Spring bulbs aren't just ordinary plants. Their flowers, which bloom in various colors, are vibrant enough to breathe life into the drabbest flower border. Beauty's one thing; timeliness is another. Spring-flowering bulbs reappear just when we most need color: early spring. To enjoy the treat of seeing them push up through the soil in spring, though, remember to plant them at the right time (and in the right way) in fall, according to your growing zone.
When to Plant Spring Bulbs:
01 of 07
There are various alliums, which come in many heights and with flower heads of different sizes. Allium Ambassador (zones 5 to 8; all of the spring bulbs listed here are hardy to at least zone 5) stands out in two ways:
02 of 07
Hyacinthus orientalis (6 to 12 inches tall) also comes in red, white, blue, pink, lavender, yellow, peach, and salmon, but the deep-purple type may be the most striking. If you want to go even deeper, Midnight Mystic produces black flowers. Hyacinths produce clusters of waxy, fragrant, star-fish-shaped flowers.
People may not think immediately of reticulated irises (Iris reticulata) when mention is made of irises, since the flower is smaller than most. But they make up for this by being early bloomers. The delicacy of the flowers is also valued, but they aren't fragrant. These plants are shorter than most irises (9 inches).
03 of 07
With its aromatic yellow trumpets, the classic daffodil (Narcissus) is one of the most popular spring bulbs; King Alfred is an example (a medium-sized spring bulb at 1 to 2 feet tall). But daffodils come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, including miniatures and those with cups rather than trumpets. A selling point for daffodils is that squirrels tend not to eat them (squirrels may, however, dislodge your bulbs), because they are poisonous plants.
Although they are classified as corms, crocuses such as Crocus vernus are grouped with spring bulbs for practical purposes. Crocus vernus is one of the earliest spring-bloomers. But Crocus sativus and the similar Colchicum autumnale bloom in fall. Besides yellow, common colors are purple, white, and lavender.
04 of 07
Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are short spring bulbs (3 to 6 inches) known for blooming early (thus the "snow" in the name). The tiny flowers won't make much of a statement on solitary plants, so mass them together to create an impact (good advice for all spring-bulb plantings, but especially for the smaller types). The plants multiply on their own over time.
For bigger plants, grow giant snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii), which reach 1 foot tall. So do the similar spring snowflakes (Leucojum vernum).Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Don't confuse grape hyacinth (Muscari botryoides) with Hyacinthus orientalis. Both smell great, but grape hyacinth bears tiny flowers in clusters reminiscent of grape clusters. Height is 6 to 10 inches.
Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) are lavender-blue rather than true blue. They also come in white and pink. Height is up to 16 inches.
06 of 07
Depending on variety, tulips (Tulipa) stand 10 to 30 inches tall. Flowers come in orange, yellow, red, pink, white, and purple; some are bi-colored. For continuous sequence of bloom, you could grow, for example:
- Fosteriana (early-flowering)
- Triumph (mid-season bloomer)
- Lily-Flowered (late-flowering)
At 3 to 4 feet tall, crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis) is the tallest spring bulbs. But it's also the most short-lived. Besides orange, it flowers in yellow or reddish.
07 of 07
Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa) gives you another pink option, although it also blooms in blue and white. This early-bloomer and Scilla look-alike stands 4 to 5 inches tall. If you have an open spot in your rock garden that could use some spring color, plug it with a planting of these glorious spring bulbs.
Spring bulbs are so called because they bloom in spring, but you must first plant them in fall. The colder your climate, the earlier in fall you should plant them. Make sure you know which end is up when planting, and follow a few basic care tips to ensure your enjoyment of these beauties year after year. They come in enough different colors to satisfy any color palette.