Consider these options before mapping out your beds.

As some of the very first plants to peak through the ground at the end of a long winter, flowering bulbs are viewed as a harbinger of spring. According to the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG), winter aconites and snowdrops are the first blooms you'll see spring up in the new year, typically once the ground begins to warm up towards the end of February. Shortly after, minor bulbs come into their own, followed by the classic bulbs that you know and love, such as daffodils and tulips.

Bulbs are typically planted during two seasons: fall and spring. Fall-planted bulbs will come to life when spring rolls around, and spring-planted flower bulbs bloom towards the end of summer and into early fall. Both are worth adding to your own garden beds, but it's important to consider all of your options before creating a plan.

Garden trowel with bulbs in soil
Credit: lucentius / Getty Images

Fall-Planted Bulbs

Fall-planted bulbs are those that bring the first pops of color to your spring landscape, says Ryan McEnany, public relations and communications specialist for Bailey Nurseries. Early bloomers like snowdrops, crocus, daffodils, hyacinth, squill, and tulips are some of the most common fall-planted bulbs, he says. "These are starts of the spring landscape because they bring color and texture to the garden before most other perennials and shrubs begin to leaf out or bloom, so it's a fabulous transition from the doldrums of winter into the lushness of spring and summer." Amy Enfield, horticulturalist for Miracle-Gro, adds allium to the list, but notes that there are more, less popular options of note. "Other fall-planted bulbs that are not nearly as popular but deserve recognition include snowdrops (Galanthus), scillia, grape hyacinth, bluebells (hyacinthoides), and fritillaria," she says.

Spring-Planted Bulbs

These later bulbs add color and texture to the summer and fall garden to work in concert with annuals, perennials, and shrubs moving in and out of their peak season, says McEnany. "I love using bulbs and tubers as the filler to really pull the entire landscape together," he says. Some favorite spring-planted bulbs include dahlias, lilies, gladiolus, calla lilies, and begonia, he says. "[These] pop up among the foliage of other plants or fill in a low gap in the planting plan makes for a [completer] and polished look."

With the exception of Oriental lilies, most spring-planted bulbs are not really bulbs, says Enfield. "Others are technically tubers or tuberous roots. More popular spring plants that people refer to as bulbs include gladiolus, calla lily, canna, caladiums, and dahlias," she says. "Other spring-planted 'bulbs' that are not nearly as popular but deserve recognition include crocosmia, elephant ears (Colocasia), belladonna lily, and pineapple lily," notes Enfield.

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