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.
Allium bulbs mixed into perennial planting.
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.
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”.
Preceded only by the Snowdrops, these bright yellow buttercup-like flowers bring welcome color to the otherwise dormant garden. Height 3”-4”. Unlike other bulbs, these should be soaked in warm water for 24 hours before planting.
Grass-like foliage support upright stems with clusters of blue flowers. Height 4”-6”.
A true miniature Iris with petite blue flowers in early spring. Height 4”-6”.
“Tommy” and vernus crocus tend to be less desirable to squirrels and chipmunks.
Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ – Showy cup-shaped flowers sport vivid purple & white stripes. Yellow anthers add a contrasting color. Height 4”-5”
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
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. ?
Chionodoxa ‘Pink Giant’ – Palest pink star-shaped flowers with white centers. Height 3”-5”.
By late April/early May the early season “minor bulbs” will disappear into dormancy and the next season of bulb bloom will begin.
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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”.
Caeruleum – Another heirloom variety (Circa 1830), this one was historically called “The Blue of the Heavens”. Small 1”-2” sky blue flowers on wiry stems. Plant in clusters for best effect. Height 15”-18”.
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”.
‘Graceful’ – Graceful 3” white flowers, accented with lavender. Heirloom (circa 1857). Height 12”-15”.
atropurpureum – Half-moons of deepest burgundy/purple atop 24″ stems.
Sphaerocephalon – Known as the “Drumstick Allium”, this one is the latest to bloom and has a distinctly different look from the others. Raspberry-purple, 1” egg-shaped flowers in mid-summer. Especially effective when massed. Heirloom (circa 1550). Height 24”.
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”.
‘Delft Blue’ – Porcelain blue flowers. Height 12”.
‘Tequila Sunrise’ mix – A festive mix of yellow, orange, and burgundy-purple. Height 10”-12”.
A miniature version of Hyacinth, with grape-like flower clusters.
‘Dark Eyes’ – Dark blue flowers. Height 6”-8”.
‘Julia®’ – Blue flowers edged in white. Height 6”-8”.
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. ?
Smoky plum-colored, bell-shaped flowers combined with interesting silvery-green wavy foliage make this plant a real standout. Requires well-drained soil. Heirloom (1585). Height 24”-30”.
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”.
Pendant bells of dark burgundy or white, with an unusual checkered pattern. Blooms on 8”-10” stems in mid spring. Deer resistant. Staff Favorite. 😊
Striking candelabra-like whirl of brilliant orange flowers on tall 36” stems. Deer resistant. Impressive!
Anemone blanda mix
4”-6” mound of up-facing multi-petaled flowers in a range of pastel colors in spring. Deer resistant.
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.
Rock Garden Mix – This mix offers various miniature daffodils, perfectly suited to the Rock Garden.
Rip Van Winkle – Really fun diminutive double that you might not even recognize as a Daffodil!
Original Poet’s Daffodil – Clusters of sweetly fragrant white flowers with a small yellow cup and delicate red rim.
February Gold – A super popular dwarf early blooming daffodil. A favorite!