Alphabetical Plant Listing

Why Spring is Really Three Seasons

Spring Bulbs, Spring Flowers, Early Spring Bulbs, Mid spring Bulbs, Late Spring Bulbs

Consider this: spring is really three seasons - early, mid and late. You'll want to think about this when choosing what to plant each fall. Why? Because you don't want this scenario to happen in your garden next spring.

  • Imagine the Scene: Your spring garden – featuring dozens of daffodils, tulips, and other flower bulbs that were planted with care in the previous fall – bursts into bloom. It’s amazing, a riot of glorious spring color that sweeps away the gray of winter. It lasts for up to three weeks, depending on the weather, and then... nothing. No more flowers, no more color, nothing but leaves and empty stems in your yard. Yet elsewhere, the spring’s colorful march continues. What happened?
  • Military drill sergeants (who have an acronym for everything) have an acronym for this: PPPP (Pretty Poor Prior Planning, in the PG-rated version).
  • When planting bulbs this fall, avoid disappointment next spring by employing a simple device: redefine Spring! Think of spring as three seasons, instead of one. Call them Early, Mid and Late. Now choose spring bulbs that bloom in each.
  • This is easy to do. The Dutch have been growing and selling bulbs for more than four centuries. Over that time they’ve noticed that certain bulbs bloom at certain times in spring. Even bulbs of the same type can bloom at different times during the spring. Tulips and daffodils, for example, are divided into early-season bloomers, mid-season bloomers, late-season bloomers, and sometimes even early mid-season, late early-season, and so on.

Early Spring Bulb Combination Ideas

Anemone blanda, Muscari, Tulip 'Peach Blossom'

Crocus 'Remembrance', Tulip 'Stresa'

  • To help home gardeners plan their spring gardens, the Dutch, who account for nearly 90 percent of all flower bulbs grown in North American gardens, put an estimated flowering time on the labels of all bulbs sold. Bulb catalog companies do the same, including an estimated flowering time in the information they give on each variety they sell.
  • All you need to know to decipher this information is that blooming times are relative. Information ranges from general early, mid and late-season designations to more specific month-by-month estimated flowering times. In each case, it’s important to be aware that these times are dependent upon the spring weather in your area. A blooming time of April, for example, refers to the April bloom time in USDA zone 6, under average spring conditions. The reason for this is simple; the average winter low temperatures in Holland are roughly equivalent to those of our USDA zone 6 (areas as geographically diverse, but climatically similar as Dallas and Philadelphia), so that is what goes on the labels.

Mid Spring Bulb Combination Ideas

Tulip 'Heart's Delight', Hyacinth 'Woodstock', Muscari latifolium

Narcissus 'Geranium', Tulip 'Curly Sue', Dicentra spectabilis

  • If you are aware of your climate zone, you need only make a slight adjustment to figure out when the bulbs should bloom in your garden. If you do not know your hardiness zone, please check the USDA zone map.
  • The bottom line: to have a great spring garden that blooms from early season through late, read flower bulb labels and select a range of bulbs that bloom across all three spring seasons. Exactly when the flowers bloom will depend on nature and the spring conditions in your area that year, but by taking a few easy steps, you should have a terrific garden that satisfies for months on end.

Late Spring Bulb Combination Ideas

Tulip 'Angelique', Tulip 'Mount Tacoma'

Anemone, Tulips 'Ballade', 'Ballerina', 'White Triumphator'

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Find your Hardiness Zone

Find your Climate Zone

Find your Heat Zone


Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

Join now and start creating your dream garden!

Create a New Collection

Optional. For your reference.

Move Selected Plants to a Different Collection

Delete Collection

This field is required.

Rename Collection

This field is required.