Where to See the Best Spring Blossoms in Portland
They say April showers bring May flowers, and that classic springtime expression is especially true of spring in Portland, the City of Roses. After a gray, cloudy winter, all that Pacific Northwest rain results in incredible spring blooms, like the famous Portland cherry blossoms. From delicate white trilliums and dainty pink cherry blossoms to vibrant rhododendrons and azaleas, every spring an explosion of color and sweet scents spreads across Portland. And no need to wait for May for the spring flowers, the blooming starts as early as March. These spots around and near the city are the best places to see Portland spring flowers at their spectacular best.
This waterfront park in downtown Portland is inarguably the best place to see the iconic Portland cherry blossoms. Spanning over 36 acres along the Willamette River, the park is home to 100 Akebono cherry blossom trees that erupt into breathtaking bloom each spring just like the famous sakura cherry blossom trees of Japan. Walk beside the river as tiny pink flowers swirl and fall around on gentle breezes around you. The grove is located toward the northern end of the park near the Japanese American Historical Plaza, a memorial for the 120,000 Japanese Americans that were forced into internment camps during World War 2.
The trees were actually gifted to Portland in 1990 by the Japanese Grain Importers Association, connecting Portland to its sister city of Sapporo, Japan and reminding locals and visitors alike of the fleeting joys of spring. And fleeting they can be. Typically blooming in late March or early April, these delicate cherry blossoms don’t stick around long so don’t delay going to see them.
Another can’t-miss place to see Portland cherry blossoms is on the manicured, tranquil grounds of the Portland Japanese Garden. Considered to be the best Japanese garden outside of Japan, this 5.5-acre complex in Washington Park contains eight immaculately-maintained gardens representing different traditional Japanese garden designs. A place for serenity, reflection and communion with nature, a stroll along the peaceful walkways past koi-filled ponds, trickling waterfalls and Zen rock gardens is sure to center and calm you. A wonder to behold throughout the year, the garden’s cherry blossoms bloom into soft clouds of pink each spring. Surrounded by the quiet beauty of the garden, it’s as if you’re experiencing the sakura bloom in Japan itself.
Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden
Every spring, this 9-acre garden in Southeast Portland becomes awash in shades of purple and pink as its 2,500 rare and wondrous rhododendron and azalea plants wake up from their winter nap. Opened in 1950 as a test garden, here you'll also encounter a variety of hybrid and test breeds. Along with the springtime blooms, the park is home to the idyllic Crystal Springs Lake, streams, waterfalls and almost 100 different species of birds and waterfowl. During April and May, which are also the best months to see the flowers in bloom, you can come for hotly-anticipated events like the Early Blooming Rhododendron and Daffodil Show to marvel at the flowers and even purchase rhododendron plants to take home for your own collection.
International Rose Test Garden
There’s a good reason Portland is known as the City of Roses. We’ve been obsessed with this flower since the late 1880s, when the Portland Rose Society was founded by Georgiana Burton Pittock and roses started being planted throughout the city. Although these classic symbols of love and romance can be found around Portland, the best place to experience them is at a Portland rose garden. The most famous is, of course, the International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. Along with stunning views of downtown Portland and Mount Hood, this sunny park is home to over 10,000 rose bushes and more than 650 different varieties that start blooming in April. Wander the rows to admire the colors, ranging from golden yellow to the deepest red, and discover the unique names given to each plant.
While the International Rose Test Garden gets most of the fame, locals know of another secret and equally gorgeous Portland rose garden. North Portland’s Peninsula Park also has a lovely rose garden, which was actually the first public rose garden in Portland. Also, you can see Portland’s love for roses in full swing at the Portland Rose Festival, held each June with giant parades and local events.
The only state park in Oregon located within a metropolitan area, this lush, woodsy wilderness escape 15 minutes from downtown is one of the best places to see a Pacific Northwest favorite in bloom. With 3 dainty white petals and a yellow center, the native trillium flower can be found in abundance throughout the region but blooms in abundance here. They’re also one of the earliest blooming Portland spring flowers, so you can start looking for them along the trails as early as late February or at the beginning of March. Come April, as the petals start to turn burgundy red, the annual Trillium Festival is held here to celebrate the return of this indigenous flower, with educational talks, guided hikes and more.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm and Festival
Find a piece of Holland right here in Oregon at this beloved yearly event where you can tip-toe your way through fields of vibrant, Technicolor tulips. If you have the means of getting out of town, head to the town of Woodburn less than an hour away for the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. This nearly 40-year-old festival, which lasts from mid-March to early May, is held on a charming farm and winery that is home to 40 acres of eye-catching, colorful tulips in over a hundred varieties. You can wander through the fields for plenty of flower-filled photo opps, purchase bouquets and bulbs, browse local produce and artisan goods at the crafts market and much more. On clear days, you can even see the snowcapped peak of Mount Hood on the horizon. For the best view point of these flora-filled fields, go for a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the farm.
Another must-visit if you can get out of town is the Tom McCall Preserve in the nearby Columbia River Gorge. Located on a large plateau overlooking the gorge, this top-of-the-world nature preserve with epic views for days is one of the best places to see spring flowers near Portland. With over 200 types of plants, the fields and meadows turn into an Expressionist painting of colorful wildflowers each spring. Although the views of the gorge are spectacular, don’t forget to turn your eyes downward to see everything from purple lupines to sunflower-esque balsam root. The bulk of the blooms happen in April and May, so that’s the best time to visit. It’s also when the preserve is at its busiest, so visiting early in the day to avoid the crowds is recommended.
There are plenty of other places around Washington Park to see Portland cherry blossoms and spring flowers. Looming over downtown Portland with one of the best views of the city as well as Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and the Cascades, this 410-acre mountainous park full of verdant greenery, fun attractions and cultural institutions is one of the reasons Portland is known as an outdoor haven.
Just across the street from the Japanese Garden entrance, a grove of cherry blossom trees showers nearby tennis courts and pathways with pink petals. Head to the Hoyt Arboretum for even more Portland spring flowers like trilliums, dogwood and magnolia blossoms, cherry blossoms, tweedy reds and so much more. Go for a hike or walk on any of the arboretum’s many trails to see these spring flowers as well as some of the 2,000 trees and plants from around the world that thrive here.