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Spring-flowering bulbs bring hope and something to look forward to during late winter. Seeing the first snow crocus peer through a blanket of snow makes me smile. To have the spring surprise, these plants need to be planted in the fall, which allows time for root growth before cold soil temperatures reduce plant growth. The bulbs discussed today can be left in the soil all year and will return year after year. Having a variety of these plants in the garden extends the season of color in the landscape.

“Bulb” is a generic term used to refer to a group of plants which have different food storage structures to support life until the plant’s life cycle begins again. Botanists characterize the storage structure as bulb, corm, tuber, tuberous root, and rhizome. The scientific name of the following bulbs is included to make sure you find the plant I describe.

Brightening the landscape in late January to early February is the snow crocus, Crocus chrysanthus. The flowers are small and reach a height of 3 to 4 inches tall. Flower colors available range from white, purple, light blue, and yellow to flowers with two colors such as yellow and violet or purple and white. The leaves are grass-like.

Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, has a little white, bell-shaped flower gracefully hanging down from each flower stem. The leaves are linear or strap-shaped. Plant height reaches up to 3 inches. This little gem may bloom in February.

Winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, has a pure yellow to bright gold, cuplike flower 1.5 inches across in early March. The unique foliage looks like a finely frilled, green collar under the flower. Plant height is around 3 inches. The best location for winter aconite is in an area where the soil does not become too dry during the summer months.

Giant crocus or Dutch hybrid crocus, Crocus species and hybrids, have larger blossoms than the snow crocus. The giant crocus blooms in early spring but later than the snow crocus. The flower colors available include yellow, purple, white, and white combined with purple. The leaves are grass-like. Foliage reaches 6 inches tall.

Netted iris, Iris reticulata, has a single, violet-blue flower 3 to 5 inches above the ground. The foliage is grass-like and very fine. This unusual, small iris blooms in late winter. Netted iris is a good choice for rock gardens.

Glory of the snow, Chionodoxa luciliae, has several small, star-shaped, blue or pink flowers, depending on the cultivar, with white centers on each flower stem. The height of the flower stem may reach 6 inches. Flowers begin to appear in late March to early April.

Grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, has cobalt-blue, bell-shaped flowers with a narrow white edge at the mouth. The flowers look like grape clusters. The foliage appears in the fall and persists through the winter. Blooms appear in April and the height of the flower stem reaches 4 to 6 inches. Grape hyacinth can be used in rock gardens and with other spring flowering bulbs.

Greek windflower, Anemone blanda, has a small daisy-like flower. Depending on the cultivar, the flower color is white, pink, or blue. This plant forms a small mound shape covered with flowers reaching 4 to 6 inches tall. As soon as you receive the “bulb,” which is actually a rhizome, plant it right away to prevent it from drying out.

Daffodils (Narcissus) bring a variety of flowers to the landscape. Depending on the cultivar, daffodils are available that bloom in late winter, April, or May. “February Gold” is a yellow daffodil, which is one of the first to bloom in late winter, and reaches 10 inches tall. “Tete-a-Tete” is a small daffodil with a height of 6 to 8 inches tall. The flowers are soft yellow with slightly reflexed petals. One to three flowers appear per stem in April.

In general, many bulbs are planted at a depth of two to three times the diameter of the bulb. Place the bulb in the hole with the growing point up; otherwise, the plant may not emerge from the ground. On some bulbs, the growing point end narrows at the top, and the bottom end is flat. Old roots may be attached to the bottom end of the bulb. If you are in doubt about the location of the growing point, place the bulb on its side.

Before planting, working bone meal or superphosphate into the soil at the bottom of the hole may be beneficial for the bulb. Plant bulbs in well-drained locations to prevent them from rotting. Most bulbs prefer a sunny location. The best show of color results when the same type of bulb is planted in groups.

For more information about spring-flowering bulbs, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service office at 270-685-8480.

Tulips are best treated as annuals in our area. However, the species tulip, Greigii tulip, Tulipa greigii, performs better than the hybrids. Different cultivars reach 8 to 18 inches tall and flower in mid to late March. The plant’s variegated red and green foliage adds to the landscape.

“Beautiful Spring Flowers Start in the Fall” is a virtual program offered through the Daviess County Public Library on September 24 at 5:00 p.m. Different spring-flowering bulbs for fall planting and their care will be discussed. More information about this program, including instructions on how to join, can be found on the Daviess County Public Library’s website at

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer is the Daviess County extension agent for horticulture. Her column runs weekly on the Home & Garden page in Lifestyle. Email her at [email protected]

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer is the Daviess County extension agent for horticulture. Her column runs weekly on the Home & Garden page in Lifestyle. Email her at [email protected]

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World news – US – Planting bulbs in the fall for spring cheer

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