How to Plant Bulbs for Staggered Blooming

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When you plan your garden, you’re almost like a playwright for your landscape, creating different scenes and images. Just like any good play, there are different “acts” to the growing season, with certain plants taking center stage at particular times.

Planting bulbs so they flower in succession means you’ll always have something in bloom. While some will be in the spotlight, others will act as supporting roles, ultimately creating a lush, colorful garden.

How to Plant Bulbs for Staggered Blooming

We can categorize fall-planted, spring-blooming bulbs as ones that flower in early, mid, and late spring. Choose ones from each category, so something is always in bloom.

Plant the taller bulbs at the back of the garden bed with the shorter ones in front so that the smaller ones aren’t hidden. Plus, the shorter plants can be “shoes-and-socks” plants that will cover the naked stems of the emerging bulbs behind them.

In our recommended bulbs for staggered blooming below, the earliest bloomers are shortest, and the latest bloomers are the tallest, meaning the early bloomers should be grown at the front of a garden bed and the late ones at the back.




Early Spring Bulbs

These early bloomers will add a beautiful pop of color to your yard as the season changes from winter to spring.

  • Buttercups, also known as Winter Aconite or Ranunculus, have a frilly green collar of leaves and dainty yellow flowers that bloom in very early spring. The pest-resistant Eranthis cilicica naturalizes easily and looks beautiful at the front of borders, along walkways, or in rock gardens. Hardy in zones 4-8, depending on the cultivar.
  • Crocuses, available in stunning shades of purple, white, and yellow, poke their heads out while temperatures are still low, emerging in late winter or early spring. Many crocuses attract pollinators and achieve good naturalization, meaning they reseed and spread on their own. While some crocuses provide a tasty snack for squirrels, some like Crocus tommasinianus ‘Ruby Giant’ are resistant to critters. Hardy in zones 3-8, depending on the cultivar.
  • Snowdrops, or Galanthus, have fragrant, white nodding flowers with petals shaped like teardrops. These are extremely critter-proof, naturalize well, and are fantastic for brightening up shadier spots in your yard. For a very early bloomer with large flowers, grow Galanthus elwesii. Hardy in zones 3-8, depending on the cultivar.




Mid-Spring Bulbs

The next batch of bulbs should be the early to mid-spring bloomers.

  • Narcissus, also nicknamed Daffodils, are long-lived, easy-to-grow flowers, plus they are naturally pest-resistant, all of which make them a classic in any garden! Rather than naturalizing, Daffodils perennialize, meaning they multiply by division. Depending on the cultivar, some bloom earlier than others. Ceylon is one of the longest-lasting cultivars and has buttercup-yellow petals and a reddish-orange cup, a beautiful sight to see in spring. Hardy in zones 3-9, depending on the cultivar.
  • Tulips add not only visual but also fragrant beauty to your garden. They are some of the best-cut flower bulbs. Tulips will come back well each year as long as they aren’t planted where there’s mindless irrigation in the summer. For a super cheery, single-flower tulip, choose Flair, which has flowers with streaks of yellow and red. Hardy in zones 3-8, depending on the cultivar.




Late Bloomers

Last but certainly not least, these bulbs bridge together the spring and summer seasons.

  • Alliums, also known as ornamental onions, are generally tall bulbs for the back of your beds. Some naturalize, while others perennialize. They have pom-pom-shaped clusters of tiny florets and come in shades of blue, pink, purple, and yellow. To make a major statement, plant Allium ‘Giganteum,’ which has purple, softball-sized blossoms! Hardy in zones 3-9, depending on the cultivar.
  • Anemones are available as early spring to summer bloomers, depending on the cultivar and depending on your zone. These will be some of the showiest flowers in your garden! Anemone coronaria ‘Governor’ has daisy-like, bright red blooms that make beautiful cut flowers. Hardy in zones 5-8, depending on the cultivar. 


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Set the stage for an award-winning production by planting bulbs for staggered blooms! Doing a bit of planning now will ensure you have less to worry about come spring when the first bulbs emerge.


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