Early Blooming Bulbs for the First Flowers of Spring
Winter is my least favorite season, so I am always eager to get spring underway. It doesn’t really matter what the calendar says. For me, spring officially begins when the first flowers bloom, and for that I depend on three small but mighty bulbs: snowdrops, crocuses and chionodoxa. These early-blooming bulbs are essentials for anyone who spends the winter months yearning for spring. Happily, they are also inexpensive, quick to plant and all are reliable perennials that will multiply over time.
Start the New Season With Snowdrops
The earliest of the early are snowdrops. These dainty little flowers with their blinding white petals have an uncanny ability to push themselves up through the frozen ground. No matter how early I start watching for them, they always appear sooner than I expect. One day there’s nothing and the next they’re in full bloom.
My snowdrops are on a south-facing slope and this gives them a big advantage. If you want the earliest possible flowers, plant your early-blooming bulbs in a spot with well-drained soil and southern exposure.
There are dozens of different varieties of snowdrops with subtle variations in petal size and markings. Most of the flowers resemble a parasol, with spoon-shaped petals surrounding a small, straight-sided cup. The flowers dangle from slender stems and on sunny days they lift their petals as if ready to take off.
You may find it takes several years to establish a nice clump of snowdrops, but once they have settled in, they will multiply and bloom every spring for generations to come. Should you become entranced by snowdrops, you won’t be alone. There are galanthophiles (snowdrop collectors) all over the world who share your passion for these early spring treasures.
Crocus Are the Bees Knees
Next to bloom are species crocus, also commonly known as snow crocus. Their blossoms are smaller and more delicate than the standard crocus varieties that bloom just a little later. Bees are mad for crocuses, and these extra early bloomers always attract a crowd. Two of my favorite varieties are Firefly, with lilac-colored petals surrounding neon orange centers, and Romance, with two-tone petals that are ivory on one side and buttery yellow on the other.
Depending on how quickly the weather warms up, giant crocus may start blooming before the snow crocuses have finished. Their flowers are definitely larger, though “giant” is stretching it. The colors are also brighter, with the most popular varieties being purple Remembrance, golden Yellow Mammoth and pin-striped Pickwick. You can also purchase giant crocus as a mix, and enjoy the full range of colors.
Chionodoxa Twinkle Like Stars
Chionodoxa are the third leg of my goodbye-winter program. Also known as glory-of-the-snow, these little bulbs produce one or more stems topped with 3 to 10 star-like flowers. My favorite is bluebird-blue Chionodoxa ‘Blue Giant’, though I’m also a fan of the white, pink and lavender ones. An Assorted Mix lets you enjoy all of these lovely pastel colors.
Chionodoxa multiplies quickly by bulb offsets as well as by seed. The seeds are covered with a sweet substance that attracts ants. Like Johnny Appleseed, ants distribute the seeds here and there, causing flowers to pop up in some surprising places. Plant these early spring bulbs by the handful and in no time at all your winter-weary eyes will be feasting on big puddles of color!
Spring-blooming bulbs are available from September through November, and planting them takes no time at all. Stick a shovel in the ground, lift the soil up just enough to toss in some bulbs and let it back down. Adding an extra 3 weeks of spring to the growing season is really that easy!
To learn more about early blooming bulbs, you may be interested in: Planting Fall Bulbs in a Lawn, Planting Fall Bulbs Under Trees, How to Naturalize Spring-Blooming Bulbs, All About Crocus, All About Chionodoxa, and All About Snowdrops.