7 Bulbs to Plant in Spring

'Orange Garden' dahlia
© iStock.com/LianeM

Written by Fern Damron

Updated: June 16, 2023

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Whether you’re new to gardening or have been doing it all your life, planting a flower garden is a rewarding and enriching experience. With endless possible plant groupings, layouts, and color selections, it can be a wonderful and meditative avenue for creative expression unique to each person. Planting spring bulbs in your garden this year can give you the opportunity to experiment with many diverse colors, textures, and shapes.

Because there are so many thousands of distinct species and cultivars across so many genera of bulbs and bulb-like plants, there are an incredible number of options to choose from.

Preview of 7 Bulbs to Plant in Spring

Spring Bulbs for Your Garden

Flower gardening not only fills a space with fragrance and color but also allows each gardener to form a personal relationship with the life around them. If you’re looking to branch out and form some new plant friendships this year, spring bulbs, tubers, corms, and rhizomes are beautiful, hardy companions that can be kept and replanted year after year.

Read on to learn about seven of our favorite plant groups and find out if they fit your garden.

1. Freesias

Freesias are commonly grown for cut flowers or use in bouquets.


Gardeners and florists widely adore freesias for their ease of care and distinctly fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. Because of their long vase life and deep coloration, they are commonly grown for cut flowers or use in bouquets, but they also make a lively addition to any home garden.

Native across southern Africa, these plants are winter hardy only in USDA zones 9 and 10. While one might expect that they prefer hot summer weather, freesias require cooler temperatures to produce their best growth. Temperatures that rise too high can stunt their growth and delay flower production. Whether growing freesias indoors or outdoors, the ideal temperature range is 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the warmer, southern climes, freesias can be planted outdoors in the fall when temperatures are cooler. While they prefer full sun, they can be planted in areas that receive shade throughout the day to help keep their soil temperatures cooler during the hottest parts of the day. In these growing zones, they can survive the winter and be left in the ground or their containers to produce their flowers through the winter. As spring and summer approach and temperatures begin to rise, your freesias will again go dormant.

In growing zones 8 and below, gardeners usually grow freesias outdoors only as annuals, allowing them to die in place as temperatures begin to drop. Although they cannot survive outdoors in these zones, they can still be grown perennially by keeping them indoors. Like other spring bulbs, freesia corms can be carefully lifted from the ground and overwintered indoors in a dormant state as long as they are stored in an area that maintains warm temperatures.

2. Dahlias

large dahlia flowers

Over 50,000 cultivars of dahlias are available in a wide range of colors, heights, shapes, and bloom sizes.


While some insist that dahlias are challenging to grow, their primary care requirements are simple and similar to other popular spring bulbs. Over 50,000 cultivars are available in various colors, heights, shapes, and bloom sizes, making excellent cut flowers. There is, in fact, so much variation among dahlia cultivars that they are divided into ten groups based on their morphology.

They can be planted in containers or garden beds, though the taller cultivars will do best in the ground and will most likely need to be staked to support their heavy flowers. The most significant “dinner plate” dahlias can produce flowers that grow up to 14 inches in width.

As long as dahlias are planted in well-draining soil in a sunny location, their sensitivity to moisture is of very little concern. At the end of the growing season, the dahlia can be easily propagated by carefully separating the new tuberous roots that appear along the crown of the parent plant.

3. Caladiums


Caladiums are primarily grown in the garden for their gorgeously-colored and impactful, variegated foliage.


Although caladiums sometimes flower, they are primarily grown in the garden for their gorgeously-colored and impactful, variegated foliage. They belong to a genus of tropical, shade-loving, tuberous plants whose native range reaches across Central and South America. Because these tubers grow their best in full shade or dappled sunlight, they can add summer color to even the shadiest, hard-to-fill areas of your garden.

Caladiums are commonly referred to as elephant ears and can be acquired in either fancy-leafed or lance-leafed varieties. The fancy-leafed caladiums are generally taller in height than their lance-leafed relatives and produce much wider, heart- or escutcheon-shaped leaves. Cultivars such as ‘New Wave’ and ‘Allure’, with their bold colors and highly contrasting foliage combinations, make striking showpieces when planted singly.

While shorter and narrower, lance-leafed cultivars tend to produce more leaves per tuber than the larger fancy-leafed varieties. Because they are smaller and appear in greater quantities, these varieties are best planted along borders or en masse to fill space or add texture and contrast.

4. Gladiolus

Assorted Gladiolus flowers

Gladioli require full sun and can be grown indoors or outdoors.

©iStock.com/Olga Niekrasova

Gladiolus corms are some of the best to plant in the springtime. Named for their long, sword-shaped leaves, these showy, easy-to-care-for plants produce iconic flowers that both competitive and casual gardeners adore.

Gladioli require full sun, can be grown indoors or outdoors, and will thrive in containers or the garden bed. Although native to the Mediterranean and South Africa, gladioli are hardy in various conditions and can be grown outdoors as perennials in even temperate climates with proper care. They should be planted in the spring once all chance of frost has passed.

A few main groupings of gladioli are based on the lineage and growth characteristics of each of their cultivars. The shorter nanus varieties are best suited for container gardening, attaining heights of only 12-18 inches without sacrificing a bit of visual appeal. In stark contrast, their taller and statelier relatives, the grandiflora hybrids, produce flowers in dense groups and can reach heights of 4-6 feet! Because of this, they frequently require staking to keep them standing upright.

The third group, which is commonly referred to as the primulinus hybrids, is made up of large-flowered cultivars that were crossed with wild species of gladiolus in the 19th century. This resulted in plants that produce distinctly hooded, nodding, often variegated blooms and take up the middle ground in height.

5. Lilies

Assorted Asiatic Lilies flowering in a garden

Closeup of a mixed assorted Asiatic Lilies flower in a garden


Lilies have been in cultivation for millennia — and for a good reason. Their lush, boldly colored flowers develop in various shapes and patterns that pique interest and draw attention. From the iconic, stark white Madonna lily of antiquity to the more modern pink-and-white hybrid Stargazer lily, there will surely be a lily suited to every gardener.

Boasting thousands of available cultivars, lilies are a diverse group. They can range between 1-8 feet in height, producing flowers in a wide range of solid colors and mottled, spotted, and striped variegations. Flowers may be nodding, as in the case of the orange and black-spotted tiger lily, or face directly upwards like the nearly black, Asiatic hybrid ‘Night Rider. Depending on the chosen cultivar, blooming periods vary throughout the summer.

Although Lilium cultivars can vary widely in terms of morphology, their care requirements are similar. They are not complicated with their soil, accepting a fairly wide range of pH and soil types, as long as it drains well. While lilies prefer full sun, they do well in partial and partial shade. Ideally, they should be planted in such a way that the flowers and leaves receive sun while their root zone remains shaded. Surrounding them with ground cover plants accomplishes this and helps keep the soil moist and cool while allowing the aerial parts to collect sun and attract pollinators.

6. Begonias

Are Begonias Poisonous to Dogs or Cats - Begonia

Begonias are native to a humid subtropical and tropical climate. Some species are usually grown indoors as indoor plants.

©Fedotova Olga/Shutterstock.com

If you’re looking for a classic and versatile flowering plant to grow at home this spring, then begonias are a good choice. Not only do they bear bright and elegant flowers, but they also produce intricate and variegated foliage pleasing to the eye even when not in bloom.

From foliage to growth habit to bloom color, there is an incredible amount of variation between groups of begonia cultivars. Wax begonias are known for their simple, glossy green or bronze foliage and small, plentiful blooms. Cane-like begonias, conversely, are most notable for their highly textured and patterned leaves and jointed stems resembling bamboo. While also visually striking, shrub begonias can cover significantly more area than their relatives, with some cultivars spreading as wide as 12 feet!

Like many other spring bulbs, begonias require moist soil throughout the growing season and should be watered just as their soil dries. It is crucial that their soil is well-draining. Although they require a good amount of water, begonias are susceptible to root rot if their soil remains too wet.

Since they do not tolerate bright light, begonias are popularly grown in hanging baskets or shadier outdoor beds. They are native to forests across the tropics, and although they can be grown annually in almost any climate, they are winter hardy only in zones 9-11. In zones 8 and below, where fall and winter temperatures are too cold, begonias must be lifted from their beds and stored inside until the return of summer.

7. Shamrocks

Yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) clover

While generally considered spring “weeds,” shamrocks produce bright wildflowers in various colors.

©Dcrjsr | CC BY – Original / License

These plants are members of the Oxalis genus and are also commonly called sorrels. They do not grow from bulbs but rather from rhizomes. While generally considered spring “weeds” in the lawn and garden, shamrocks produce bright wildflowers in various colors depending upon the species. Their familiar three-leaved foliage, as well as their flowers, stems, and seed pods, are pleasantly sour and edible, although some people report stomach upset due to the oxalic acid present in all parts of the plant.

Once established, they will not only self-seed but will also spread via underground rhizomatous growth and above ground via runners. Because they can grow in a vast range of soil conditions, they can make for a beautiful low- or zero-maintenance ground cover plant to help keep your soils cool and sheltered throughout the season. Although they spread quickly, their nutrient requirements are shallow, and they tend not to bully other spring bulbs. Bear in mind that, once planted, Oxalis can be difficult to eradicate from an area.

Species native to North America include the yellow wood sorrel (Oxalis stricta) and the violet wood sorrel (Oxalis violacea). The South American Oxalis triangularis is commonly grown for its deep purple foliage.

Summary of 7 Bulbs to Plant in Spring


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About the Author

Fern Damron is a writer at A-Z Animals who covers a variety of topics including plant life, gardening, and geology. They live off-grid in the Southeast U.S. and have been working to restore local Appalachian ginseng stands since 2020.

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