Surprising Bulbs You Didn’t Know You Wanted

Cynthia Bee, Conservation Garden Park

Summer is officially over. As the cooler temperatures of fall settle in, it’s time to complete those last few garden goals before hanging up our trowels for the season. Among the more enjoyable fall gardening tasks is the selection and planting of spring-flowering bulbs. A little effort now can ensure lovely patches of blooms will greet us after the long, cold winter.

While tulips, daffodils, crocus and hyacinth are the most popular and common bulbs, there are plenty of other options worthy of consideration for your spring landscape. Here are a few of our favorite, albeit less common, selections that work well in Utah yards.

  1. Reticulated Iris. Growing just 6 inches tall, reticulated iris are among the first bulbs of the season, blooming around the same time as crocus in late February/early March. Generally available in all shades of purple, yellow and white.
  1. Squill. A small bulb with star-shaped flowers in shades of blue and white, squill will gently naturalize without being too aggressive. Their cool colors are an excellent foil for the warmer yellows and oranges of daffodils/narcissus and both bulbs bloom around the same time.
  1. Foxtail Lily. If you’re looking to make a statement in your spring landscape, nothing beats the giant show that Foxtail lilies put on in the May garden. Ranging anywhere from 3 to 6 feet tall, with an 18-inch to 2-foot tall bloom spire, Foxtail lilies tower above the spring landscape inviting admiring glances from passersby. Expect them to need a few seasons to grow to full size.
  1. Crown Imperial/Pineapple Lily. This Dr. Seuss-styled bulb creates a rather weird but fantastically interesting form that I’m finding almost impossible to describe. Yellow or orange bells are “tucked” under a cap of green foliage and hang from a 2-and-a-half-foot stem of foliage. If the description sounds convoluted, then you’ll definitely find the plant to be so as well—in a good way.
  1. Allium. There are dozens and dozens of interesting alliums to choose from and many bloom in the summer too. Beyond the classic purple globes are a few favorite varieties that look a bit different from the norm, including the sky-blue Azure Allium or the Giant-flowered ‘Globemaster.’ Alliums are related to the onion family, and thus have a bit of taste to them that deer find unpalatable.

Keep in mind than when discussing bulbs, the term “naturalizing” means spreading. Most of the time, this is a good thing that results in refreshed plantings. However, bulbs such as Grape Hyacinth (Muscari) are so prolific as to turn themselves into noxious weeds. Grape Hyacinth is a bulb to avoid in all but the wildest of situations because once you have it—you’ll never NOT have it!

If you’d like to learn more about planting and use of bulbs, register to attend our Work and Learn planting event on Saturday, October 1st. To snag one of the open seats, visit