5 Colorful Heirloom Bulbs to Plant This Fall
Forget tulips and daffodils. Stoke spring fever in your yard by planting uncommon bulbs that offer outstanding color.
Fall is the time to plant spring bulbs, and you can easily make the most of your efforts by focusing on ones that spark conversation as petals unfurl. Take spring starflower (Ipheion), for instance. This bulb pops up in mid-spring, opening fragrant flowers. The sparkling blooms stand above grassy leaves. Flowers open in white or sparkling blue (above).
Spring starflower is small, topping out at 3 to 5 inches, which makes it an ideal choice for edging a planting bed or walkway. This heirloom dates to 1836 and readily naturalizes—meaning it thrives if left alone and forms large colonies that look like Mother Nature put them in place. It pairs beautifully with grape hyacinth or scilla. Use it beneath trees or shrubs for a springtime carpet of color.
Also known as Fritillaria meleagris, checkered lily earns its name from burgundy and white patterned blooms, although you can also find all white forms. This is a true heirloom flower, dating to 1572. Checkered lily is versatile in the garden, growing in part shade to full sun, in well-drained or moist soil, a condition that kills many spring bulbs. If you have soil that doesn’t drain well, plant this bell-shape bloomer. It naturalizes well over time to form colorful spring colonies. Flowers are roughly 2 inches long, standing atop stems 12 to 15 inches high.
Grape Hyacinth a.k.a Muscari Latifolium
Grape hyacinth is a well-known little flower powerhouse. Muscari latifolium is its Turkish cousin—the tallest in the family, growing 12 to 15 inches high. It amps up the grape hyacinth show with two-tone flower clusters. Blossoms near the base of the cluster open in deep violet shades, while flowers near the top form tufts of blue. This heirloom bulb dates to 1886 and naturalizes well to slowly form colonies. Plant it under shrubs and trees, or use it as a ground cover beneath tulips or daffodils. It also works well naturalized in a lawn.
Star of Persia
This is the largest of the allium clan, opening flowers that measure a whopping 10 to 12 inches across. Each flower head includes over 100 lavender hued blooms. Also known as Allium christophii, star of Persia looks its best tucked into perennial beds in groups of at least 5 bulbs—more is better. Plants grow 12 to 18 inches tall and look stunning planted into a drift of chartreuse lady’s mantle. Flower heads dry and linger through the growing season. Harvest as soon as flowers fade to prevent self-sowing. Star of Persia is an heirloom bulb dating to 1884.
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Gypsy Queen Hyacinth
Dutch hyacinth is a fragrant favorite in spring bulb displays, most often bringing splashes of blue and pink to garden scenes. Gypsy Queen (sometimes listed as Gipsy Queen) breaks out of the traditional hyacinth color mode, unfurling flowers in shades of salmon-pink with hints of yellow and rose. Blossom hue doesn’t fade with time, but sounds a steady note of color through spring. This heirloom bloomer dates to 1927 and shines planted along garden edges or beneath shrubs. If you’d rather a butter yellow hyacinth, look for Gypsy Princess. Use hyacinth along walkways or near entries so you can savor the spring perfume.