16 Beautiful Spring Flowers in the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden

'Pink Impression' tulip variety
Photo: Sandra Gerdes

Every spring, thousands of bulbs bloom in our Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden. To help guide your future plantings, here are a few favorites that are brightening up our beds and borders.

01 of 16

Tulip Trials in the Test Garden

trial tulips growing in the test garden
Sandra Gerdes

In the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden, we evaluate tons of bulb varieties to identify the best selections for enhancing your gardens and landscapes. We also trial annuals, perennials, shrubs, and edible plants. Our Test Garden is located in Des Moines, Iowa, in USDA Hardiness Zone 5b, so double-check your zone and the growing conditions in your garden before planting any of these favorite varieties.

02 of 16

'Lilac Beauty' Crocus

purple crocuses in garden
David Speer

Crocus are among the earliest flowers in the Test Garden. The bulbs are small, so you can easily plant them by the hundreds each fall. This variety, 'Lilac Beauty', returns reliably each year. Remember, however, that bunnies find these early bloomers a tasty treat!

03 of 16

Striped Squill

striped squill miniature flowering bulbs on blue background
Carson Downing

Also appearing early in the garden is Puschkinia scilloides, or striped squill, with star-shape white flowers that have a blue stripe on each petal. At only 3 inches tall, these beauties are not bothered by deer or rabbits and multiply quickly to give you a bigger patch each year.

04 of 16

Snowdrops

Galanthus snowdrops growing in test garden
Sandra Gerdes

Another small but early bulb is Galanthus, or snowdrops. Despite being only a few inches tall, these pristine white flowers with their delicate green markings almost glow against dark soil or mulch. Plant the tiny bulbs in clusters along the edges of your beds or pathways and watch them naturalize.

05 of 16

Dwarf Daffodils and Glory of the Snow

Dwarf daffodils and glory of the snow flowers growing together
Sandra Gerdes

Tiny bulbs that bloom at the same time are fun to plant together. This dwarf daffodil, 'Little Gem', makes a great partner for Chionodoxa forbesii, or glory of the snow, since both are about 5 inches tall and flower early. Plant small bulbs in large drifts for greater impact.

06 of 16

'Cretica Hilde' Tulip

'Cretica Hilde' tulip variety blooming in test garden
Sandra Gerdes

Tulips come in many sizes and shapes. On the small end of the range are species tulips—often only a few inches tall and having narrow strappy leaves, as seen here with Tulipa 'Cretica Hilde'. This multi-flowering tulip may have three white blooms tinged with pink per tiny stem, but don't let its dainty appearance fool you. It's native to the mountains of Crete and tough enough to grow in rocky soils. Plant it where you can enjoy it up close.

07 of 16

'Fusilier' Tulip

'Fusilier' tulip variety in test garden
Sandra Gerdes

This bright orange-red species tulip is like a neon beacon in the spring garden. Around 5 to 7 inches tall, Tulipa praestans 'Fusilier' can have up to four cup-shape flowers per stem and may return each year if given good drainage. All tulips, especially the smaller species bulbs, should be planted in sunny spots where the soil drains well.

08 of 16

'Pink Impression' Tulip

'Pink Impression' tulip variety
Sandra Gerdes

In contrast to the smaller species tulips, large hybrid tulips like 'Pink Impression' will be taller with wider leaves and strong stems (good for cutting). Because of their size, hybrid tulips can easily be planted among perennials and small shrubs without getting lost. As perennials grow, their foliage will help to hide the yellowing bulb foliage.

09 of 16

'Parade' Tulip

'Parade' tulip variety
Sandra Gerdes

The hybrid tulip 'Parade' is sure to be the grand marshal wherever you plant it. A mid-season bloomer often reaching 15–20 inches tall, 'Parade' is bright red with a yellow base and a black center inside. It comes back reliably in our garden, where it's planted near junipers and Japanese maple trees.

10 of 16

Grape Hyacinth

pile of grape hyacinth
Jason Donnelly

Muscari armeniacum, or grape hyacinth, makes a good companion for many taller bulbs like tulips and daffodils. It makes an amazing display when planted in large drifts, bordering beds or pathways or tucked under deciduous trees. After flowering, the foliage dies back, and plants are dormant until fall, when the leaves reemerge. As you add new bulbs to your garden each autumn, the grape hyacinth foliage reminds you not to dig in those places.

11 of 16

Narcissus 'Thalia'

'Thalia' daffodil variety
Sandra Gerdes

Reliably returning year after year in the Test Garden, Narcissus 'Thalia' is an heirloom daffodil (1916). It spreads over time, adding a graceful touch and soft fragrance to beds and borders with its out-facing white blooms. With up to three flowers per stem, 'Thalia' stands 14 to 16 inches tall and looks terrific planted among groundcovers like Stachys byzantina (lambs' ear).

12 of 16

Narcissus 'Firetail'

'Firetail' daffodil variety
Sandra Gerdes

Blooming in late spring, Narcissus 'Firetail' has eye-catching white flowers with bright orange cups that dance in the breeze. It works especially well when planted among daylilies in the Test Garden because by the time its leaves start dying back, the daylily foliage grows tall enough to hide it.

13 of 16

Great Camass

Quamash Camassia leichtlinii Caerulea
Jacob Fox

Unlike many other types of bulbs, the native Camassia leichtlinii (also known by the Native American name of great camass or quamash) prefers soils with plenty of spring moisture. Camassia flowers open first at the bottom of the stem and continue opening up to the tip in colors of cream, white, pale blue, or purple. Seen here among daylilies and a groundcover of vinca, Camassia leichtlinii caerulea is a rich lavender-blue that blooms in our Zone 5 garden in May and is not bothered by rabbits or deer.

14 of 16

'Gravetye Giant' Summer Snowflake

'Gravetye Giant' summer snowflake flowers
Sandra Gerdes

Scattered in clumps throughout our Test Garden is Leucojum aestivum 'Gravetye Giant', a true winner in its ability to tolerate moist soils and sun to part shade. Also known as summer snowflake, 'Gravetye Giant' begins blooming in mid-spring, sending up 20-inch-tall stems of small, bell-shape white flowers with distinctive green dots.

15 of 16

Silver Bells

Silver bells flowers in test garden

A less common variety, Ornithogalum nutans, or silver bells, is an 8- to 12-inch-tall heirloom bulb (1629) that blooms in late spring with silvery-white and pale green star-shape flowers. It's tolerant of shade, not bothered by deer, and makes a lovely cut flower. Definitely add this treasure to your garden!

16 of 16

Ornamental Onion

purple and white Allium foliage
Carson Downing

A spring garden would not be complete without Allium, or ornamental onion. These bulbs have flowers ranging in sizes from marble to soccer ball and in colors including pink, white, yellow, and purple. Rabbits and deer tend to leave ornamental onions alone, while pollinators appreciate the blooms' nectar and pollen.

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