Springtime flowering bulbs get a lot of attention, but there are bulbs that bloom in summer and autumn, too. Flowering bulbs, which are planted individually and may be annuals, biennials, or perennials, produce a wide variety of blooms and foliage. Bulbs work beautifully in flower beds or containers, and can be used to accent other plants or make a stunning statement when grouped together. Choosing the right flowering spring, summer, and autumn bulb for your yard is now even easier: The Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia allows you to search bulbs by size or season, as well as problem-solving uses. Information for each bulb will help you learn about hardiness zone, sun or shade requirements, other special features, and planting suggestions. View a list of bulbs by common name or scientific name below.
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Poet's daffodils are also sometimes called poeticus or pheasant-eye daffodils. The latter designation derives from their red-rimmed yellow or green cups that resemble a pheasant's eye against the backdrop of the bulb's white petals. The flowers are borne one to a stem and are fragrant.
This division of daffodils, like all others, is resistant to deer and rabbit damage. The plants are drought-tolerant and naturalize readily.
Small-cup daffodils have all the same qualities of large-cup and trumpet daffodils, with the exception of the size of their cups. To be classified as a small-cup daffodil, the cup must be less than one-third the length of the petals.
Most small-cup daffodils bear only one flower per stem. Blooms may be yellow, white, pink, or bicolor, and some are fragrant. Daffodils make good cut flowers. Plants may be full-size or miniature. All varieties in this class are deer- and rabbit-resistant.
Split-cup daffodils are so named because varieties in this division have a central cup that's cut -- usually for more than half its length. They are sometimes called butterfly daffodils because the split sections of the cup fold back against the petals, resembling spread butterfly wings.
In other respects, split-cup daffodils resemble standard trumpet or large-cup daffodils. They bear one flower per stem and come in the full range of daffodil colors: white, yellow, pink, orange, and bicolor. Some varieties are fragrant, and all are resistant to deer and rabbit damage.
Tazetta daffodils are commonly called paperwhite narcissus. They have multiple blooms per stem, with as few as three or as many as 20. Most are extremely fragrant and may be forced to bloom indoors for a touch of spring in late winter. You can force the bulbs in pots or in pebbles with water.
Outdoors, plant paperwhite narcissus in well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. They are deer- and rabbit-resistant.
Triandrus daffodils usually have two or more flowers per stem. The petals on each flower flare backward and bend down at the neck. Most daffodils in this group are sweetly scented and appear in shades of white and yellow.
Long-lived triandrus daffodils are good for naturalizing in drought-prone areas and make excellent cut flowers. Deer and rabbits avoid eating them, and few other pests bother them.
Nothing beats a dahlia for summer color. Growing these varied, spiky flowers is like having a box of garden crayons at your disposal. The flowers form on branching, fleshy stems or open in solitary splendor on the bedding-plant types in mid- to late summer. Several different flower categories, from the petite mignonettes to the gigantic dinner-plate dahlias, offer possibilities for any space.
Expert dahlia growers recommend pinching off the first crop of side flower buds to encourage vigorous plant branching and larger flowers in peak season. All dahlias are fodder for brilliant seasonal cut bouquets and are always one of the most popular cut flowers at local farmer's markets. Their blooming season extends into fall and is only halted by the first frost.
Gardeners in climates colder than Zone 8 should cut back the withered foliage after the first frost and dig up tubers to store over winter. For a fast start with dahlia plants before it's safe to plant outdoors, pot the tubers up, water sparingly and grow in a sunny location until sprouts appear, and then transplant outdoors after the last frost.
Dog's-tooth violets are the first sign of spring in the mountains, and domesticated varieties bring alpine glory to the garden. Their twisted, reflexed flower petals that bend over rosette leaves are a welcome discovery among last season's fallen leaves. The bulbs are native to woodlands and must be sited in well-draining soil rich in organic matter to flourish in home gardens.
Elephant's ears are big, dramatic, tropical-looking plants grown for their bold foliage. Aptly named, many bear triangular leaves that are leathery and uniquely textured. These tropical plants enjoy the boggy soils around water gardens and can also be grown indoors as houseplants. The clumping foliage adds lush effects in the landscape and is especially effective in large containers. The plants sprout from large bulbous roots and achieve maximum growth in warm, humid summer temperatures.
Wood hyacinths or Spanish bluebells have spires of nodding, bell-shape blooms in mid-spring. In pink, white, and blue, their pastel hues are beautiful intermixed or planted separately for drifts of the same color.
They complement late-blooming varieties of tulips. Native to Spain and Portugal, wood hyacinths are excellent naturalizers.
This wonderfully colorful, old-fashioned plant is easy to grow and great for a child's garden. Four o'clock earns its name because its lightly fragrant flowers open in late afternoon (or on cloudy days) and close the next morning.
Four o'clock is great for a bed or border and tends to reseed prolifically, assuring a steady supply for years to come. It also develops fleshy tubers that you can dig and store in a frost-free place for winter if you live north of Zone 8. Plant it outside after all danger of frost has passed.
These South African beauties scent the air in late spring to early summer with citrus-blossom perfume. Double-flowered hybrids provide an even showier display. The tubular flowers open on small branches called racemes. The stems twist below the flower buds so the blooms face upward to entice pollinators. Plant freesia corms in early spring; they require cool nights to set their blooms. By allowing the narrow, bladelike leaves to dry up naturally at the end of the season, you'll have a plumper corm to store for next year's flowers. Potted freesia plants displayed on a patio or sunny porch will share their fragrance up close for your enjoyment.
The most dramatic of spring-flowering bulbs, crown imperial is as easy to grow as any of its Fritillaria cousins. It's easy to care for, as the bulbs and flowers possess a scent that deters even the hungriest critters.
Especially well-suited to woodland plantings and open rock gardens, fritillaries deserve to be better known among bulb gardeners. Their bell-shape blooms are highly unusual and showy in form and color.
The retro look of gladiolus flowers is popular once again. These easy-to-grow bulbs bring a lot to the garden party, including a huge color palette, vertical interest, and bloom times that harmonize well with summer's most colorful perennials. Plus, they're a versatile cut flower, and the ruffled single florets can even be plucked off the stem and arranged in vases and bowls. The perfumed Abyssinian gladiolus is a rare plant that everyone can enjoy.
You can't help but be wowed by gloriosa lily's fantastical flowers. This climbing vine offers spidery blooms that look a bit like fireballs because the petals curve back and appear in glowing shades of red and yellow.
While gloriosa lily is a tender bulb, gardeners in cold-winter climates can grow it by storing the tubers in a frost-free place for winter.
An early-blooming charmer, glory-of-the-snow will quickly spread, quilting the layers under larger plants with patches of spring pink, white, or blue blooms -- even through drifts of snow. The flowers look somewhat like a wild, loose hyacinth. The starry, six-petaled blossoms stay in bloom for a few weeks. Plant glory-of-the-snow in the fall in any well-drained soil, and then sit back and wait for the show to begin.
Capable of blooming anytime during the year, regal gloxinias produce rich, colored flowers. Exclusively cultivated for indoor gardening, gloxinia will not successfully transplant outdoors. But that's just as well, because you'll enjoy its tropical blooms better inside. Growing 8-12 inches tall, the soft, fragile-looking gloxinia blooms are surrounded by large, dramatic-looking leaves. Gloxinia does best in bright, but indirect, light and enjoys temperatures of 60-75 degrees F.
Gloxinia blooms 4-10 weeks after planting. If you are potting up a gloxinia for the first time, use a 6-inch pot with adequate drainage and place one tuber per container. The soil mixture should allow maximum drainage; a commercial African violet mixture is good. When potting, set the tuber in the soil with the round side down, and leave its tip barely above the soil. Water generously. When the first buds appear, feed with a dilute solution of liquid houseplant food.
Grape hyacinths paint the spring landscape in stunning shades of blue, purple, white, or yellow and offer up a sweet scent of grape bubblegum as well. These easy-care bulbs are frequently mass-planted to create a river effect in borders. Their tranquil look makes a great low background to the taller blooms of tulips. These undemanding small bulbs spread easily in any well-drained garden soil.
The perfume of blooming hyacinths is as symbolic of early spring as lilacs are to the late-spring garden. Hyacinth plants consist of chubby succulent leaves arranged around a central flower spike. Florets pack the flower column in tight clusters. Bulb hybridizers have been busy pushing the envelope on hyacinth colors and forms, and now hybrids are available in almost every color except black. The double forms have rosettelike flowers that add intriguing texture.
Hyacinths thrive in any well-drained soil in full to partial sun. Many varieties—usually the ones with the most robust flowers—will force easily indoors in soil or damp pebbles if planted and chilled until sprouts appear.
Just when you think winter is never going end, the cheery blue and yellow flowers of Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ burst into bloom. This flowers from this easy-care bulb may be short, but they're big on bold color, especially when planted in large groupings in a rock or woodland garden. Like other bulbs, Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ requires full sun (at least six hours a day) and well-drained soil. Plant the spring-blooming bulbs in autumn, placing them 4 inches deep in the soil. Over time, Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ will spread, slowly carpeting your garden with color. After the flowers fade, leave the foliage alone until it dries and disappears on its own.