Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs

Spring is just around the corner, we’re starting to see the first signs, and it’s got us thinking about our favourite spring-flowering bulbs for UK gardens.

When is it officially the first day of spring?! We’ll be honest, here at Lazy Susan we’ll be glad to see the back of winter, especially all these storms with gale-force winds that we seem to be getting every other week. Storm Arwen, Dudley, Eunice, Franklin, we've lost track, there are so many names! They’re not good for our homes, gardens or our garden furniture!!!

Astronomically speaking, the first day of spring in 2022 is on the vernal equinox, which falls on 20th March. However, there are actually 3 different definitions for when each season starts, as well as the astronomical, we have the meteorological and the phenological.

According to the Met Office:

Spring can start at different times, depending on who you ask. Looking at the astronomical calendar the first day of spring is 20th March. The Phenological method records dates of reoccurring natural phenomena such as flowering. For meteorologists, spring starts on 1st March and runs until 31st May.

For many of us in the UK, we think of spring starting when the clocks “spring” forward to give us daylight savings, which falls on Monday 27th March this year. However, for the team here at Lazy Susan, we’re all going with the meteorological spring, it comes sooner, and the end of winter is always a good thing!

From a gardening perspective, at Lazy Susan many of the team tend to work to a combination of phenology and meteorology, so the spring months in planting terms for us is usually March, April and May, with spring starting on the 1st March anyway.

However, as we pointed out in last months plan for the year ahead in your garden article, it’s best to work with the weather forecast rather than what plants may or may not be doing. A mild week can be followed by snow and frost the next. In fact, it's not uncommon for us to see all 4 seasons in one day at this time of year, so keep an eye on the long-term forecast so that anything you plant has the best chance to thrive.

Why we love spring-flowering bulbs

One area where you are usually guaranteed some much-needed colour in your garden, often in spite of colder/wet weather, is with some good ol’ spring-flowering bulbs. We’re starting to see the first shoots in our own gardens and here at the Lazy Susan HQ. 

Our Top 10 Spring-Flowering Bulbs

It always feels like the garden is slowly waking up, and even though we could still see frost and snow, many will still make a colourful appearance. Me, personally, I quite like seeing a dusting of snow on my bed of Crocus, but driving/walking in the snow, not so much!

The big thing we love about spring-flowering bulbs though, is they just help to fill in gaps in our containers and borders, and they add some much-needed colour/visual interest before the summer-blooming perennials and shrubs start to grow. 

Plus, you don’t need to be Alan Titchmarsh, just pop the bulbs in the ground in autumn at the right depth (more of that later) and there's a very good chance you'll see flowers come springtime if the conditions (soil and sunlight) are right (again, more of that in a mo).

By planting a few of the different varieties in our list in the autumn-time, you can create a big colourful statement in your beds and containers for the spring months. Try and pick a mix of early and late bloomers so you get a good 3 to 4 months of low-maintenance flowering, but we'll pick that up after our top ten...

Lazy Susan’s top 10 spring-flowering bulbs

Of course, if you think spring-flowering bulbs, the first that usually ‘springs’ to mind are Daffodils (Narcissus) and, like most on our list, they multiply quickly and bloom again each spring. Plus, they’re not too fussy when it comes to soil type, they’ll grow in sun or part shade and are resistant to most bugs. 

However, this isn’t just about Daffodils, there are many other types of spring-flowering bulbs you can plant. Now we love a Daff. They’re a top-performing perennial, hence why they’re in our top ten. And like we say with our garden furniture, sometimes you just can’t beat a classic. But, what about those other bulbs that’ll also give us that vibrant splash of colour and interest at this time of year?

1. Daffodils

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Daffodil

We'll get them out the way. But who doesn’t love a Daffodil? Spring personified. They are perfect for bringing a little early colour to your garden and will brighten up any shady areas under trees. They flower early, come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, smell wonderful and are an easy-to-grow bulb. Versatile, they’re ideal in containers, borders and even in grass. Just make sure the bulbs are planted in well-drained soil in sun or light shade. Avoid planting in total shade or in close proximity to a south-facing wall where the soil temperature is likely to become too hot.

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Daffodil: Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d’Or'

2. Hyacinths 

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Hyacinth 

Hyacinths are often seen as the perfect flower for an indoor Christmas display but we prefer them outside. These wonderful, fragrant spring bulbs are easy to grow and available in a range of colours. Just like Daffs, they prefer moist but well-drained soil, but they can tolerate a little more direct sun than Narcissus and will thrive in light shade. They’re a real showy flower, making for a bold formal statement, and delivering one of the most delightful fragrances of all the spring-flowering bulbs on our list.

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Hyacinths: Hyacinthus orientalis 'Anna Marie'

3. Tulip

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Tulip

Tulips have to be one of springs brightest flowering bulbs, creating a fab display of colourful flowers. Again, they’re best planted in moist but well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Unlike Hyacinths and Daffodils, Tulips don’t make for good perennials in the UK. They’re better grown as annuals, in other words, they’re only good for one springtime. They do need a little more TLC but the reward is worth the effort. To get the best bloom it’s best to plant new bulbs each year to ensure a good display, especially if planting in pots. Gardeners World has a great article that looks at how to grow them in more detail.

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Tulip: Tulipa ‘Van Eijk'

4. Crocus

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Crocus

Crocus doesn’t like things too hot so they thrive with the British climate. They are one of the easiest to grow spring bulbs on our list if conditions are right, and these beautiful low-growing compact plants are perfect for adding a dash of spring colour to your beds, borders, rock gardens and pots. They like an open sunny spot and light quick-draining soil, and whilst technically they grow from corms and not bulbs, they still make the list as they're always a welcome arrival come spring.

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Crocus: Crocus sieberi ‘Firefly’

5. Iris

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Iris

Named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow, the Iris is another that will bring a wonderful splash of colour to the garden come spring. Depending on the variety, they generally fair best in flower beds, borders, containers or beside a pond/water feature. They need full sun and well-draining soil with a pH level of 6.8. Our friends over at the Middle Sized Garden have made this great video with Iris of Sissinghurst that shows you how to choose bulbs and where to plant:

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Iris: Iris sibirica 'Caesar's Brother'

6. Lily of the Valley

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley is a fab woodland flowering plant with sweet-scented, bell-shaped white flowers that will fill your garden with interest come spring. They thrive in damp, shady areas, and the delicate white blooms will brighten even the darkest corners of your garden. Once established, this springtime favourite will create a lush green carpet of foliage that makes an excellent ground cover. And as a grand finale, this tiny flower is seriously punching above its weight when it comes to fragrance. Scott from Spring Hill Nurseries has this great short video showing you how to plant and care for them:

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Lily of the Valley: Pierisjaponica 'Passion' 

7. Allium

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Allium

Alliums are wonderful bulbous perennials that never fail to put a smile on my face. They will live for a long time and bloom for most of the spring, bringing colour and interest right up to summer. They are a genus of the monocotyledonous family that includes hundreds of species such as onions, garlic, scallions, shallots, leeks, and chives, hence the nickname “ornamental onions”. Great for adding height and structure to your beds and borders, they like well-drained soil, thrive in full sun and are drought tolerant. Plus, bees love them!

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Allium: Allium cristophii 'Star of Persia'

8. Bluebells

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Bluebell

The humble Bluebell has many names (Cuckoo's Boots being a personal fave) but this woodland plant is a firm favourite here at Lazy Susan. The ideal growing conditions are those which they would enjoy in those woods. They can cope with most soils, but prefer it to be moist, well-drained and rich in organic matter, so plenty of manure or compost. Bluebells grow well in either sun or partial shade, but it’s best to keep them out of direct, strong sunlight. If you want to propagate, this video below from the Norfolk Cottage Garden is definitely worth a watch if you want to learn more: 

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Bluebell: Hyacinthoides non-scripta 'English Bluebells'

9. Snowdrops

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Snowdrop

Snowdrops are a great flowering bulb if we see a cold spring, and they are thriving at this time of year (early Feb as I sit and write this article). They don’t like it warm and thrive in well-drained soil with light to moderate shade, similar to their native woodland habitat. If you do plant them in heavy soil, just add a little sharp sand or grit to aid drainage. Of all the plants on this list, this hardy perennial is often the first to flower in late winter/early spring. 

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Snowdrop: Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'

10. Fritillaria

Our favourite spring-flowering bulbs | Fritillary

Probably the least known on our list is the Fritillaria bulb. It will bring a touch of the exotic to your garden with its distinctive bell-shaped flowers. There are around 170 species but whilst they look rather exotic, they’re relatively easy to grow. Generally, they thrive in well-drained soil but they’ll tolerate various light conditions, from full sun to partial shade or dappled shade, depending on the variety. For those new to this spring-flowering herbaceous perennial, our advice would be to start with Naomi from Farmer Gracey’s video on how to plant Fritillaria imperialis 'Crown Imperial' bulbs:

Lazy Susan’s favourite type of Fritillaria: Fritillaria 'Spring Bells'

How and when to grow spring-flowering bulbs

If you’re wanting to plant for this spring (2022), I’m afraid you’re a little late (or early depending on how you look at it)... The best time to plant is in autumn (from late September/late November) as this will give them the winter months to put down roots in readiness for a spectacular spring display.

Pro Gardening Tip
Pro Gardening Tip

Size matters when it comes to bulbs and the best way to achieve professional-looking planting schemes is to choose the best quality and biggest size you can get. Not only will you get bigger, better and stronger plants, but the blooms will dazzle in terms of colour and flowering cycle come spring!

All of the spring-flowering bulbs on our list are all planted in generally the same way and require similar care:

  1. Start by planting in a hole that is twice as deep as the bulb is high.
  2. If the bulb has a pointed side, position it with the point facing up. Corms such as the Crocus on our list can be planted any which way.
  3. Place one bulb per hole, unless the bulbs are for small varieties, such as Crocus or a Dwarf Iris, in which case you can plant a few bulbs in each hole to create a cluster.
  4. Cover bulbs back over with soil and leave over the winter. The soil is usually cool and moist enough during autumn to mean that the bulbs don’t require watering in, although if it is dry you can give them a first water to help get things moving.

If you’re new to spring-flowering bulbs then our advice would be to watch these videos below...

In the first, Dayton Nursery explains all you need to know about planting, highlighting daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, and crocuses. The video talks about what to look for when you buy your bulbs, soil preparation, planting depth and spacing, watering, different pests, and what happens if it snows!

Next up, Peter at the Gardening Channel has this great video that goes over the basics of how to plant spring-flowering bulbs:

After flowering, simply leave the blooms and foliage to die back fully before being removed, as this will help the bulbs to gather energy for the next spring. If you want to know a little more about what to do with your spring-flowering bulbs after they've bloomed, then John at Oklahoma County OSU Extension has some great tips for caring for spring-flowering bulbs after their blooms finish:

So, they are the Lazy Susan team's favourite spring-flowering bulbs. If there's any you think we've missed, any of your favourite varieties you'd like to share, or any general planting/gardening tips, then please just drop them in the write a comment section below:

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