White crocus

Bulbs for Brilliant Spring Color (Part One)

Small Bulbs to Plant in Fall


One of my favorite bulbs to plant is the crocus.

Why are crocus a favorite bulb to plant?

  • Crocus bulbs are easier, faster to plant.
    • Because the bulb is small, the hole you dig can be small and not as deep as larger bulbs.
  • Crocus are some of the earliest bulbs to flower
    • Plant in a south-facing area and you could see flowers in late February!
  • Bees love them
  • Crocus naturalize (multiply) easily
    • When you are shopping for crocus, look for the words, "species crocus" or "naturalizing"
  • No need to deadhead or cut back the foliage.

White crocus, the flower opens up with the sun.

Purple and white crocus

Scilla or Siberian squill (Scilla siberica)

Scilla has many of the same great characteristics of the crocus.

  • The bulbs are small and so they are easy to plant.
  • They bloom very early in the spring
  • They multiply (naturalize) quickly.
  • They can be planted in sun or shade.
  • No need to deadhead or cut back the foliage.

But, because they are so small, plant them where they can be seen, perhaps in the front of a planting bed or under a deciduous tree. (By the time the tree leafs out, the plant will be done flowering.)

To make an impact, buy lots of bulbs and plant them in drifts or groupings of 20 bulbs per square foot.

Planting directions are the same as for crocus. Siberian squill



Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda)

  • Quickly naturalizing, these small flowering bulbs can cover a lot of ground with their shades of blue and purple , and white or pink daisy-like flowers.
  • These anemones are about 4 inches tall and the yellow centers provide pollen for bees.
  • Because this bulb is small, it's best to buy a minimum quantity of 25-50 to make an impact on your landscape.
  • Quite drought tolerant
  • No need to deadhead or cut back the foliage, they die back on their own
  • The bulbs need very little moisture through the summer.
  • Tolerates most soil types and is its best with sandy soil.
  • Plant 3-4 inches deep, a couple of inches apart. Prepare for bloom a couple of weeks after the crocus and squill.
  • Windflower

Anemone blanda

Anemone blanda grouping

Muscari or Grape Hyacinths

I was almost tempted to leave these bulbs out of the discussion. I have found them very invasive and very difficult to remove or get under control. Maybe the more exotic varieties won't be as invasive. Your experience may be different, but I doubt it!

These small bulbs rapidly multiply by seed and by producing more bulbs. They seem to grow where there is very little irrigation and they will take over a garden planting area in a couple of years. The bulbs will produce greenery in the fall, around late August you will see the long strap-like leaves appear. It's a good time to dig them out or move them to a better location. I don't know if squirrels eat them, but I doubt it. I sure wish they did!

6-12 inches tall

Long flower stalk with bell-shaped flowers.

Looks best planted underneath taller bulbs like daffodils or tulips.

In the photo below, the Muscari are the flower with the tall stalk topped by bell-shaped clusters. The shorter purple flowers are the Grecian windflower.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape hyacinths (muscari) with Grecian windflowers

How to plant all of these small bulbs

  • Plant bulbs about 3-6 inches deep. The general rule for depth is to plant 3x the bulb width.
  • Plant in groups of at least 7, but more is great too. One is the loneliest number!
  • If the soil is dry, water the hole before setting in the bulbs.
  • Leave 1-2 inches between crocus bulbs that are in the same hole. Pointed side up!
  • Pack the soil well. Don't make it easy for squirrels to dig them pack up.
  • Keep the soil lightly moist. DON'T overwater. Bulbs can rot if they are consistently wet.