16 Beautiful Spring Flowers in the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden
Tulip Trials in the Test Garden
In the Better Homes & Gardens Test Garden, we evaluate tons of bulb varieties like these tulips 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.
'Lilac Beauty' Crocus
Dwarf Daffodils and Glory of the Snow
'Cretica Hilde' Tulip
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.
This bright orange-red species tulip is like a neon beacon in the spring garden. Around 5–7 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.
'Pink Impression' Tulip
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. In fact, as perennials grow, their foliage will help to hide the yellowing bulb foliage.
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 will die back, and plants will be dormant until fall when the leaves will re-emerge. As you add new bulbs to your garden each autumn, the grape hyacinth foliage will remind you not to dig in those places.
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 14–16 inches tall and looks terrific planted among groundcovers like Stachys byzantina (lambs’ ear).
Unlike many other types of bulbs, the native Camassia leichtlinii (also known by the Native American name of great camass or quamash) actually 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.
'Gravetye Giant' Summer Snowflake
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.
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 nice cut flower. Definitely add this treasure to your garden!
'Globemaster' Ornamental Onion
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. Seen here is Allium ‘Globemaster’, a great accent to this spring perennial border. At 18–24 inches tall, ‘Globemaster’ has deep lavender flower heads about 6–8 inches in diameter. The bulbs are large, so be sure to plant them deep (three times bulb diameter) in autumn.