Looking for more early spring color? Here’s another great bloomer. This is a giant crocus cultivar called ‘Flower Record’ (Crocus vernus ‘Flower Record). I love Flower Record’s deep purple color, which is quite eye-catching in spring.
One of the great things the Dutch have given to the world is flower bulbs. They’ve taken naturally occuring dainty species and bred them for bigger, splashier flowers. The result is the thrill of blossoms when most plants are still dormant.
If you’ve ever planted bulbs in the fall, you know the result can be less than spectacular. After a lot of work, you wait six months to see the fruit of your efforts. After all the anticipation, you can feel like you have to get on your hands and knees to see the little patch of blue over here, and the microscopic yellow flower over there. What went wrong?
Here are my top tips for planting bulbs in Colorado for maximum delight in spring:
Most flowers from bulbs are small. Small things are hard to see in a landscape. That means you have two options when planting them.
The first option is to plant them in a place where you’ll really notice them. This can be close to a walkway, the front door, or a path. Rock gardens are also a great option for spring bulbs because rock gardens are built to feature small plants. They’re often built on a slope or a berm to bring the plants closer to eye level.
The second option is to plant them in large masses. That means you have to buy a lot of one kind of bulb. I mean hundreds. The planting I did of the Flower Record crocus consisted of 400 bulbs. That was only about 40 square feet considering you should plant about 9 crocus per square foot. That can seem like a lot of money, but it’s better to plant a lot of one type of bulb rather than many different types of bulbs. If you plant many different types, the result will be polk-a-dotted visual chaos. You won’t get your money’s worth.
For a typical home landscape, try to plant at least 100 of one type of bulb to make a statement. Anything less than that will get lost visually.
Although there a lots of bulbs for sale, some bulbs grow more reliably than others in Colorado. Daffodils are my favorite spring bulb, especially the mid-to late season bloomers. Deer and rabbits don’t eat them often, and they’re pretty weather resilient. They bloom well in early April, which is a great way to get early color.
I’ve had people thank me years down the road for planting simple large masses of yellow daffodils. They’re not incredibly cutting edge, but they work for years after the initial planting. Nothing is more cheery than a splash of bright yellow in April.
I also like giant crocus, snow crocus, and the teeny Dutch iris. In my opinion, species tulips, Dutch tulips, and most specialty bulbs are hit or miss. Deer LOVE to eat tulips. Plus, they seem to fade out over a couple of years. So, try them if you like, but don’t count on them to be there for years.
Some colors are more noticeable than others. In spring, most bulbs are blooming against a tan background of mulch, gravel, or brown landscape plants. That means that bold, bright, rich colors are best. I like bright yellow, dark purple and orange. White is okay, especially if the background is a little darker. I find most pastel colors get lost. So go bold with the flower color you choose. I also stick to solid colors rather than multicolored blooms.
Plant bulbs in the back of your flower bed. Once the flowers are gone, you have to let the leaves go through their normal growth cycle in order to sustain the bulb for the following year. That means they turn yellow before the bulbs go dormant for the summer. Yellow leaves are not that attractive. So plant them behind plants that will grow at least a foot tall by mid-June. Perennials flowers can be great partners for spring bulbs.
Block out some time in the fall to plant them. October to November is a great time to plant bulbs in Colorado. I like using a bulb auger, which is like a giant drill bit that you use with a strong cordless drill. It saves you having to dig hundreds of holes. It doesn’t work perfectly, but is a great help, especially for smaller bulbs. Planting hundreds of anything takes some time, so plan accordingly.
So gain inspiration now, and mark you calendars in October to plant some bulbs. You future self will thank you.