Early Spring Bulbs

Overview

Early spring flowers indicate that the cold, dark days of winter are leaving and the growing season is beginning. With a little advance planning, a garden can be planted with early spring bulbs that flower through the entire spring season. All spring bulbs do not bloom at the same time, so planting a mix of bulbs that bloom at slightly different times will keep the garden full of flowers.

Bloom Sequence

Early spring arrives in different months of the year in different regions. Some locations see spring flowers in late January, while others must wait until late May. Spring bulbs always flower in the same sequence, although they may flower in different months in cold or warm climates. Most spring bulbs only flower in regions that have cold winters. They require a cold dormant period to trigger growth and bloom. Usually the cold period needs to be about 12 weeks. Growing spring bulbs in regions without cold winters requires artificially cooling the bulbs to trigger growth.

Late Winter

The earliest bulbs flower in late winter, while snow is still on the ground. Their leaves poke through snowdrifts as the sun gets warmer and daylight hours lengthen. Winter aconite (Eranthus) is the first to flower, followed by snowflake (Leucojum), glory of the snow (Chionodoxa) and snow drops (Galanthus).

Very Early Spring

Crocus are the next spring bulbs to flower. The small species crocus come first, followed by varieties of giant crocus. Small species narcissus flower at about the same time, along with squill (Scilla).

Early Spring

Daffodils are the large bulbs of early spring. There are few sights as beautiful as a meadow full of golden daffodils. Grape hyacinth (Muscari) bloom at the same time, and the two are often planted together. Wood hyacinth (Endymion) also flowers in early spring.

Landscaping

Because early spring bulbs flower before most trees and shrubs have leaves, they can be planted in areas that will be very shady later in the growing season. They will have dropped their flowers, stored energy for the following year's bloom, and died quietly back to the ground before trees cast heavy shade. Early bulbs are often planted in ground covers because they are done flowering before most ground covers begin to grow. Some are even planted in grass, as they go dormant before the lawn is mowed in the spring. Crocus are especially favored for planting in grass.

About this Author

Lou Paun has been a freelance writer focusing on garden and travel writing since 2000, when she retired from a career as a college teacher. Her interest in gardening and the history of gardens began during a sabbatical year in England, and she is now a master gardener. She holds a Master of Arts from the University of Michigan in history.

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