Fall Bulbs in Minor

Fall has finally arrived in Nebraska and now is the time we can start thinking about fall planted bulbs for next spring. There is an endless parade of options to choose from – so which one do you pick? Let’s talk about some of the lesser-known options that you can choose to plant in your garden this fall.

Spoiler Alert: buying bulbs and planting bulbs are two very different hobbies. Proceed with caution.

When we think of spring blooming bulbs often our mind’s eye drifts to bold tulips and bright daffodils. When planted in mass they do put on a show. However, they are not the only option that you can add to your landscape. Often we overlook the smaller minor bulbs but when used correctly they can add a pop of color and texture. When working with smaller bulbs remember they should be put where they can be seen and planted in mass for the best impact.

Puschkinia scilloides var. libanotica happens to be one of my favorite bulbs to include in the landscape. Native to Turkey and Lebanon these perennial bulbs grow maybe 4” to 6” with pale star shaped white blooms with a soft blue stripe running down the center of the petal. They have strap-like leaves that blend in well with other perennials making them less intrusive as their flowers fade. Over time they can naturalize and slowly form larger clumps if left undisturbed. Some bulb experts share that the plant also is nectar and pollen rich adding to it’s appeal for gardeners. Another added bonus – deer tend to leave this bulbs alone.

Fritillaria meleagris is another favorite of mine to plant. A perennial bulb that is native to western Asia and Europe and they only grow maybe 8” tall. An outstanding feature of all Fritillaria is their less than desirable aroma that tends to keep deer, rabbits, and squirrels from bothering them. This species common name is checkered lily that stems from the chessboard-like pattern that adorns their flower petals. They too will naturalize and form larger clumps as they mature. Their grass-like foliage will blend in with surrounding plant material allowing them to seemingly disappear as the season progresses.

Narcissus bulbocodium ‘Golden Bells’ is a type of daffodil that you don’t always see in the garden. Due to its small size it is often overlooked for their larger and showier cousins. Like all daffodils it isn’t bothered by deer or rabbits but sometimes squirrels can dig them up and replace them with their own cache. ‘Golden Bells’ should be planted in mass allowing it to form a carpet bright yellow bell-like flowers in the spring. Like the other bulbs mentioned they are small and maybe reaching 8” in height at maturity.

Camassia scilloides is the last bulb I wanted to touch on. This has become a perennial favorite of ours in our garden. Native to central and eastern North America this perennial bulb offers strong vertical elements when it comes to spring flowering bulbs. Flowers are held above the foliage on individual spikes each containing a dozen or more pale blue to sometimes white blooms. Each star-like flower has bright yellow anthers that sharply contrast with the pale blue/lavender blooms that are attractive to early spring pollinators. Unlike the other bulbs mentioned Camassia can grow close to 2’ in height at maturity and the foliage can look unkept as the flowers fade. It does well interplanted with other perennials such as coneflowers that will hide the bulbs foliage as the season progresses.    

While daffodils, tulips and even hyacinth offer some great curb appeal to any garden consider adding something different this fall. Not only do these minor bulbs pack a punch with texture and bloom they are often found less attractive to rodents. The foliage of the minor bulbs often blends in with emerging perennials that reduce the labor of upkeep as summer approaches. This fall when you are in the garden centers deciding on what to plant keep an eye out for some of these. As a reminder: buying bulbs and planting them are two different hobbies. When planting them plant twice as deep as the bulb is tall and generally pointy end up.

Scott Evans
Scott Evans is a horticulture assistant with Nebraska Extension in Douglas-Sarpy Counties. A certified arborist through International Society of Arboirculture and Nebraska Arborist Association. Scott is also Tree Risk Assessment Qualified through ISA. Scott co-leads the Master Gardener program in Douglas & Sarpy counties. Along with volunteer management he provides his expertise with disease and insect identification, lawn and landscape weed management, plant health, and I.P.M. practices. He also enjoys growing many houseplants ranging from African violets to cacti and succulents. Scott has two Bachelors of Science, one in Biology (emphasis in Botany, Ecology and Environmental Science) and second in Environmental Geology from Northwest Missouri State University. He earned his Master of Agriculture from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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