Spring bulbs add color and interest to a garden before the trees leaf out and while the landscape is just emerging from its winter hibernation. Few things beat seeing the first flower of the season popping its head up through the snow.
Generally, spring-blooming bulbs are planted in the fall, any time before the ground freezes. Most need the cold to activate their growth cycle. Many bulbs require little care or maintenance; you just plant them and watch them grow healthier and fuller each season.
Daffodils, or Narcissus, are large cone-shaped bulbs that produce yellow or white trumpet-shaped blossoms in the early spring. Daffodils naturalize themselves. That means that once you plant them, with adequate light, soil and water, they grow bigger and denser clumps each season. You don't have to dig them up each year; just plant them and enjoy the spring display. There are more than 50 different kinds of daffodils, including the tiny (6-inch-high) "tete-a-tete" variety.
Crocus is the name of more than 80 species of low-growing, cup-shaped flowers that grow from corms planted 3 to 4 inches below the soil. Like daffodils, crocuses spread easily and grow larger and denser with each season. Crocuses are one of the first spring bulbs to bloom, emerging in March in most parts of the United States.
Snowdrops, or Galanthus, are delicate, teardrop-shaped flowers that sit low to the ground. In most gardens, they are the very first flower to emerge after the winter hiatus. Snowdrops will also naturalize over time and, once planted, will thrive on their own for decades.
Native to western and central Asia, hyacinths have become a traditional spring flower in the United States. These large, round bulbs produce a single stalk with dozens of lilylike blossoms stemming from it. Hyacinths are known for their fragrance and come in almost every color on the color wheel. Unlike daffodils, they do not naturalize, but they will continue to bloom vigorously year after year without assistance.
Tulips are not generally considered an easy bulb to grow. Most require that you dig them up in the fall, trim them, and overwinter them in a cool, dark place. Otherwise, they will grow weaker each season and eventually stop blooming altogether. One exception to this pattern is the hybrid "Darwin" tulip. These bulbs naturalize like daffodils and require little maintenance. They return each year in mid- to late spring with bigger and better blossoms.