10 Spring-Blooming Bulbs You Should Plant This Fall

Crocuses and snowdrops in springtime.

 Matt Cardy / Getty Images

Garden bulbs that bloom in the spring are usually planted in the fall, and by choosing the right mix, you can look forward to a wondrous world of color in your garden starting as early as the late winter.

The fall might seem a long time in advance to start planning your spring garden, but the benefit is that by summertime, you'll know where the bare spots in the ground are, and which plants you might want to replace. Come fall, you’ll be ready to dig some holes, plop in some bulbs, and wait.

Here are 10 bulbs that can add a splash of color to your spring garden after blooming.

Warning

Some of the plants on this list are toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

1
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Tulip (Tulipa)

Red and yellow tulips in a garden.

Ali Majdfar / Getty Images

Tulips are one of the first flowers to kiss the sun, blooming in late winter to early spring. With varieties small and large that bloom in both soft hues and louder, psychedelic colors, there’s a tulip to match every garden.

While tulips are technically perennial flowers, their hybridization over time has prompted most gardeners to treat them like others annuals. As they tend to weaken and die, larger varieties often need to be replaced every couple of years. However, smaller varieties like the "late tulip" (Tulipa tarda) tend to spread and multiply without any help. Be sure to plant them in a spot that gets full or afternoon sun.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy or sandy, neutral to slightly acidic, well-draining.
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Parrot Tulip (Tulipa Gesneriana Var. Dracontia)

Red parrot tulips in sunlight.

 Ryan Somma / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Like other tulips, parrot tulips are great for planting throughout the fall. Parrot tulips are large, measuring almost five inches across with 15-to-20 inch stems, and are most commonly treated like annuals. The flower's flamboyant petals and buds—which resemble the beak of a parrot, in the tulip's earlier stages—are the inspiration behind its name.

Blooms come in a variety of colors, and the waviness of the petals can vary depending on the hybrid. Be sure to plant parrot tulip bulbs away from anywhere that gets harsh winds, as their long stems leave them somewhat vulnerable.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy or sandy, neutral to slightly acidic, well-draining.
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Primrose (Primula Vulgaris)

Yellow primrose after light rainfall.

Peter Stenzel / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Garden primroses have a long bloom, starting in early spring and often lasting throughout the summer. These pretty flowers make up several species in the Primula genus; lovely perennials that bloom in various tones of purple, red, yellow, and pink. The most common varieties seen in domestic gardens are hybrids, typically a cross of P. vulgaris and P. veris, becoming Primula x polyanthus. These varieties have clumped, deep green crinkled leaves and bright dishlike flowers that love damp environments.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist, well-draining, moderately fertile.
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Crocus

Crocuses in partial bloom.

Chris Jackson / Getty Images

Crocuses come in different varieties, with some blooming as early as late winter while the rest blossom in spring. Technically, crocuses aren't actually bulbs – they're corms, storage organs that dwell underground consisting of a stem base covered with leaves. However, they're treated like bulbs by gardeners the world over as they're easily propagated. There's a reason these perennials are so beloved: They're tolerant to a wide range of soils, can tolerate partial sun, and come in around six different colors that have a soft but brilliant tone.

Spring-blooming crocuses are often the first to appear in a garden, welcoming in the season with beautiful two-to-four inch blooms.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy, well-draining, ample organic matter.
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Muscari (Grape Hyacinths)

Muscari in bloom.

Glenn Marsch / Flickr/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Muscari is a spring-blooming perennial flower known for its lavender shade – but did you know that its blooms can also be white or yellow? They’re often planted in large drifts to create a "river" effect in early spring landscapes, wafting their famously sweet scent in the warm breeze. Like crocuses, these small bulbs grow thin leaves that look like grass.

They're quite easy to take care of, and are great for planting directly in the ground or being potted and kept indoors. Just make sure they get a decent amount of sun and don't get overwatered.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Loamy, well-draining, moderately fertile.
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Ornamental Allium

Rows of pink ornamental alliums.

Jack Taylor / Getty Images

Ornamental alliums will bring a hefty dose of character to your garden in the spring, when many of its over 700 species bloom. These easy-to-grow bulbs add color and height to a garden early on, when not much else might be growing.

Popular varieties that bloom at various times in spring include "Purple Sensation" (Allium hollandicum) and "Mount Everest" (Allium stipitatum) – both are among the taller Allium varieties. Most of these flowers are perennial, but some need to be replaced annually.

  • USDA Growing Zones: Varies by species, usually 4 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining.
7
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Scilla

The Siberian squill scilla variety in bloom.

Jeff Bryant / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Bearing dainty swaths of fragrant flowers year after year, perennial Scilla emerges in early spring, often before some leaves do. Best planted after the first frost in late fall, its blooms are typically blue, but some species are white, pink, and purple. Plant the bulbs three to four inches deep as well as apart, and ideally in a shady spot under a shrub.

One of the more popular Scilla varieties is the Siberian squill (S. siberica). This Scilla species, along with most others, easily multiplies when planted in moisture-rich soil. But it's not fussy, and will likely thrive in your soil of choice, too.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining and fertile.
8
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Snowdrop (Galanthus)

Snowdrops starting to bloom.

Finnbarr Webster / Getty Images

The Galanthus genus consists of a relatively small number of perennial bulbs that flower in winter, with some species blooming in early spring and late autumn. Aptly named per their size and color, these seemingly delicate little snowdrops are actually very tough and can survive late spring snows, high winds, and freezes. You can grow them from tiny bulbs or seeds, depending on your preference. Be sure to plant bulbs straight away, as they're prone to drying out after a couple of weeks above ground.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 7.
  • Sun Exposure: Full or partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Moist but well-drained.
9
of 10

Iris

Purple and yellow bearded irises

trpnBlies7 / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Irises come in several varieties, but one of the most common species of this perennial genus – bearded irises (Iris germanica) – will bloom into distinctive six-petal flowers starting around April. The blooms have a lovely gradient effect to their color, which is commonly seen in shades of pink and purple. This species is tall compared to other Irises, rising to at least 28 inches.

Most Irises should be planted early, starting in July and no later than September – make sure overnight temperatures remain between 40 and 50 degrees or higher before planting.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Moist but well-draining; clay or loamy.
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Daffodil (Narcissus)

Daffodils in full bloom.

Hugh R Hastings / Getty Images

While several daffodil species bloom in the fall, the spring-blooming bulbs are much more popular, and are commonly available packaged up and ready for fall planting. While diverse in bloom color and shape, the iconic yellow "Dutch Master" variety is the most well known. However, If you'd prefer to downsize from their large trumpetlike blooms, miniature daffodils are a great alternative, with the added benefit of looking lively even as the bulbs start to go dormant.

Daffodils are pretty tolerant of different soil types as long as they aren't kept too wet; this can lead to rotting.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full to partial sun.
  • Soil Needs: Moderately fertile, well-draining.

To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.