Composing a Spring Bulb Garden

Choose Bulbs to Create an Eight-Week Season of Bloom

Chionodoxa, Glory-of-the-Snow, Chionodoxa forbesii
Chionodoxa forbesii, also known as glory-of-the-snow, is one of the first bulbs to boom in spring. Photo: Marius Haffner

If you'd like to celebrate spring with a vivid display of flowers, fall is the time to get busy. Invest two hours planting bulbs on a beautiful fall afternoon, and you can enjoy a succession of blooms next spring that starts in late March and extends right into May.

Planting spring bulbs couldn't be easier. Dig a hole, stick the bulb in, and cover it up. Caring for these bulbs is easier yet. They don't need a thing! Once planted, they'll sleep all winter long, then emerge from the ground, form buds and start blooming.

The tricky part is selecting the right bulbs to ensure a long season of bloom. But even this is actually very easy. Here's how to do it:

Let's say you're willing to spend $90 on bulbs to fill a 3 ft. x 6 ft. area near the front of your house. Let's also assume that you don't have any other bulbs or plants there — it's a blank slate.

Start by taking a look at the list below. In each category, you'll find the types of bulbs that bloom during that period. Choose at least one or two types of bulb from each of the four categories to ensure you'll always have something in bloom. Though "early spring" might be late February in Virginia, and early April in Vermont, it doesn't really matter. The bulbs will bloom in succession, starting whenever winter ends.

Very Early Spring

Mid Spring

Late Spring

  • Chionodoxa forbesii (glory-of-the-snow, chionodoxa)
  • Eranthis cilicia (Winter aconite)
  • Scilla siberica (scilla, Star of Holland, Siberian squill)
  • Snow crocus
  • Iris reticulata (dwarf iris)
  • Early Spring

  • Crocus
  • Early daffodil
  • Emperor tulip
  • Species tulip
  • Hyacinth
  • Daffodil
  • Triumph tulip
  • Muscari (grape hyacinth)
  • English bluebell
  • Fritillaria imperialis (crown imperial)
  • Allium
  • Dutch iris
  • Iris pumila (dwarf bearded iris)
  • Late tulips
  • Leucojum aestivum (summer snowflake)
6 buckets full of tulip bulbs ready for mass planting
This selection includes City of Haarlem hyacinths, two types of small daffodils (Toto and Sailboat), chionodoxa in blue and pink, crocuses in assorted colors and a species tulip called Eastern Star. Photo: David Grist

Last updated: 06/28/2023