The term “spring bulb” is loosely used when discussing warm weather planting varieties. While their fall cousins are considered “hardy,” and can survive the colder climates of winter, spring bulbs tend to be “gentle,” and often need to be lifted from the ground in the fall, when grown in colder hardiness zones.

Fall bulbs only offer a short burst of color, while spring bulbs compliment annuals and flowering perennials to provide a non-stop show throughout the summer. Planting spring bulbs can add an accent to borders and they thrive equally well in containers. These bulbs are best planted after the last frost date. Some gardeners in colder zones often start the bulbs indoors before moving them outside to the garden.

Like their winter hardy cousins, spring planting bulbs are some of the easiest plants to grow, but each bulb has different needs. Some desire the warmth of the sun and wet soil, while others thrive in shaded situations for ideal growth. Certain bulbs, like oriental lilies and gladiolus, prefer well-draining soil, while others like cannas and elephant ears thrive in moisture and can even succeed in shallow standing water.

Research and planting instructions are a great guide, but it is necessary to pay attention to how much moisture and light areas of your garden get before planting to guarantee a spectacular summer show. Some of the sun-loving spring planting bulbs are dahlias, gladiolus, cannas, calla lilies, and peonies. Begonias, elephant ears, and caladiums do best in shade but there are some varieties that can grow in the sun too.

If you are interested in creating a garden to attract bees and other pollinators many of the spring planting bulbs are a natural invitation to pollinators. Bees are partial to these bulbs:

  • Dahlias
  • Calla Lilies
  • Cannas
  • Echinops
  • Oriental Trumpet Lilies
  • Tiger Lilies

These flowers are an excellent food source. Hummingbirds and butterflies are also attracted to these flowers. Some perennials such as Bluebells, Lungwort, Forget-me-nots, Bugleweed, Black-Eyed Susan, and Coneflowers combine well with spring bulbs to create a bee-friendly garden that can provide food throughout the summer.

Depending on the hardiness zone, you live in, the end of summer or early fall is the time to lift the tender spring planting bulbs before winter comes. Once the flower blooms and leaves are spent, you can either store them or use them for compost. In the fall you can use these spaces to plant your fall planting bulbs like tulips. Proper planting can ensure that perennials and other native plants will thrive in their locations, while small areas of your garden can be used to switch out bulbs that you treat as annuals. 

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