of spring’s full sunshine. This could also help explain how critical Spring Fever can be, for humans instinctively react to seasonal changes just as some animals hibernate in winter. Check to see if you are a victim of Spring’s Fever Pitch by answering the following question; Have you ever bought five of the same perennial because they bloom in five different colors? Right!

Check to see if you are a victim of Spring’s Fever Pitch by answering the following question; Have you ever bought five of the same perennial because they bloom in five different colors? Right! Well, I have! I am severely afflicted with this malady. But remember, gardening is the way to scratch the itch of Spring’s Fever Pitch.

More about Nedra Secrist