Hardy Bulbs for Wisconsin Gardens [Updated 2023]

Published On: September 17th, 2020


With our abbreviated growing season here in Wisconsin, bulbs are invaluable for extending the bloom season. Take some time this autumn to plant bulbs to reward yourself with years of early-season blossoms.

How to Plant Bulbs in Wisconsin FAQ

  • Where to plant bulbs? Plant in loamy, well-drained soil. With few exceptions, bulbs will rot in wet soils.
  • When to plant: Hardy spring-blooming bulbs must be planted in the fall. The ideal time for planting is following “Indian Summer” when autumn temperatures really set in. In southeastern Wisconsin, this is usually the month of October.
  • Do I need to fertilize? Adding fertilizer when you plant will provide resources to the bulb to increase its perenniality. Our organic, slow-release Espoma Bulb-Tone fertilizer includes beneficial mycorrhiza that greatly increases the plant’s ability to utilize soil nutrients.
  • How deep? 2-3 times the height of the bulb
  • How far apart? Bulbs are most effective when massed, so digging one large hole to plant a group of bulbs creates a nice show. Leave at least a bulb’s width between each bulb.
  • Should I cut my bulb plants down?
    Bulbs make excellent cut flowers, so cut as many blossoms as you like for floral bouquets. Once the flowers have faded you may cut the spent flowers off to encourage the plant to put its energy into underground growth rather than seed production (exceptions would be bulbs with attractive seed heads such as Alliums, or those that you want to allow to self-sow).

    Do not cut the fading foliage down
    as the plant needs the energy provided by the foliage to nourish the bulb for future years of bloom.
hardy bulbs for wisconsin gardeners allium mixed in with native landscape planting

Allium bulbs mixed into perennial planting.

hardy bulbs for wisconsin gardeners scilla siberica naturalized on forest floor

Squill bulbs naturalized.

Early Season Bulbs

AKA: Minor bulbs

You can add an entire season of interest to your garden with early-season bulbs. Those dreary days of March & April can be spent enjoying abundant bloom rather than just waiting for the garden to wake up.

Bonus: these plants disappear into dormancy by the time your perennials emerge so there is no unsightly period of waiting for the foliage to mature.

Snowdrops

bulbs snow drops galanthus earliest spring blooming bulb wisconsin

Galanthus

The very first flowers to emerge in early spring/late winter, Snowdrops often bloom surrounded by ice and snow. Delicate pendant white flowers accented with a touch of green. Height 6”.

Dwarf Iris

bulbs dwarf iris reticulata mini miniature iris small blue flowers

Iris reticulata

A true miniature Iris with petite blue flowers in early spring. Height 4”-6”.

Crocus

bulbs crocus tommasinianus purple spring bulb flowers in cedarburg

“Tommy” crocus tend to be less desirable to squirrels, chipmunks and deer.

  • Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’ – Sometimes called Snow Crocus because it blooms so early in the spring. Delicate reddish-purple flowers with white throat. Height 3”-4”

Glory of the Snow

bulbs glory of the snow chionodoxa blue pink giant blooms in snow

Chionodoxa

True to their name, these beauties often bloom right through the snow. Deer & rabbit resistant.

  • Chionodoxa ‘Blue Giant’ – Up facing sky blue star-like flowers with white centers. Height 3”-5”. Staff Favorite.

Striped Squill

bulbs glory of the snow chionodoxa blue pink giant blooms in snow

Pushkinia scilloides

Dainty spikes of fragrant white flowers, delicately striped with blue. Great for early season mini floral bouquets. Deer & rabbit resistant.

Siberian Squill

bulbs glory of the snow chionodoxa blue pink giant blooms in snow

Scilla siberica

 Blooming through the snow, these eager colonizers will spread to form an early spring carpet of blue. Deer & rabbit resistant. NOTE: We do not recommend planting these bulbs if your property adjoins areas of native woodlands.

Mid-Season Bulbs

By late April/early May the early season “minor bulbs” will disappear into dormancy and the next season of bulb bloom will begin.

Allium

Swipe for Slideshow

This group produce globe-like flowers in a tremendous range of sizes, with colors including purple, white and true blue. As members of the onion family, they are deer and rabbit resistant. The seed heads are decorative enough to leave standing after bloom (sometimes we even get silly and paint them different colors). Staff Favorite!

  • ‘Ambassador’ – Dense purple flower heads up to 7” across, atop statuesque 48” stems. This one gets a lot of attention in our display gardens. Stunning!
  • ‘Globemaster’ – Huge, dense purple globes up to 8” across. Height 36”.
  • ‘Purple Sensation’ – Lilac-purple flowerheads, 4″ wide. Height 24”-32”. Naturalizes by seed if allowed to self sow.
  • Christophii – An heirloom variety (Circa 1884) known as “Star of Persia”. Immense 8”-10” starry silvery-violet flowers. Height 18”-24”.
  • ‘Gladiator’ –7” violet-purple flowers atop 36”-48” stems.
  • Schubertii – Known as the “Fireworks Allium”, this one produces immense, airy, rosy-lilac flowers up to 12” across on short stems. Heirloom (circa 1896). Height 12”-15”.
  • atropurpureum – Half-moons of deepest burgundy/purple atop 24″ stems.

Camassia

bulbs carnassia caerulea early summer blooming bulbs cedarburg wisconsin

A native of the Pacific Northwest, this is one of the few bulbs that will thrive in moist soil. Spires of flowers in early summer. Staff Favorite.

  • Caerulea – Spikes of blue star-like flowers in early summer. Naturalizes if allowed to seed. Heirloom (circa 1853). Height 24”-30”.

Summer Snowflake

bulbs summer snowflake leucojum giant snowdrops heirloom bulb

Leucojum

Sometimes called Giant Snowdrops, this gracefully elegant plant produces clusters of lovely, pendant, cream-white flowers edged in green. Deer & rabbit resistant. Heirloom (circa 1594). Height 15”-18”. Staff Favorite.

Mediterranean Bells

bulbs mediterranean bells nectaroscordium allium siculum bulgaricum

Nectaroscordium/Allium siculum ssp. bulgaricum

Twisted, curly foliage emerges first, followed by tall stems bearing papery buds that open to candelabra-like clusters of pendant cream and burgundy flowers. More interesting than beautiful, but it’s a favorite. Deer & rabbit resistant. Heirloom (circa 1870). Height 30”-36”.

Hyacinth

bulbs hyacinth blue procelain festive summer flower bulb cedarburg

Intensely fragrant dense, stout flower clusters.

  • ‘Delft Blue’ – Porcelain blue flowers. Height 12”.
  • ‘Tequila Sunrise’ mix – A festive mix of yellow, orange, and burgundy-purple. Height 10”-12”.

Grape Hyacinth

bulbs mediterranean bells nectaroscordium allium siculum bulgaricum

Muscari

A miniature version of Hyacinths, with dainty grape-like flowers on petite stems. Deer & rabbit resistant. Height 6″.

Delft Blue Blend – A blend of blue shades.

Daffodils

bulbs daffodils narcissus at Heyden's Gardens in cedarburg

Narcissus

With hundreds of varieties and types available, it’s difficult to know which daffodil to choose. We’ve tried to offer a selection of the major groups. All are deer & rabbit resistant and long-lived.

  • Trumpet Mix – Classic daffodil form. A single flower per stem, with a long central “trumpet”.
  • Double Mix – One or more fully double flowers per stem.
  • Butterfly Mix – The central cup is split so that it resembles a butterfly.
  • Large Cup Mix – A mix of popular large cupped varieties.
  • All White Blend – A blend of highly fragrant, pure white daffodils of various sizes & types.
  • All In One Blend – A blend of colors, shapes, sizes & bloom times.
  • Gigantic Star – Large, 4″-5″ bright yellow trumpet flowers.
  • Brackenhurst – A large cupped daffodil with sunny yellow petals surrounding a rich orange cup.

Check out Growing Paperwhite Narcissus Bulbs in the winter.

Tulips

bulbs tulips classic cut flower bulb cedarburg wisconsin

A cut flower classic. Beautiful range of colors and forms. Unfortunately, hybrid tulips are a favorite of deer and tend not to be as long-lived as other hardy bulbs.

  • Lily Flowering Mix – Elegant, chalice-shaped flowers with pointed tips
  • Parrot Flowering Mix – Striated colors and twisted, unusual flower form
  • Double Mix – Fully double, peony-like flowers
  • Single Late Mix – Single, late-blooming flowers in a range of colors
  • Rainbow Mix – An early to mid-spring mix of Triumph tulip varieties
  • Dutch Prince Mix – A mix of Single Early tulips in shades of lilac, purple, and white
  • Breeders Blend – A grab-bag collection that includes a variety of colors, forms, and bloom times
  • Darwin – Sometimes called “perennial tulips” because of their tendency to perform well for years in the garden.
    • Tequila Sunrise Mix – Vibrant mix of yellow, orange, red, & bicolor