The 12 Best Bulbs to Plant in the Spring, So Your Garden Looks Lush All Summer

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bulbs to plant in spring cat

Bulbs are an easy way to add color to your yard with little work from you. Dig a hole, and you’re pretty much set for pretty flowers with almost zero maintenance. Seriously. While you may have planted spring-blooming bulbs such as daffodils and tulips last fall, other bulbs can be planted in the spring for blooms later this season. So, it’s not too late to fill your garden with summer flowers.

So What Are the Best Bulbs to Plant in the Spring?

We'll get to specifics in a second, but first, there are a few things you should know. As you’re shopping for bulbs, you’ll see other botanical terms that are similar, such as corms or tubers. These are other types of plants with enlarged stems that store nutrients, so they can reproduce and come back next year, according to the gardening pros at American Meadows. Bulbs, corms and tubers are all planted the same way, no matter what they’re called (though you should read the plant tag or description to know how deep to plant each type).

How Do I Plant Bulbs in the Spring?

When planting, wait until all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed up, which can be as late as May or early June in some parts of the country. And pay attention to your USDA Hardiness zone (find yours here). Some summer bulbs are considered “tender perennials,” which means they cannot survive freezing temperatures. For these, lift, or dig them up, before the ground freezes, and store indoors in a cool, dark place until the ground warms again next spring when you can replant them.

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The 12 Best Bulbs to Plant in the Spring

best spring bulbs canna lily in field
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1. Canna Lily

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight per day)
  • Why We Love It: Dramatic foliage, exotic blooms in bright colors, tropical flair

These attractive perennials are fast-growing and deer resistant, plus they attract pollinators with their striking late-summer flowers. Canna Lillies look equally stunning at the back of borders or in large containers to provide privacy for a patio or deck. In climates colder than zone 8, dig them up and save for next spring.

best bulbs to plant in spring: caladium
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2. Caladium

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Part shade; morning sun OK
  • Why We Love It: Heat lover, striking foliage

Gorgeous, heart-shaped foliage in shades of hot pink, red, green and white make these a fun addition to any garden. Caladiums love, love, love the heat, so wait until the soil has warmed up to plant your tubers outdoors. Or plant indoors in pots about 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost for a head start. Dig tubers up before a frost in zones 7 and colder to save for next year, though many gardeners treat them as annuals. Smaller varieties can be brought indoors as houseplants over the winter.

purple anemone, a best bulb to plant in spring
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3. Anemone

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Full sun
  • Why We Love It: Exquisite blooms, attracts butterflies, deer resistant

Anemones can be planted in the fall in warm climates (zones 8 and warmer), but plant these corms in the spring in colder climates. They look best when planted in large drifts for maximum drama. They make gorgeous, long-lasting cut flowers, making them a prime pick to include in cutting gardens.

pink and yellow dahlias, one of the best bulbs to plant in spring
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4. Dahlia

  • How much Sunlight It Needs: Full sun
  • Why We Love It: Attracts pollinators, hundreds of sizes, colors, and varieties

Dahlias are amazing flowers that come in every size from teeny pom-pom types to giant dinner-plated sized ones. They bloom from late summer to early fall and make stunning long-lasting cut flowers. In cold climates, lift the bulbs before a frost to save for next year.

red crocosomias in field
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5. Crocosmia

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Full sun
  • Why We Love It: Easy-to-grow, attracts pollinators, blooms from midsummer to fall

Hummingbirds love this beautiful flower! Crocosmia can reach 48 inches tall, so keep them in the back of borders. Lift the corms before a frost in cold climates.

almost purple and yellow blooms of daylily

6. Daylily

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Tolerates part shade but blooms better in full sun
  • Why We Love It: Super-tough, low maintenance perennial

If you can’t grow much of anything, try daylilies. These beautiful midsummer bloomers come in almost every color, from pale pink to lemon yellow to deep burgundy, and they attract butterflies and hummingbirds. However, they’re also a favorite of deer, so avoid planting these if Bambi is a regular visitor to your garden.

dark green elephant ears, a spring bulb

7. Elephant Ear

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Part shade, though morning sun is OK
  • Why We Love It: Dramatic foliage with tropical flair

If you’re looking for a real statement-maker, elephant ears belong in your garden. The gigantic leaves (which look like elephant ears, of course) can reach 6 feet tall, depending on the variety. They need consistent moisture throughout the summer, or they’ll wilt. In cold climates, dig the tubers up before a freeze and save for next year.

yellow asiatic lillies

8. Asiatic Lily

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Full sun but will tolerate a little shade
  • Why We Love It: Low-maintenance; cold-hardy to zone 3

Asiatic lilies bloom in early summer and come in a variety of gorgeous shades from pale pastels to hot pink to eye-popping orange. They’re not strongly scented and are the shortest of the lilies, so plant them at the front of borders.

pink speckled oriental lily, a spring bulb

9. Oriental Lily

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Full sun
  • Why We Love It: Strong fragrance, low maintenance, cold-hardy to zone 3

These fragrant lilies begin to bloom in mid-summer to late summer after the Asiatic lilies are wrapping up their show. They’re a taller type an can reach up to 4 feet in height, so keep them at the back of borders.

pale pink begonias, a spring bulb

10. Begonia

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Part sun to full shade
  • Why We Love It: Easy-to-grow, long-lasting blooms from summer to frost

Begonia tubers can be planted outdoors after the last frost or indoors to give them a head start. They’re low maintenance plants that come in an astonishing array of colors and sizes. Bring the plants indoors as houseplants over the winter, or dig up the tubers in cold climates to save and replant next spring.

white peacock orchids in a field

11. Peacock Orchid

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: Full sun
  • Why We Love It: Late summer blooms, fragrant

Striking white flowers with burgundy centers top long, elegant stems on these late summer bloomers. They’re lovely in mixed borders and make an excellent fragrant flower for cutting gardens. Lift the bulbs before winter in zones 5 and colder.

best bulbs to plant in spring: ranunculus
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12. Ranunculus

  • How Much Sunlight It Needs: full sun
  • Why We Love It: early to mid-summer blooms, makes for great cut flowers and bouquets

Also known as Persian Buttercups, ranunculus are the kind of eye-catching blooms that will have your neighbors begging to snip a flower or two for their table. (To that end, many people plant them in cutting gardens, so they can make their own arrangements.) The rose-like flowers start to appear in early summer, providing an early dose of color, and they're hardy in zones 8 through 10, according to American Meadows.

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Freelance Gardening Editor

Arricca Elin SanSone is a gardener with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to PureWow, she writes for Prevention, Country Living, Veranda, The Spruce and many other...