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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Among the tallest of all tulips, Darwin Hybrids offer big, showy flowers that stand out in spring gardens. Blooms can reach 6 inches in diameter when fully open! They bloom in almost every color, including bicolors with striping, speckling, and edging. Their long stems make them great cut flowers, but that also means they need to be protected from wind so strong breezes don't snap the flowers off the stems.
Pictured above: Ad Rem tulip
Double-flowered tulips stand out because their blooms are packed with petals. Some have so many petals that they are referred to as peony-flowered tulips for their resemblance to those flowers. Bloom time depends on type; some bloom in early spring and others bloom late. Regardless of when they show off their flowers, the blossoms last a long time because the flowers have so much substance.
Double tulips' large, heavy blooms can be a drawback: Rains and strong winds easily damage the flowers, so plant them in a protected location. Or grow double tulips in containers that you can easily protect during storms. Staking the 10- to 16-inch-tall stems may also be necessary.
Pictured above: Uncle Tom tulip
Flowering in early spring, Fosteriana tulips are also known as Emperor tulips thanks to their massive flowers. The bright blossoms of Fosteriana tulips are a traffic-stopping way to welcome spring. Plant a large bed of them near a patio, porch, or sidewalk where you are sure to see them and enjoy the color they bring to the landscape after a long winter. Fosteriana tulips grow 8 to 20 inches tall making them great plants to pair with small bulbs like crocus and grape hyacinth to create a color show that extends from ground level up.
Fringed tulips got their name from the distinct frayed edge on their petals. This fringe may be the same color as the rest of the petal or it may contrast. The fringe makes the flowers appear full of substance.
The frayed edging comes from mutations in tulips of various categories, so the blooming time and heights vary. Most bloom in mid to late season and can reach 30 inches tall. Flower colors come in the same range as other tulips -- red, orange, yellow, pink, purple, and black.
Pictured above: Hamilton tulip
The Greigii group is among the most charming of all tulip varieties. They’re typically shorter than other types with large, colorful flowers in warm shades of red, orange, yellow, pink, and white. Most have foliage playfully variegated with purple spots. Blooming in early to midspring, these tulips are relatively long-lived compared to other hybrid tulips.
Though Greigii tulips have a more limited color range than many of their hybrid cousins, the flower size is sure to bring a wow factor to your spring yard. A range of varieties is available, including ‘Casa Grande’, which sports the largest flowers of any tulip to date.
Some of the most elegant of all spring bulbs, lily-flowering tulips have curved petals that stand majestically on top of strong, 16- to 24-inch-tall stems. On sunny days these tulips look like a beautiful six-pointed star when fully open. Lily-flowering tulips bloom late in the spring bulb season. Plant these tulips with grape hyacinths and miniature daffodils for a colorful display that will decorate the garden for 3 weeks or more.
Lily-flowering hybrids, like most tulips, bloom best the first year after planting. They often bloom again the second year after planting but with fewer and smaller flowers. Unlike daffodils, which are perennial and return year after year, lily-flowering tulips bloom only for a year or two. For the best display, plan to purchase and replant new bulbs each fall.
Parrot tulips are flamboyant with their curly, twisted, and fringed petals that resemble the colorful feathers of the tropical bird of the same name. However, their beak-shape buds are what earned them their moniker. Nearly all varieties of parrot tulip are vibrantly colored, and many are two-toned.
Parrot tulips bloom mid- to late season on stems ranging from 12 to 28 inches tall. Their huge blooms do not stand up well in windstorms or rain, so plant them in a sheltered location.
Pictured above: Flaming Parrot
Single Early Tulips bloom weeks before their long-stemmed siblings. Blooming on strong, sturdy stems 12 to 18 inches tall, Single Early Tulips stand up against rain and wind and all kinds of early-spring conditions. Available in a variety of hues, they are especially striking planted in drifts of 25 to 50 bulbs. Plant a swath of tulip color near your entry and celebrate the joy and color of spring.
Announce spring with fanfare with a large planting of Single Late Hybrid tulips. With massive flowers—some of the blossoms are 5 inches tall atop 24-inch-tall stems—in a rainbow of hues, late tulips typically bloom in late April and May. As their name indicates, they are the last to bloom. Count on them to appear after species tulips, parrot tulips, and the majority of daffodils. Because of their long stems, late tulips make great cut flowers. Snip the blossoms just before they fully open and plunge them into a vase of water. They will last for up to two weeks.
A result of crossing early and late single tulips, Triumph tulip varieties come in almost every imaginable color and make up the largest grouping of tulip types. As a group, they flower in early midseason and grow between 10-20 inches tall.
Triumph tulips make good cut flowers and work well for forcing into bloom indoors. They retain the classic cuplike shape of their single tulip parents.
Pictured above: Passionale tulip
Green stripes resembling paintbrush strokes decorate the outer petals of this distinctive group of tulips. Flowering on long stems, Viridiflora hybrid tulips, also called green tulips, make spectacular cutting flowers. Viridiflora hybrids trace their origins to “tulipmania” that swept the garden world in the 1600s. The striking blossoms debut in late spring and last several days in a vase. Plant large groups of viridiflora hybrids for an eye-catching garden display. Like other tulips, Viridiflora hybrids are susceptible to rodents and deer; plant them in a protected location to ensure plenty of flowers in spring.
Waterlily tulips are early-spring bloomers that get their common name from their resemblance to the blooms of waterlilies when their flowers are fully open. Also listed as Kaufmanniana tulips, the stems are quite short and sturdy, reaching only 4-10 inches tall. This characteristic makes them ideal for exposed sites or container gardens.
The foliage of waterlily tulips is either blue-green or mottled with deep maroon or brownish stripes. Plants perennialize well.
Shown above: Heart's Delight tulip
Little known and underused in spring gardens, leucojum earns its name from the Greek "white violet." Larger, but similar in looks to galanthus, leucojum has nodding, bell-shape blooms borne on stalks that, depending on the variety, are 9-14 inches tall.
The plants hold their bloom for one to two weeks. Leucojum autumnale is a small, fall-blooming cousin.
Plant leucojum in the fall in locations with sandy, well-drained soil that receive full sun or part shade. Plant bulbs 3-4 inches deep and 4 inches apart. Crowded clumps can be dug and divided after the foliage has withered in summer. This bulb naturalizes well and produces lovely, white, bell-shape blooms and attractive foliage that becomes more dense every year.
Celebrate the end of cold weather with winter aconite, one of the first blooming plants you’ll see in your yard before spring actually arrives. It sometimes appears so early (before crocus!) that the buttercup-like flowers burst up and out of the snow. This plant catches the eye in beds and borders, along pathways, and when mixed with crocus and other ephemerals in the lawn.