Best Bulbs for Naturalizing

June 27, 2008
Spring Crocuses

Early spring crocuses in our garden.

Peter Rukavina

When you shop for bulbs, you’ll see some labeled as “good for naturalizing.” This means that they can be counted on to come up year after year, and spread informally throughout your garden. The following spring- and summer-flowering bulbs are reliably perennial in habit. Plant bulbs in autumn.

(Average blooming periods in parentheses.)


Require sun. They can also manage on the sunny edges of woods.
Allium aflatunense – Ornamental garlic (summer)
Allium giganteum – Giant onion (summer)
Allium karataviense – Turkestan onion (summer)
Allium moly – Lily leek or golden garlic (summer)
Allium neapolitanum – Naples onion, daffodil garlic, flowering onion (summer).
Allium oreophilum – Ornamental garlic (early summer)
Allium sphaerocephalon – Drumsticks, ballhead onion, round-headed garlic (summer). The best allium for naturalizing.


Need sun and are beautiful in borders.
Anemone blanda ‘Blue Shades’ – Greek anemone, windflower (spring)
Anemone blanda Mixed – Windflower mixed (spring)
Anemone blanda ‘Pink Star’ – Windflower (spring)
Anemone blanda ‘White Splendour’ – Windflower (spring)


Come in a wide range of colors and will spread quickly.
Crocus ancyrensis – Golden bunch crocus (late winter/early spring)
Crocus ‘Blue Bird’ – Botanical crocus (early spring)
Crocus ‘Blue Pearl’ – Botanical crocus (early spring)
Crocus Botanical Mixed – Species crocus (early spring)
Crocus ‘E. P. Bowles’ – Botanical crocus (early spring)
Crocus ‘Cream Beauty’ – Botanical crocus (early spring)
Crocus ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ – Dutch crocus (spring/early summer)
Crocus ‘Pickwick’ – Dutch crocus (spring/early summer)
Crocus purpureus grandiflorus – Dutch crocus (spring/early summer)
Crocus ‘Remembrance’ – Dutch crocus (spring/early summer)
Crocus ‘Ruby Giant’ – Botanical crocus (late winter/early spring)
Crocus ‘Whitewell Purple’ – Botanical crocus (late winter/ early spring)
Crocus Yellow – Dutch crocus (spring)


Don’t naturalize in a competitive area.
Iris danfordiae – Dwarf iris (late winter)
Iris reticulata ‘Harmony’ – Dwarf iris (early spring)
Iris latifolia – English iris, can cover whole yard (early summer)


Tolerate late snowfalls and work well with crocuses.
Muscari armeniacum – Blue spike, grape hyacinth (spring)
Muscari botryoides ‘Album’ – Grape hyacinth (spring)


Bring sunny colors to the garden before the taller tulips are in bloom.
Narcissus ‘Actaea’ – Small-cupped daffodil (late spring)
Narcissus ‘Barrett Browning’ – Small-cupped daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Birma’ – Small-cupped daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Carlton’ – Large-cupped daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘February Gold’ – Botanical daffodil (early spring)
Narcissus ‘Flower Record’ – Large-cupped daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Fortune’ – Large-cupped daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Hawera’ – Botanical daffodil (late spring)
Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ – Large-cupped daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Jack Snipe’ – Botanical daffodil (early to midspring)
Narcissus ‘Minnow’ – Botanical daffodil (early spring)
Narcissus ‘Mount Hood’ – Trumpet daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Peeping Tom’ – Botanical daffodil (early spring)
Narcissus ‘Salome’ – Large-cupped daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Suzy’ – Botanical daffodil (midspring)
Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’ – Botanical daffodil (early spring)


Hard to naturalize. You must be cultivar-specific in choosing those you plant, as only certain ones will work. The following are recommended for a naturalized setting.

Tulipa ‘Candela’ – Botanical tulip (early spring)
Tulipa ‘Orange Emperor’– Botanical tulip (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Don Quichotte’– Triumph tulip (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Kees Nelis’– Triumph tulip (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Praestans Fusilier’– Botanical tulip (early spring)
Tulipa ‘Princeps’– Botanical tulip (early spring)
Tulipa ‘Purissima’– Botanical tulip (early spring)
Tulipa ‘Red Emperor’– Botanical tulip (early spring)
Tulipa ‘Red Riding Hood’– Botanical tulip (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Toronto’– Botanical tulip (early spring)

These showy, lilyflowering tulips will also spread:
Tulipa ‘Aladdin’– (late spring)
Tulipa ‘Ballade’– (late spring)
Tulipa ‘Maytime’– (late spring)
Tulipa ‘Red Shine’– (late spring)
Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’– (late spring)

Darwin hybrid tulips such as these are great multipliers:
Tulipa ‘Apeldoorn’– (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Apeldoorn’s Elite’– (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Beauty of Apeldoorn’– (late spring)
Tulipa Darwin Hybrid Mixed– (mid- to late spring)
Tulipa ‘Golden Apeldoorn’– (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Holland’s Glorie’– (late spring)
Tulipa ‘Oxford’– (midspring)
Tulipa ‘Striped Apeldoorn’– (late spring)

Also Good for Naturalizing

Brodiaea – Star flower (early summer)
Camassia cusickii – Quamash, Cusick camass (late spring)
Chionodoxa gigantea – Glory-of-the-snow (early spring). Need sun.
Chionodoxa luciliae – Glory-of-the-snow (early spring). Need sun.
Colchicum autumnale – Meadow saffron (autumn). Need sun.
Erythronium – Dog-toothed violet (spring). Good in shade.
Fritillaria meleagris – Guinea hen flower (spring). Very good at naturalizing.
Galanthus nivalis – Common snowdrop (late winter/early spring)
Ornithogalum umbellatum – Star of Bethlehem (early summer). Good in shade with some sun.
Puschkinia libanotica – Striped squill (spring)
Scilla campanulata Mixed – Spanish bluebells (spring)
Scilla siberica – Siberian squill (spring)


Courtesy Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center


Reader Comments

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This is a terribly invasive plant of which all parts are toxic. It reproduces by seed and bulb, destabilizes hillsides and the banks of waterways. The bulbs can be as small as a radish seed. I cannot overstate how terrible this plant is and cannot imagine why anyone would recommend planting it anywhere. You can kill the plant with weed killer, but not the bulbs. Good luck hand digging, as each plant will have spawned many tiny bulblets. Just don't do it.

Anemone blanda

Can I grow Anemone Blanda and Anemone Monarch de Caen in Zone 10 San Diego?

Growing anemone

The Editors's picture

Anemone Blanda is for zones ‎4 to 9; however, Anemone Monarch de Caen is for zones 3 to 10. The colors are truly stunning. Plant in spring or fall into semi-shady spots, and they’ll be up in no time. Be sure your location is never too hot, and never too dry. They need good drainage, but insist on a moist, somewhat shaded spot.

What is best to plant

What is best to plant underneath a huge holly tree? I'm having trouble getting things to grow, probably due to the acidity of the falling leaves. I'd love some color under there! Thanks!!

Most invasive crocus variety

Great list, just wanted to know if there is any particular crocus that is the most invasive. I just need to fill my lawn with them for supporting my bumblebees nests for early spring. Thanks!


When is the time to plant tulips

When to plant tulips

The Editors's picture

Plant tulip bulbs in the fall, 6 to 8 weeks before a hard frost is expected and when soils are below 60 degrees F. See our Tulip Growing Page for more information about planting tulips: