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9 Reasons You Need Small Spring Bulbs

Posted Apr 11 2012 4:09pm

We all love big daffodils and tulips, but you are missing out if you haven't added small bulbs to your garden! Here are 7 reasons why you should grow them . . .

1. They bloom early. In Spokane, the big tulip and daffodil show doesn't start until late April or May. The earliest crocuses start in late February, a full 2 months earlier. And colder temperatures during bloom time prolongs the display. Above are Crocus 'Golden Bunch' and 'Grand Maitre.'

2. The come in true blue. Seems like I read somewhere that when asked their favorite color, people overwhelmingly pick blue. There are no blue tulips. No blue roses either, for that matter. No matter how that catalog photo has been changed to make the color look blue. Photo above shows blue Scilla 'Spring Beauty.'

3. They're easy to plant. Instead of digging 6 to 10 inches down, you only have to go 4 inches deep. In rocky clay soil like mine, that makes a big difference. Above is Chionodoxa 'Pink Giant.'

4. They come back every year. Plant once and forget about them until they pop up again, and again. Some tulips only bloom well one year, and then you have to plant new bulbs. What a pain in the tush, though of course I do plant some tulips every fall. Above is Chionodoxa luciliae.

5. They increase in number each year in good conditions. The key with almost all bulbs is to avoid soggy, swampy soil. Bulbs want moist but well-drained soil in the spring until the leaves die back, and in the summer while dormant they prefer to be dry and cool. If bulbs are growing amongst other plants, then their roots will suck up the water and help keep the bulbs underneath dry. Above is Crocus 'Grand Maitre.'

6. Their leaves are little. So when you're allowing them to die back naturally to encourage them to store up energy to bloom well next year, you've only got little half-dead leaves instead of big tulip half-dead leaves adorning your early-summer garden. Again, tucking small bulbs around perennials is a great strategy because the growing perennial leaves camoflauge the dying bulb foliage.
Above is more Chionodoxa luciliae.

7. They're cheaper than tulips and other big bulbs. Especially when you consider that they'll come back and multiply for years to come, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck. I bought my purple crocus and blue scilla at Costco, so those were even more inexpensive. The others I ordered in bulk online. Above is Crocus 'Grand Maitre.'

8. They're deer-resistant. Deer think tulip flowers look like tasty gumdrops, munch, but deer tend to stay away from crocus, chionodoxa, scilla, and mini-daffodils like the 'Tete-a-Tete' daffs above.

9. Although I haven't pictured any here, there are small bulbs that do well in shade (tulips and daffodils do not). Some examples include: Crocus tommasinianus, Galanthus nivalis (snowdrops), Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite), Muscari (grape hyacinth) and Erythronium (Trout lily or Pagoda lily).

If you're convinced that you need to add small bulbs to your garden, you won't be able to run right out and buy some at this time of year. Most bulb companies open up their bulb ordering websites during the summer. Stores stock bulbs in the fall. So make a note to remind yourself to get yourself some small bulbs then and enjoy them for many springs to come.
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