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You Can Grow That! October 2012: Special spring-blooming bulbs

Scilla siberica blooms early in the season, making it perfect for naturalizing in lawns and under trees and shrubs. Photo courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

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.

Minor bulbs (the Dutch call them special 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 through October. Ideally, they should have a month to six weeks in the ground before the soil freezes to develop roots.

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 in clusters rather than individually, then replace the turf, tamping down gently. 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.

More minor bulbs

  • Species tulips (Tulipa tarda, T. turkestanica, T. greigii, T. pulchella)
  • Checker or guinea hen flower (Fritillaria melanges)
  • Species crocus (Crocus chrysanthus, C. flavus, C. sieberi, C. angustifolius, C. tommasinianus)
  • Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
  • Wind or Grecian anemone (A. coronaria, A. blanda)

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