It’s time to set the stage for brilliant spring color by choosing bulbs to plant in the fall to enjoy in your beds, borders, and containers in the spring. Plant before the middle of October for sheer joy next spring. For the optimal visual effect, plant in multiple groupings of 10–20 bulbs around existing perennials and shrubs, which will subsequently disguise the late-spring browning of the spent bulb flowers and leaves.
There are so many to choose from, so I’ve picked 10 of my favorites to narrow your choices:
Crocus are one of the most highly anticipated sights in the early spring garden. Upright, tubular flowers come in shades of white, pink, purple, blue, yellow, orange, bicolors, and patterns.
Daffodils are a sure sign of spring with their cheerful trumpet-shaped flowers. They’re available in a wide array of sizes and forms, with colors of yellow, white, orange, peach, and bicolors.
The hyacinth is one of the most intensely fragrant spring bulbs, with short 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 their sweet fragrance can be enjoyed up close.
Tulips are one of the most recognized spring flowers, with cup-shaped blooms in nearly every color except true blue. There are literally 100s of species to choose from, including dwarf forms to regal Darwin hybrids.
Iris, in all its types, is one of the most beloved spring bloomers, with flowers in nearly every color and pattern imaginable. The species include early spring-blooming dwarf iris and the stately Japanese iris, which flowers in summer. Some irises rebloom in late summer or fall. Iris grows from rhizomes or bulbs. Blue Flag Iris is the official emblem of Quebec.
Allium are grown for their stately blooms on tall stalks reaching 24-48”. Spherical flower heads in shades of mauve, pink, blue, yellow, or white are also highly attractive to bees and other pollinators.
Fritillaria are less common but add a unique touch to the spring garden with their nodding, bell-shaped flowers in white, yellow, chocolate, orange, red, and purple, some with patterns or bicolors. This underutilized bulb deserves wider use in the urban garden.
Winter Aconite is an early-blooming groundcover that bursts from the ground in early spring, even before the first crocus. Cheerful yellow, buttercup-like flowers are surrounded by a collar of dark green foliage that emerges after the flowers fade. Winter aconite spreads readily, combining well with other early bloomers such as snowdrops, crocus, and hellebores, and is especially attractive in rock gardens.
Glory of the Snow
Glory of the Snow is one of the earliest bulbs to flower and is named for its ability to poke out from underneath the cover of snow. Clusters of star-shaped, upward-facing flowers appear in blue, pink, or white. Plants are exceptionally hardy and naturalize readily.
Anemone Blanda (a.k.a. Grecian Windflower) is a rewarding little spring blooming groundcover grown from rhizomes that offers long-lasting daisy-like flowers that show off in shades of purple, blue, pink, or white.
About the Author
Patricia is a long-time resident of the Alta Vista area of Ottawa with 30+ years of gardening experience. If you’d like to share your thoughts about this article or reach out for design and planting advice for your garden, please contact Patricia by email: OttawaPlantByNumbers@gmail.com or on Instagram: @ottawaplantbynumbers