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
Fosteriana tulips bloom early in the spring with large cup-shape flowers. The large bloom size has earned them the alternate name of Emperor tulips. The flowers may be red, orange, yellow, pink, or white, and some varieties are fragrant. Foliage may be glossy green or gray-green. Some are mottled or striped with maroon.
Use Fosteriana tulips in mass plantings, beds and borders, or containers. They naturalize well.
Pictured above: Orange Emporer tulip
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
Greigii tulips are also known as Greig's tulips and Turkestan tulips, a reference to the geographic origin of the species from which these hybrids derive. They are shorter than most tulips, averaging about 10 inches tall. Flowers appear in midspring. Most varieties are bright shades of red, yellow, pink, white, or bicolor combinations of these hues. The foliage tends to be mottled in purple, creating additional texture in the garden.
Because greigii tulips are short, they're perfect for the front of the border, rock gardens, or container plantings. They naturalize well.
Pictured above: Rob Verlinden tulip
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 are available in nearly every color of the rainbow, including white, red, orange, yellow, and purple. Pastel colors of pink, peach, apricot, and cream are also available. Generally, the flowers are borne on short, strong stems, which means they can tolerate wind and rain better than some types of tulips. Those with the shortest stems may not work well as cut flowers, but those in the taller range make fine bouquets. Some varieties are fragrant, too.
Use single early tulips in flowerbeds, borders, container gardens, rock gardens, or for indoor forcing. Because they bloom early, they generally need less chilling to force them into bloom than later-blooming types.
Shown above: Purple Prince tulip
Single late tulips are also sometimes called May flowering tulips because in most regions they bloom in May after all other types of tulips have finished. These tall tulips grow up to 30 inches tall, making them excellent as cut flowers. They come in a wide range of colors, including red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, black, and white as well as bicolors and blends.
Pictured above: Dreamland tulip
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
Viridiflora tulips all have green streaks on their petals. In fact, the name comes from the Latin words for green and flower. However, green is far from the only color on their blooms. They are available in shades of yellow, white, pink, red, orange, purple, or dual tones.
Flowering time of viridiflora tulips is variable, but most are late-season bloomers, and the flowers are long-lasting. Stem heights range from 16 to 24 inches tall.
Pictured above: Flaming Springgreen tulip
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.