The Other Bulbs

Daffodils, tulips and crocuses are typical bulbs gardeners scramble to buy and plant late in the fall season. But these selections, while certainly signatures of beauty in the spring, aren’t the only autumn-planted bulbs that can light up the garden with dazzling blooms after winter wears out its welcome. There are other, lesser-known bulbs with equal snap, crackle and springtime flowering pop that can be planted now, such as…

Anemone. Whether you fall for Anemone blanda cultivars such as the well named ‘Charmer’, an heirloom favorite that is a deep rose-pink, daisy look-alike, or any of the white, dark pink, red or violet-blue hues of the popular Anemone coronaria ‘De Caen’ mix, once these beauties flaunt their sassy blooms early in the spring, they will become permanent pretties in your flower border.

Fritillaria. There is nothing frivolous about fritillaria — they are elegant plants that show off dangling, bell-shaped blooms in a wide range of colors, from the simmering oranges of ‘Aurora’ and ‘Rubra Maxima’ to the subtle hues of the butter yellow Fritillaria pallidiflora and the pale white ‘Alba’. Prefer purple? Try the nodding, plum-colored blooms of the tall, stately Fritillaria persica.  

Left: ‘De Caen’ Anemone                                          Right: Poinsettia

Leucojum. Although commonly called “summer snowflakes” in this region, these white, bell-shaped pretties stage their flower shows in the spring on top of 12 to 24-inch stems. Very dependable plants and desirable heirlooms, leucojums are best used massed in a border bed, or, since they easily naturalize, can simply be allowed to wander off into open areas or under trees. The tall, stocky ‘Gravetye Giant’ has been a popular cultivar for many years.

Camassia. Although this botanical gem is native to North America, it is still not a common sight in spring gardens. But it should be. In early April, camassia’s long, thin spikes rise and unfold clusters of star-burst blooms in shades of blue, violet or white. ‘Blue Danube’ and ‘Caerulea’ are two popular cultivars that dip deeply into the violet-blue, while ‘Alba’ is a favorite white selection.

Spanish Squill. Scientifically, they are Hyacinthoides hispanica. Visually, they are exceptionally pretty — clusters of small, pendulant blue, pink or white bells on 12-inch stems that perform well not only in full sun but partial shade. Planted in well-draining soil, like leucojum, Spanish squill can naturalize and spread. The deep violet-blue blooms of the heirloom ‘Excelsior’ make it a choice cultivar among gardeners in the know.

These “other” bulbs shouldn’t be too hard to find at local garden centers, but, just in case, a good online source for this region to check out is the Gloucester, Va.-based Brent and Becky’s Bulbs:

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. Want to ask L.A. a question about your garden? Contact him by email at:

To Do in the Garden


  • The summer growing season is over, but the fall planting season is in full swing, as now is a good time to not only plant spring-flowering bulbs but also hardy perennials and woody ornamentals.
  • Adding a shot of time-released fertilizer to bulb beds this month is a good way to provide nutrients for these sleeping beauties through the winter and into the spring flowering season next year.
  • To prevent damage from hard freezes, drain the garden hose and store it for the winter.
  • Any culinary herbs such as basil, fennel, rosemary, tarragon or thyme that are still hanging on in the garden can be added to decorative bottles filled with vinegar and allowed to steep for several weeks in order be ready in time as nifty do-it-yourself Christmas gifts!
  • With the absence of an abundance of insects and seed-producing plants, winters can be tough on birds, so keep the feeder well supplied with seed and suet, and be sure to change the water in the bird bath at least once a week.


  • Turn over any vacated garden beds to expose overwintering insects and help loosen up the soil for next year’s garden.
  • Free plants! Try your hand at propagating hardwood cuttings of such plants as forsythia, holly, juniper and mock orange.
  • Next year’s vegetable garden begins now! This month is prime asparagus planting time. Two excellent rust-resistant varieties are ‘Mary Washington’ and ‘Jersey Giant’.
  • Now is not too soon to have a soil test done. Some nutrients and conditioners take time becoming incorporated into the soil, so the sooner you act, the better next spring’s garden will perform.
  • With less light and cooler temperatures, indoor plants aren’t as active, so cut back on fertilizer and water.

Timely Tip

With the Yuletide season fast approaching, ‘tis time to find a festive poinsettia or two to decorate the home. Buying a good-looking plant is, of course, important, but also pay attention to the pot. If the poinsettia is large and the pot is plastic, move the plant to a heavier container for better stability. Inexpensive clay pots are ideal.

Also, many poinsettias come with their containers covered in bright foil wrapping. Sure, the foil looks pretty, but remove it — the  wrap will become a water trap that will turn the root zone into a swamp and shorten the life of the poinsettia.

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