Spring is here, so that means the time is right for ephemerals. Ephemerals is a term that refers to spring wildflowers that appear in early spring when sunlight, moisture, and soil nutrients are just right. Ephemerals bloom, fruit, dieback, and then disappear completely from the garden before the spring season is even over. Novice gardeners may think the plants have died, but that is incorrect. Spring ephemerals return each year only at the exact right time given the conditions mentioned above.
Because that's when the sunlight can still reach the forest floor - and ephemerals are native to the woodland. Ephemerals must bloom before the leaves of overhead trees unfurl and block the light. They are able to do so because they grow close to the ground, where soil moisture protects them from the cold temperatures that we sometimes experience in spring.
Some ephemerals that you may recognize include Trillium, Mayapple, Bloodroot, Dutchman's Breeches, Shooting Star, and native Jack-in-the-Pulpit. Trillium are named this because each flower has three leaves and three petals. They grow from bulbs and blossom red, yellow, or white.
Mayapples produce a single light green leaf from a tall stalk that emerges quickly from the forest floor and looks like a green umbrella opening. A single white flower blooms under each leaf in May and eventually forms a small green fruit, the “mayapple.” Jack-in-the-Pulpit is so named because of its unusual flower that looks like a leaf vase with a curving hood over a central stalk.
All are great candidates for the cultivated garden. They grow best in light shade, rich soil, and moist conditions. They combine very well with early spring bulbs like Snowdrops, Scilla, Fritillaria, and Crocus.
Spring is the time to try new things in your garden, and ephemerals are a great addition to any outdoor living space. Remember, they only bloom under a specific set of circumstances, so stop by Lurvey Home & Garden Center to get your ephemerals for this season.