Hardy Spring Flowers: Cool Climate Bulbs For Spring Color

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Image by lesichkadesign

It’s probably safe to say that all gardeners are waiting on pins and needles for the first bursts of spring color. Getting a beautiful display of bulbs once temperatures warm takes a bit of planning, however.

Planting Spring Flowers in Bulb Gardens

Most spring bulbs require a period of chilling to enforce blooms, which means planting in fall. Such cold weather flower bulbs should go into the ground before it freezes with enough time to produce some roots. In most zones, September is ideal, but in cooler areas like zone 3, cool climate bulbs need to be planted in early spring as soon as the ground is workable.

Cool Climate Bulbs for Spring Color

The best hardy spring flowers for cooler zones are:

  • Tulips – You can’t go wrong with these classic cool climate bulbs. Not only do tulips come in a wide array of colors, but there are double petal and even ruffled varieties in a host of sizes. Be careful if you have trees where squirrels nest, though. They love to dig up and snack on tulip bulbs.
  • Crocus – One of the earliest bulbs for spring, crocus can often be seen peeking through a layer of snow. There are both wild and cultivated species, and even some that will bloom in summer. Unfortunately, this is another bulb that squirrels adore.
  • Daffodils – Who can’t help but smile when these golden blooms begin to show. Daffodils are a harbinger of the spring season and cheer us with their bright color. Plus, there are many varieties from which to choose.
  • Bluebells – Although theses can get out of hand after a few years, bluebells make a delightful spring ground cover. These hardy spring flowers can thrive down to USDA zone 4. There are both the fragrant English bluebells and the sturdier Spanish bluebells. This variety makes excellent cut flowers that last a long time.
  • Hyacinth – Whether you want big, bold flowers with a delicate scent or tiny, sleepily nodding blooms, hyacinth is a family that has it all. The soft pastel tones are a gentle reprieve from winter’s chill. These bulbs for spring also make excellent cut flowers.
  • Allium – Another family with a hugely diverse species size is that of alliums. There are huge types as big as a man’s fist and tiny, dainty drumstick varieties, plus everything in between. Members of the onion family, the heads don’t need to be deadheaded but rather should remain to dry on the plant, providing late season interest.
  • Iris – With iris, there are literally hundreds of species from which to choose and almost all of them are hardy in most of North America. They provide old-fashioned elegance and ease of care. Bearded, Dutch, Asian, and more, these hardy spring flowers will emerge after daffodils and tulips, helping to cover up the dying foliage of those bulbs.

In cold regions, it is best to use bark or other mulch over the bulb bed. This acts as a blanket to protect the roots of the bulbs. Pull it away in early spring so the sprouts can come through easily.  With just this simple precaution, even the coldest region will still have an amazing display of cold weather flower bulbs.

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