A number of reasons exist for seeking out pure white bulbs for the spring garden. White flowers are versatile and will blend well with any color combination. They also bring out the intensity of the green colors in the garden. A popular garden concept is the all-white garden. White petals attract night pollinators such as moths. They reflect light from the moon, earning this type of garden the name "moon garden."
Snow drops (Galanthus nivalus) are one of the toughest old-fashioned garden bulbs. They spread instead of declining, and naturalize in large drifts. They are favored in woodland garden settings, and for underneath trees where other plants might struggle. They appear as early as March and are unscathed by snow, wind or cold. This one is a diminutive 6-inch plant. The flowers of giant snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii) bloom on 1-foot stems. Snowdrop flowers are nodding with open white petals that have small green markings. They are hardy to USDA zone 2.
Though there is something very quaint about the sunny daffodil, the bright yellow colors do not always blend into every garden setting. White daffodils not only blend well, they lend an almost formal appearance to the spring perennial garden. Many are listed as white, but may have orange centers, or be pale yellow in color. One large white daffodil "Mount Hood," begins as a yellowish bud, but matures to a creamy white color. There are two pure white varieties, "Thalia," and "Empress of Ireland." Paperwhites are white tazetta daffodils that are often forced indoors. They have a smaller flower but make up for it in numbers of blooms. They do not require the winter chill the others do, and are far more fragrant. Daffodils are hardy to USDA zone 3.
It is hard to resist the strong fragrance of a hyacinth in bloom. Many are sold as bulb mixes resulting in lavender, purple, pink, yellow and white flowers. But to be sure you will have white blooms, choose the variety "Carnegie." This is a large, reliable old fashioned variety. Over time all hyacinth blossoms become reduced in size, and must be replaced. Hyacinths are hardy to USDA zone 4.
Alliums have become a popular garden bulb. They are members of the onion family, and present the same globe like flowers. There are several good white varieties. The tall stems of alliums can add much needed vertical dimension to the spring garden. Two 18- to 24-inch white alliums are "Neapalitanum" and "Cowanii." An even taller white allium is "Nigrum," which can grow up to 4 feet tall. A 4- to 10-inch creamy white allium called "Ivory Queen" is perfect for the rock garden. Alliums are easy to grow and most are hardy to USDA zone 4.
Native White Bulbs
There are two attractive native North American white bulbs. Wake robins (trillium) are low growing flowers with three petals and three leaves. Two similar varieties are "ovatum" and "grandiflorum." They are native woodland flowers and prefer shady moist conditions. A native white bulb for wet areas is camass (Camassia leichtlinii). It has tall spires of star-like flowers which will develop into clumps. Both are very cold-hardy bulbs.