This is the time of year to plant bulbs that will bloom in the spring. It takes a bit of faith to plant something that won’t sprout for months, but the thought of the first spring flowers can help lift your spirits during the winter.
There is a large number of flower bulbs that can be planted in the fall, including small snowdrops and tall alliums. These bulbs can be placed in beds, borders, containers, or in natural areas such as woods or places where they occur naturally. The following are some of the best spring-flowering bulbs and how to take care of them.
TULIP (Tulipa spp.)
Zones 3-8 are the best areas to plant tulip bulbs. They will get full sun in these areas and will bloom in the spring. They can grow to be 3 to 24 inches tall and 3 to 6 inches wide. You can use them in beds, borders, containers, along pathways, and foundations. They also make a good cut flower.
Tulips are flowers that are recognized by many people in the springtime. They have cup-shaped blooms and come in lots of different colors, except for blue. There are one hundred species and even more cultivars, which are types of tulips that have been specifically grown. Some of these tulips are very small, while others are quite large. You can plant tulips in a group with other bulbs, perennials, and annuals, and they will look nice together. Six to twelve is a good number to plant.
DAFFODIL (Narcissus spp.)
This plant grows best in full sun to partial shade and blooms in late winter to spring. It has an upright habit and can grow 4 to 24 inches tall and 2 to 3 inches wide, with clumps reaching up to 18 inches across. You can use it in mixed borders, rock gardens, or containers, or naturalize it in a woodland setting or natural area.
The flowers of daffodil are a sign of spring. There are hundreds of varieties in many sizes and forms, with colors of yellow, white, orange, peach, and bicolors. These reliable hardy bulbs are easy to grow and long-lived, providing years of spring color in the landscape.
HYACINTH (Hyacinthus orientalis)
Areas 4-8 in the United States that get full sun to partial shade are good places to grow this plant. It blooms in the spring. It has an upright habit and can grow 6-12 inches tall and 3-4 inches wide. It can be used to fill in borders and beds, and can also be grown in containers. It can also be forced to bloom indoors in a bulb vase.
Hyacinths are one of the most intensely fragrant spring bulbs, with spiky clusters of star-shaped flowers. Blooms come in a rainbow of colors including blue, purple, red, pink, orange, coral, yellow, and white. This easy care bulb combines well with other spring bulbs that bloom at the same time, such as daffodils and early tulips. Plant where the sweet fragrance can be enjoyed up close.
PERSIAN BUTTERCUP (Ranunculus asiaticus)
Zones 8-11 should have full sun exposure and bloom in the spring. The plant’s height should be 12-24 inches tall, and its width should be 4-6 inches wide. It can be planted in a cutting garden, bed, mixed border, or container with good drainage.
This plant is grown for its delicate ruffly flowers that are popular in floral arrangements and weddings bouquets. Its rose-like blooms occur in a wide range of pastel or hot colors on sturdy stems, and are long-lasting as a cut flower. In colder zones, its bulbs can be overwintered indoors in a cool dry place and planted outside in spring.
IRIS (Iris spp.)
Zones 3-9 can have full sun to partial shade and have an upright spreading habit. The height can be 4 to 48 inches tall and 3 to 24 inches wide. You can use it for a mass in beds or plant in mixed borders. Dwarf types can be planted in troughs or containers.
Bearded iris grow from thick, fleshy rhizomes that spread horizontally just below the soil surface. One of the most beloved spring bloomers is the elegant bearded iris, with flowers in nearly every color and pattern imaginable. There are many other iris species as well, from early spring blooming dwarf iris to stately Japanese iris, which flowers in summer. Some irises rebloom in late summer or fall. Plants grow from rhizomes or bulbs. Bearded iris grow from thick, fleshy rhizomes that spread horizontally just below the soil surface.
CROCUS (Crocus spp.)
Zones 3 to 8 are good for this plant, which needs full sun to partial shade. It blooms in spring, though some varieties bloom in fall. It has an upright colonizing habit; 3 to 6 inches tall, 2 to 4 inches wide. It can be mass along a pathway or at the front of a border, planted in containers, or naturalized in a woodland setting or underneath trees and shrubs.
Crocus flowers are one of the most pleasant sights in an early spring garden. They are reliable perennials that are easy to grow, and thrive in most zones. They come in a variety of colors including white, pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, bicolors, and patterns.
ALLIUM (Allium spp.)
Zones 4-10 are perfect for growing alliums, as they need full sun. They typically bloom in the spring, but some varieties can bloom in the summer as well. Alliums have an upright habit and can grow anywhere from 6 to 48 inches tall, and 3 to 10 inches wide. They’re perfect for planting in borders, rock gardens, or containers to add height and architectural interest. Alliums are also useful for filling in gaps and make great cut flowers that last a long time.
Ornamental alliums are grown for their attractive blooms. They have spherical flower heads that are 1 to 12 inches across and are made up of tiny star-shaped florets. The blooms come in shades of purple, pink, blue, yellow, or white.
CYCLAMEN (Cyclamen spp.)
Ideal for creating a naturalistic woodland scene, these plants have an upright mounding or spreading habit and grow 2 to 6 inches tall and 4 to 12 inches wide. Combine them with other early spring plants such as witch hazel, hellebores, and snowdrops for a beautiful display.
The following text is about a plant that begins growing in fall, goes dormant during warm summer months, and has lightly scented flowers with elegant upswept petals in shades of white, pink, or purple.
FREESIA (Freesia spp.)
Zones 9-10 are the ideal areas to grow this plant as it enjoys full sun to partial shade. It blooms in spring and summer, and has an upright habit, growing 12 to 24 inches tall and 3 to 6 inches wide. You can use it to add color to a garden bed, or grow it in a greenhouse or container for cut flowers.
This pretty flower is often used in bouquets and arrangements. It grows best in warm climates, but can also be grown in a greenhouse in colder areas.
SNOWDROPS (Galanthus spp.)
This plant needs to be exposed to full sun or partial shade and blooms in early spring. It has an upright spreading habit and grows 4 to 12 inches tall and 3 to 6 inches wide. You can use it to naturalize in a woodland setting, rock gardens, along pathways, and underneath deciduous trees and shrubs.
Snowdrops are small white flowers that bloom in early spring, often before the last of the snow has melted. They get their name from their resemblance to snowdrops of snow on a cold winter day. They are commonly found in woodlands and forest edges and are one of the first spring flowers to bloom.
GRAPE HYACINTH (Muscari armeniacum)
This plant does best in full sun to partial shade and blooms in mid-spring. It has an upright spreading habit and grows to be 6 to 9 inches tall and 3 to 6 inches wide. This plant is perfect for naturalizing in beds and borders, rock gardens, or woodland settings. You can also mass it along a pathway or slope, or plant it in troughs or containers. This plant also makes a great addition to a winter bloom force.
Grape hyacinths are named for their small clusters of fragrant flowers that resemble grapes. The deep blue color of the flowers is very desirable, and they look good with other spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. There are other types of Muscari that have flowers in shades of white, pink, lavender, or yellow. For the best effect, plant masses of bulbs, 25 or more at a time. Grape hyacinths are easy to grow, hardy, and reliable.
SIBERIAN SQUILL (Scilla siberica)
This plant does well in full sun to partial shade and blooms in early spring. It has an upright spreading habit and grows 3 to 6 inches tall and wide. You can use it to naturalize an area in open woodlands, or underneath deciduous trees and shrubs. You can also use it as a groundcover or combine it with other early bulbs such as daffodils andspecies tulips.
This bulb is very hardy, and blooms early in the spring. The flowers are blue and bell-shaped, and grow on thin stems. The bulbs multiply quickly, and the plants can also self-sow. There is also a white-flowering variety.
FRITILLARIA (Fritillaria spp.)
Full sun to partial shade is the best exposure for this plant and it will bloom in the spring. It has an upright spreading habit and will grow 12 to 24 inches tall and 8 to 24 inches wide. This plant is good to naturalize in woodland gardens, rockeries, and mixed borders. It can also be planted in troughs or containers.
Fritillaria flowers, which resemble bells nodding in the breeze, are a beautiful and unique addition to any spring garden. There are more than 100 species of Fritillaria, ranging in size from the small Michael’s flower to the large and bold crown imperial. Fritillaria flowers come in many colors, including white, yellow, chocolate, orange, red, and purple. Some Fritillaria flowers are two-toned or have patterns on them. Though not as popular as some other flowers, Fritillaria deserve more attention and use in landscaping.
SPANISH BLUEBELLS (Hyacinthoides hispanica)
This plant does best in full sun to partial shade and blooms in mid-spring. It has an upright spreading habit and grows to be 8 to 18 inches tall and 8 to 12 inches wide. It is a good choice for naturalizing in woodland settings, beds and borders, and underneath deciduous trees and shrubs.
The Spanish bluebell is a flower that is bell shaped and is known to be a very vibrant blue. It is also known to be able to handle different soil and light conditions very well. The plant is also known to be able to multiply and naturalize itself very well, to the point where it might become invasive in some regions.
WINTER ACONITE (Eranthis hyemalis)
This plant does well in zones 4-7 in full sun to partial shade. It blooms in late winter to early spring. It has a low spreading habit and is only 3 to 6 inches tall and wide. You can plant it underneath winter blooming shrubs such as witch hazel or viburnum. You can also naturalize it in woodland settings, borders, rock gardens, and lawns.
Cheerful yellow buttercup-like flowers on this groundcover bloom in late winter or early spring, even before the first crocus. Each flower is surrounded by a collar of divided leaf bracts, with dark green foliage emerging after the flowers fade. Winter aconite spreads readily and looks great combined with other early bloomers like snowdrop, species crocus, and hellebores. Plant a mass of them for the greatest impact in your landscape.
BUYING, PLANTING, AND GROWING SPRING FLOWERING BULBS
When to buy spring blooming bulbs:
Buy bulbs from online sources or garden centers from late summer to mid fall for the best selection. Garden centers carry potted bulbs in spring, though the selection is limited.
How to choose good bulbs:
Select bulbs that are big and solid. Shy away from bulbs that are natural, shriveled, or cracked.
When to plant spring bulbs:
In areas with colder climates, it is best to plant bulbs in either September or October, before the first hard frost of the season. For those in warmer regions, it is best to wait until the weather has cooled off some, typically in October or early November. However, in zones 9-11, bulbs should be treated as annuals. If planting bulbs that require pre-chilling, do so for 12 to 16 weeks and then plant them in the spring.
Where to plant spring bulbs:
Choose a site for planting that has the proper conditions for each variety of plant, taking into consideration the amount of light, temperature, and type of soil.
How to plant spring bulbs:
- Amend the planting area with compost or other organic matter, making sure there is adequate drainage to prevent bulb rot. For containers, use a high quality all-purpose potting mix.
- Plant bulbs at the proper depth, 2 to 3 times deeper than the bulb diameter. Place with the pointed side up and the root side down. Space smaller bulbs 3 to 4 inches apart; larger bulbs can be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart. Bulbs in containers may be grouped closer together. Plant in clumps of 6 to 12 or more for the greatest impact.
- In areas where rodents are a problem, bulbs may need to be protected with wire mesh or other deterrent.
Fertilizing spring bulbs:
Apply a slow-release granular fertilizer at the time of planting. This will help roots become established before winter sets in. Reapply annually when plants begin showing spring growth.
Watering spring bulbs:
Water planting area deeply immediately after planting and again before the ground freezes. When bulbs first show growth in spring, resume watering once a week or so if there hasn’t been measurable rain. Avoid overwatering to prevent bulb rot. Bulbs planted in containers dry out more quickly, so will need to be watered more frequently. Keep soil moist until bulbs die back completely.
Care after blooming:
After plants have flowered, let the leaves die back on their own. This way, the plant can store energy in the bulb for next year. Plant bulbs near perennials, such as hosta, which will grow and cover the bulb leaves. Once the leaves are entirely brown, clean them up.
Replacing bulbs every few years will result in more flowers. To do this, first dig up the bulbs, divide them, and replant them with some space in between each one.