Here are some reliable ephemerals that will provide early spring joy that is anything but fleeting. --JESSICA DAMIANO, firstname.lastname@example.org
Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris): Shiny yellow buttercup flowers on mounded succulent plants. Thrives best in shade or part shade and prefers very moist soil. Early spring greens are edible but must be cooked (pour boiling water over leaves two or three times until tender; don't boil). Grows 1-2 feet tall.
Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica): Loose clusters of pink or pink-striped white flowers on slender stems. Thrives in rich, moist soil. Benefits native bees. Grows 4 to 12 inches tall.
Squirrel corn (Dicentra canadensis): Grayish-blue fernlike leaves and fragrant pink- or lavender-tinged flowers. Thrives in partly shady conditions. Note to parents and pet owners: All plant parts are toxic, but only if consumed in large quantities; causes minor skin irritation when touched. Grows 6-10 inches tall.
Dutchman's breeches (Dicentra cucullaria): Deep-cut, feathery foliage forms dense masses atop which bare, slender stems sport drooping, fragrant white flowers. Note to parents and pet owners: All plant parts are toxic, but only if consumed in large quantities; causes minor skin irritation when touched. Beneficial to bumblebees. Grows 10 inches tall.
Winter aconite(Eranthis hyemalis): Ground-hugging plant with small, shiny yellow upward-facing buttercup flowers; great in the lawn under shade trees, in front of shrubbery and in rock gardens. Thrives in full sun to part shade. Grows 3-8 inches tall.
Harbinger of spring (Erigenia bulbosa): Purple stems support white flowers with teardrop-shaped petals and dark-red centers. A relative of the carrot and one of the earliest spring bloomers, appearing from February to April. Grows 3-10 inches tall.
Trout lily (Erythronium americanum): Blotchy leaves and red-tinged, nodding yellow flowers with curled-back petals. Will perform best in full sun but can handle part shade. Does not transplant well, so should be left in place once planted. Grows 8 inches tall.
Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica): Pink, but opens to reveal blue flowers on arching, branched stems. Prefers part shade or shade and moist, rocky soil. Grows 1-3 feet tall.
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis): One large, palmate leaf and one orange-centered white flower per plant, each on its own stem. Spreads quickly to form a ground cover. Rhizome (root) can be fatal if ingested. Grows 12-14 inches tall.
Rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides): Pink or white flowers on maroon stems with whorled leaves. Prefers partly shady conditions. Note to parents and pet owners: All plant parts are toxic, but only if eaten in large quantities; contact with sap will cause irritation. Grows 9 inches tall.
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia): Mounding plant with tall spikes of star-shaped, white flowers. Thrives in shady conditions in moist soil. Grows 6-12 inches tall.
Great white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum): A triplet of oval leaves surrounds a solitary large white flower that turns pink as it matures. Berries and roots have a low toxicity, but only if eaten. Thrives in sun to shade. Grows 1-3 feet tall.
Bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis): Small, nodding, heart-shaped flowers with white inner petals that hang in a row from arching stems. Thrives in part sun to dense shade; rabbit-resistant. Grows 2-3 feet tall.
Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla): Each leaf is divided into two lung-shaped leaflets, with white, star-shaped flowers rising above on leafless flower stalks. Petals are delicate and can be blown off by wind. Grows 1-3 feet tall.