Skip to Content
Dahlias add a pop of color to this customers' perennial garden with Ornamental Grass and Kniphofia.
Dahlias add a pop of color to this customers' perennial garden with Ornamental Grass and Kniphofia.

Spring Planted Bulbs For Easy-Care Summer Color

By David Salman, High Country Gardens Chief Horticulturist

Spring planted bulbs provide gardeners with a quick-growing solution to add color to our gardens and landscapes. These colorful and easy-to-grow plants will mature into their full size in just one season, unlike perennial plants, which take at least 2-3 seasons to mature. Bulbs provide us with magnificent flowers in the same growing season that we plant them. 

Some spring-planted bulbs are treated as annuals, while some are winter-cold-hardy and perennial; the key is matching them to your climate. Spring-planted bulbs are a great way to fill in newly planted perennial beds with a pop of color. Or, combine with annual bedding plants like petunias, marigolds, lobelia, and alyssum in flower beds and potted container gardens. 

Spring-Planted Bulbs Treated As Annuals

A number of spring-planted bulbs, including increasingly popular Dahlias, are only perennial in zones 9-10, tolerating winter temperatures only to about 20° F. 

So for most of the country, they are most commonly replanted each growing season. For some gardeners, it is worth their while to dig or “lift" these cold-tender bulbs after hard frost and store them for replanting the next year.  Others may let the bulbs freeze out over the winter and plant new stock in the spring. 

Spring-Bulb Planting Tips:  Don’t be in a rush to plant the heat-loving varieties like Canna Lily, Dahlia, Calla Lily, and Mexican Shell Flower. Wait until the last frost has passed and the soil has begun to warm up. When it’s time to plant tomatoes outside, it’s time to plant these bulbs. Similar to tomatoes, if you have a short growing season, consider planting bulbs in pots indoors to give them a head start, then transplant them outside when it's warm enough.

7 Spring-Planted Bulbs To Treat As Annuals

  1. Dahlia (Dahlia) – native to Mexico and Central America this genus has been extensively hybridized to create a huge assortment of cultivars with many different flower shapes, colors and sizes.
  2. Gladiola (Gladiolus) – spectacular spikes of colorful flowers that are excellent as long-lasting cut flowers.
  3. Mexican Shell Flower (Tigridia pavonia) – a heat-and-humidity-loving wildflower from Mexico blooming in a rainbow of brilliant colors.
  4. Freesia (Freesia) – incredibly fragrant flowers that are outstanding in container gardens.
  5. Persian Buttercups (Ranunculus) – exquisite flowers in a wide range of brilliant colors that are best grown in areas with cooler summer temperatures or as a winter annual in hot summer regions.
  6. Canna Lily (Canna) – heat lovers that thrive in heat and humidity but are not recommended for higher elevations where the nights are too cold.
  7. Calla Lily (Zantedeschia) – native to South Africa, they are grown throughout the world and thrive in climates with summer heat and humidity.

Cold Hardy Spring-Planted Bulbs

Among the spring-planted bulbs, there are a number of cold-hardy varieties that are reliably perennial. These flowers can be used in the mixed perennial flower border with great results. For best results, be sure to choose varieties that match your climate and growing conditions. Plant and enjoy the added layers of color and texture to enhance your perennial garden!

6 Spring-Planted Bulbs To Treat As Perennials

  1. Winter Hardy Gladiola (Gladiolus nanus hybrids) – these gorgeous Glads are cold hardy to USDA zone 5 when well-mulched before the onset of winter.
  2. Pink Guernsey Lily (Nerine bowdenii) – a showy South African lily-like species that blooms in the late summer/early fall before the foliage emerges in spring.
  3. Foxtail Lily (Eremurus stenophyllus) – A fantastic xeric flowering bulb from western Asia that blooms in early summer and thrives in the drier climates of the Intermountain West and Great Plains.
  4. Crocosmia – a showy group of African species that bloom in mid-to-late summer, these are best grown in wetter climates, as they dislike heat and drought.
  5. Rain Lilies (Zephyranthes)– a large group of native bulbs that range from the Gulf States down into Central America. Rain Lilies bloom off and on all summer, especially after a good soaking rain. They are excellent naturalizing bulbs that create colorful, long-lived colonies in USDA zones 7 to 11.

Plant A Pop Of Color

Explore our selection of easy-to-grow spring-planted flower bulbs. There are flower bulbs for every style and for gardens small to large. A great choice for beginners!