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Spring in minor key

Grape hyacinth Muscari latifolium. Photo courtesy www.bulb.com

Grape hyacinth Muscari latifolium. Photos courtesy www.bulb.com unless otherwise noted.

Tulips and daffodils demand center stage in the spring bulb show, but minor bulbs hit all the right notes with their subtle beauty, depth of color and interest.

Certain bulbs fall in the minor category because they are tiny, short and usually adorned with smaller flowers.

Squill (Scilla siberica) naturalizes under trees and shrubs and in the lawn. Photo courtesy www.bulb.com

Squill (Scilla siberica) naturalizes under trees and shrubs and in the lawn.

Minor bulbs are ideal for naturalizing the lawn because they bloom early and their foliage has a chance to ripen before the grass needs to be mowed. Tuck them under trees, shrubs and perennials for a floral carpet.

Minor bulbs include Siberian squill (Squill siberica), glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa), snowdrops (Galanthus), grape hyacinth (Muscari), Iris reticulata and Crocus.

All spring-blooming bulbs can be planted now through October. Ideally, they should have a month in the ground before the soil freezes.

Iris reticulata (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Iris reticulata (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Perhaps the drawback to minor bulbs is that you need to plant a lot of them for a good show. However, these minor bulbs tend to multiply rapidly by self sowing.

In the lawn, lift patches of grass and plant the tiny bulbs a couple of inches deep and apart in clusters rather than individually. In garden beds or around trees and shrubs, make sure to remove mulch before planting the bulbs 2 inches deep. Replace mulch.

There’s no need to fertilize bulbs. They come already packed with everything they need to bloom next year. Water the bulbs well after planting. If there’s no rainfall, water the bulbs every week to 10 days until the ground freezes.

Next spring, don’t remove the foliage until it turns yellow, brown or falls flat. Bulbs need the leaves to process the nutrients necessary for next year’s flowers.

Here are more spring bulb planting tips.

Minor bulbs

Species tulips (Tulipa tarda, T. turkestanica, T. greigii, T. pulchella)

Checker of guinea hen flower (Fritillaria meleangris)

Species crocus (Crocus chrysanthus, C. flavus, C. sieberi, C. angustifolius)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Wind anemones (Anemone blanda)

Tulipa tarda.

Tulipa tarda.

'Blue Skies' anemone (A. blanda) 'Valerie Finnes' grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

'Blue Skies' anemone (A. blanda) 'Valerie Finnes' grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)

Snowdrops (Galanthus)

Snowdrops (Galanthus)

Species crocus in lawn.

Species crocus in lawn. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Guinea hen bulbs (Fritillaria)

Guinea hen bulbs (Fritillaria)

2 comments to Spring in minor key

  • I love the minor bulbs and can attest to the fact that it does take a lot of them to show up in a lawn. But a plus to them is they often bloom well before daffodils or tulips.

    My current favorites are the Iris reticulata and the species tulips.

  • […] a couple of dozen crocuses that I forgot I had just last weekend. As long as the ground is notSpring in minor key | Hoosier GardenerHoosier Gardener – Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, Tulips and daffodils demand center stage in the spring […]