The canna is a popular tropical plant that’s not hardy where the soil freezes solid. It grows from a type of bulb known as a rhizome, which is located at or just beneath the soil surface. A rhizome is basically an enlarged or fat stem that stores starches and other easy-to-use plant foods.
A gladiolus grows from a type of bulb known as a corm. A corm is a solid mass of stem tissue—not layers of tissue like a true bulb. They’re usually round and sort of flat. Both buds and roots grow from the base of the corm, which is the part that stores food for the plant. Examples of corms: gladiolus, crocus, freesia, acidanthera (African gladiolus), crocosmia.
Narcissus refers to a genus that includes daffodils, paperwhites, jonquils and other bulbs—but most of us think of the big, trumpet-shaped flowers as daffodils and the small, white ones as narcissus. (When they’re grown around the holidays, narcissus are often called paperwhites.) 'Golden Harvest,' shown here, is a vigorous, early-flowering bulb that dates back almost 100 years. Like other bulbs in this genus, narcissus should be planted in autumn.
Once known as false forget-me-nots, brunnera are shade-loving plants with blue flowers like this variety, 'Henry's Eyes'. These perennials open in early spring and make great companions for hostas, pink and white bleeding hearts, early tulips and other spring-flowering bulbs. Grow your plants in fertile, moist soil, and don't let them dry out.
Most cooks value fresh garlic, and many a gardener also enjoys its large spring Allium flowers. The ones that grow best locally are often shared between gardeners, who plant individual cloves in the fall and harvest and dry the bulbs the following spring.
Plant ‘Purple Sensation’ ('Allium aflatunense) to keep color in your garden after the spring bulbs open, and before the summer perennials start. This allium produces round, violet-purple globes with hints of blue and pink. The stems grow 24 to 30 inches.
This expansive backyard, designed by Cory Jorgensen, features a swimming pool that cascades over into a waterfall feature. Shrubs planted throughout the yard are trimmed into a plush, bulb shape for a full looking finish. The light concrete patio shines brightly in the sun next to the vivid green lawn.
Easy to grow alliums are perennials, and they’re related to chives, shallots and onions. If deer, voles, rabbits or other animals browse in your garden, you’ll find they usually leave these bulbs alone. Plant alliums in the fall, in well-drained soil, giving them plenty of sun.
White vessel sinks, mirrors with distressed frames and three bulb sconces create a double vanity set up in this contemporary bathroom. Individual shag rugs soften the floor and add texture to the space. Woodgrain panels add a vertical patterned accent wall. A Buddha statue and plant add a calm decor to the room.
Cheerful daffodils are classic spring flowers. For a natural look, toss them around your yard or landscape and plant them where they fall. Choose big, healthy bulbs and plant them 6" deep about 2 to 4 weeks before your ground freezes. They need sun to part sun and will come back year after year; they're hardy in USDA zones 3-8. 'Sunshine Boys,' pictured here, is a blend of early-blooming daffodils.
Most bulbs can’t take moist soil, but camass lily (Camassia leichtlinii 'Caerulea') is an exception. This heirloom beauty dates to 1853 and goes by a host of names, including wild hyacinth, quamash and Leichtlin’s camass. It’s a must-have bulb for spring color because it brings strong blue tones to the garden during the time between spring daffodils and tulips. Flowers open in spikes surrounded by deer- and rabbit-resistant leaves. Plants naturalize readily to form drifts of color when conditions are right. This beauty grows 24 to 30 inches tall. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Pure white blooms of ‘Whirlwind’ Japanese anemone blend easily into any full sun to part shade spot in the garden. Blossoms open from late summer through fall. Each bloom measures 2 to 3 inches across and stands atop tall stems that make a great addition to fall bouquets. Anemone leaves appear in late spring, making them a perfect partner for spring bulbs because anemone leaves help hide dying bulb foliage. Look for varieties with pink blooms, too. Deer- and rabbit-resistant plants grow 36 to 48 inches tall by 24 to 36 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
Oriental lilies are showstoppers in the summer garden, opening richly colored and intensely fragrant blooms. Flowers appear from mid- to late summer and can linger for a few weeks. Oriental lilies grow from bulbs, which are best planted in fall in colder zones. Lily stems grow 24 to 48 inches tall and usually benefit from staking. Plants often spread over time to form a clump from 12 to 36 inches wide. Hardy in Zones 3-9. Good vase companions for Oriental lily: hosta or baptisia leaves, ribbon grass, garden phlox or bee balm.
Beautiful blooms of calla lily (Zantedeschia) are a cut flower favorite that thrives in a boggy environment. Many gardeners tuck calla lily into a spot beside a pond or stream. Plants can grow in up to 1 foot of water. In cold regions, dig bulbs and store dry indoors through winter. Look for varieties that open flowers in many hues, including vibrant yellow, deep red, white and pastel shades. Plants grow 2 to 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide. Hardy in Zones 9-10.
Gardeners in hardiness zones 9 and warmer can plant freesias in the fall. In other zones, freesias should go into the ground in spring; they’ll need to be dug and stored at the end of the growing season so they don’t perish in the cold. If you don't want to dig them back up, simply start over next year with fresh bulbs (technically, they’re corms). Freesias are usually inexpensive. Plant the corms 2” deep in soil that drains easily, and give them a spot that gets sun to light shade.
No matter what makes someone cherish a plant, for it to remain a garden favorite it must tolerate a wide range of soils and climates. The bright red berries of heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica), the large winter flowers of Camellia japonica ‘Pink Perfection’, and the fragrant stems of paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are from plants grown at my family home place for over 75 years with no care at all. And they have been shared from cuttings and divided clumps and bulbs throughout our whole family.
If you’re having trouble finding true-blue flowers for your garden, look for muscari, or grape hyacinths. Hardy in zones 4-8, these little bulbs, which are available in white and various shades of blue and purple, like full sun and soil that drains easily. They mix beautifully with other spring-blooming flowers, such as daffodils and tulips. Plant them in the fall, 2-3” deep, spacing them every 3-4”.
For long-lasting color in shade to part sun, tuberous begonia (Begonia x tuberosa) brings the goods. Plants offer deep green leaves accented with larger-than-life flowers in hues from white, to sunny orange, to bicolor blends. Picotee-type blooms feature white petals edged in a different hue, like this red-edged AmeriHybrid tuberous begonia with flowers measuring 4 to 8 inches across. This beauty was bred by Golden State Bulb, a fifth-generation family business that grows tuberous begonias. Plants grow 14 to 20 inches tall and 10 to 12 inches wide. Tuberous begonias flower non-stop in Zones 9 to 11. In other zones, dig tubers and store for winter.