With cool weather approaching it’s time to start thinking about bulbs to plant in the fall. There’s an endless variety of bulbs available in stores and online but you’ll get a better selection from specialty internet stores.
I’m sure you’re all familiar with tulips, daffodils, crocuses and hyacinths, but there is no reason to stop there! The world of bulbs is full of spring and early summer color ready to be added to your landscape.
I’m not calling them uncommon because they’re hard to find, in fact most of them can be easily found online. But you likely won’t see them in the stores and they probably weren’t on your list to plant in the coming months. Chances are good you’ll find at least one you haven’t heard of!
Called Windflowers, these small woodland flowers grow from ~5 cm shriveled black corms. The 4 inch tall plants bloom in April in white, pink or purple/blue and then go dormant until the next spring. Anemone spread via tuber and self-sow their seed so they are useful for naturalizing in woodland gardens.
If you’re looking for a bulb that can handle a little bit more moisture this is a great place to start. The bulbs send up flower stalks in May/June in shades of blue and purple as well as white.
They grow best in full sun and make excellent cut flowers. Like Anemone they naturalize well in wet areas. Depending on variety they grow from 15 to 30 inches tall.
I planted a few dozen in my orchard around the trees. They bloom a few weeks after the daffodils.
Known as Glory of the Snow these diminutive flowers are stunning planted in large drifts. Deer-proof and early the 4-8 inch tall plants send up blue, pink, purple or white flowers in March and April.
These strange looking flowers are also known as “Winter Aconite”. The bright yellow blooms appear in march and April atop green re-curved leaves, sort of resembling those dolls you make out of hollyhocks. They grow 4 inches tall and prefer moist soil and partial shade.
Also called Foxtail Lilies, they don’t grow from bulbs, instead they are spidery looking tubers planted in the fall at the same time as tulips and daffodils.
They are large plants requiring their space and send up giant bushy flower spires in a variety or reds, oranges and yellows as well as white. They bloom in May/June and can reach 3-6 feet tall.
Dog-toothed Violets or Trout Lilies, these plants grow 12-14 inches tall. They prefer moist soils and partial shade. The drooping yellow, pink or white flowers bloom April/May.
Fritillaria flowers resemble upside down tulips, they hang down singly or in clusters on tall spires. The Guinea Hen flower has a checkerboard pattern in shades of purple and other species flower in yellows and orange.
They range in size from 6-36 inches tall. Fritillaria are more delicate than most bulbs and require quick planting. They do best in filtered sunlight and have a scent described as slightly skunky.
This one isn’t really uncommon but I’d say it’s less well known than the major bulbs. Snowdrops are one of my favorites because they show up so early. Long before the first daffodils show their cheery heads and even beating out crocus in the race to flower snowdrops flower in early March through April.
Bluebells are a close relative of the Chionodoxa and they are also good for naturalizing in woodland areas and considered deer proof.
They do best in moist soil and light shade where they reach 12-15 inches tall with white, pink or blue flowers. They can be invasive in some areas so that’s worth looking into.
Spring Starflower are related to onions and when crushed the foliage smells like onion. They grow 3-5 inches tall and have 1 inch flowers in shades of blue and white. They will naturalize in a woodland setting and are deer-proof.
If you’re looking for a gorgeous book with more information than you could possible need about blubs, tubers, rhizomes and corms try to track down the book Bulb (affiliate link), it’s on amazon right now for really cheap but only from third part sellers.
I picked mine up on the clearance rack at Barnes and Nobles when I was picking up a book for a baby shower. It’s full of so much information! Every plant is described in detail with a beautiful picture and includes some insight on the origins and best practices for growing.
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