A meadow in the springtime

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If you're craving color after a long, cold season (and, honestly, who isn't?), take heart: Spring is just around the corner! And while some stunning flowers appear in the dark months of winter, Mother Nature's real show begins when pretty primroses, bee-friendly crocuses, and more of the first spring flowers bloom—usually between late February and early March—and continues all spring and summer. (In case you were wondering, yes, that's also why many popular flower festivals take place during spring.)

But before you buy up every gorgeous plant you see (not to mention every stunning pot and hanging basket), there are a few things you should keep in mind: First, some spring-flowering annuals, perennials (which come back every year), and shrubs can be planted in March, April, and even May. But other spring-bloomers, such as daffodils, must be planted in the fall. So, make sure to read the plant tag or description before buying them so you know what to expect.

Equally important? Pay attention to what kind of light your garden gets. As a general rule: Full sun means six or more hours of direct sunlight per day; part sun is about half that; and shade means an area doesn't get any direct sunlight or only early morning sun. And if you're planting shrubs or perennials, you should also know your USDA Hardiness zone (check yours here) so you choose plants that will survive winter in your part of the country.

Now, pull on your favorite gardening gloves and rubber shoes, and start planting everything on our list of the best flowers for spring.

purple pansies

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Pansies are some of the earliest annuals you can plant in spring—so as soon as you can dig in with a garden trowel, plant pansies. (Pro tip: They look equally beautiful in hanging baskets, window boxes, and pretty pots.) Their cheerful "faces" and bright colors will put you in a good mood every time you see them. They fade in summer's heat but may rebound when cool weather arrives again in fall. They thrive in full sun.

prink primrose flowers

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These sweet little flowers are some of the first perennials to bloom in spring. For such a delicate-looking flower, they're tough as nails, and many types are hardy to USDA zone 3. There are hundreds of species, so read the label to find one for your zone. They work well in partial sun.

yellow forsythias

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It's a sure sign that spring has arrived when the forsythias bloom! These sunshine-yellow shrubs are covered in flowers first, leaves later. They're extremely cold-hardy and can be planted in early to mid-spring. Read the label, though, because they range in size from a few feet to 20 feet tall. If you need to trim forsythia to control its size, do it immediately after they bloom; otherwise, you cut off next year's flowers. They flourish in full sun.

purple lilacs

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The sweet scent of lilacs with their purple, pink, or white blooms and heart-shaped leaves may remind you of your grandma's garden because this plant is an old-fashioned favorite. Once established, lilacs can live for decades. Look for newer varieties which bloom again—though not as impressive as the first show—later in the season. They need full sun.

pink weigela shrub

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This beautiful shrub with trumpet-shaped flowers blooms in late spring in a riot of pink, purple, or white. Newer varieties rebloom off-and-on until frost. They thrive in full sun, but they prefer afternoon shade in hot climates.

purple bearded iris

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Bearded Iris

With sword-shaped leaves and striking flowers in a rainbow of colors, bearded irises make a lovely garden border. They range in height from 12 inches to several feet tall. A common mistake is to plant them too deep; their rhizomes need to be near the soil surface, roughly 3 inches deep. They require full sun.

creeping phlox

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Creeping Phlox

This low-growing perennial forms a spreading mound that's carpeted in small flowers in shades of deep pink to lavender in mid-spring. It's a lovely groundcover that works well on slopes, but needs full sun.

yellow daffodils

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With their trumpet-shaped cups and sunny yellow color, daffodils remind you that spring really is here! They come in an array of sizes from 6 inches to 2 feet tall; different varieties bloom from early to late spring. The only kicker is that if you want to enjoy these spring beauties, you must plant them in fall before the ground freezes. Group them together for best effect instead of planting just one bulb here and there. Rodents and deer usually ignore these plants. They love full sun.

purple columbine

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You'll find Columbine in delicate shades of pinks and purples or bright corals and reds. These flowers look equally at home in formal or cottage gardens and provide early season nectar for pollinators. They like part shade.

pink hellebores

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This perennial with glossy leaves, ruffled petals, and exquisite flowers in every color is also called Lenten rose because it blooms in late winter or very early spring (during Lent). It's incredibly cold-hardy, and it lives for many years once established. Plant them in part shade to full shade.

purple crocuses

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The tiny cup-shaped blooms of this flower sometimes appear when snow is still on the ground. Plant them in the fall for spring displays. Not only do bees love them, but they're also a favorite treat of chipmunks and other resident rodents, so consider planting these in a pot layered under daffodil bulbs to (try!) to outsmart hungry critters. They flourish in full sun.

pink and white dianthus

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Dianthus is a perennial that comes in many forms from creeping to upright up to about 2 feet tall. It often has fringed petals, and its gorgeous colors include every shade of pink, white, coral and peach. Plant them in full sun.

purple tulips

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The queen of the springtime garden, tulips come in many colors and shapes, including single form, multiple flowers on a stem, and doubles, which resemble peonies. In most of the country, they're treated as annuals and new bulbs are planted every year. Plant these in the fall for spring blooms next year. They thrive in full sun.

lily of the valley

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Lily of the Valley

One of the most popular flowers for weddings, this old-fashioned perennial is covered with tiny white bell-shaped flowers that have an incredibly sweet fragrance in mid-spring. The Lily of the Valley is a fast-spreading ground-cover that can quickly take over an area, so don't plant it too close to other shade perennials. It thrives well in part to full shade.

purple lupine

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Pollinators love the tall, stately spikes of white, purple, and pink lupine. This perennial will survive in most climates and makes an attractive vertical accent in the garden. It grows from 20 to 40 inches tall, depending on the variety. Lupine does best in part shade to full sun.

View the original story on OprahMag.com: The 15 Best Spring Flowers for a Bright, Beautiful Garden.