Best spring bulbs: 14 choices for beautiful and bold displays

Our selection of the best spring bulbs will cheer up any garden after the cold winter months

queen of the night tulips with forget me nots
(Image credit: Bob Gibbons/Alamy Stock Photo)

Prepare for a joyous display early next year by getting the brightest, boldest, best spring bulbs in the ground in fall. From fiery-orange fritillaries to dazzling-blue scillas, scarlet anemones and magenta tulips, each bulb is akin to a bomb of color that will explode with vibrant flowers in a few months’ time.

Planting spring bulbs that bloom at different times will ensure a non-stop display throughout the season. For instance, purple crocuses and azure scillas will kick off the show; followed by sun-yellow daffodils and beetroot-red hyacinths; then cobalt muscari and tulips in every color; with rich-mauve alliums and hot-pink gladioli to finish. In pots, this succession of flowering is done in layers and is referred to as ‘lasagne planting’.

Gardener and bulb specialist Sarah Raven names tulips as her favorite bulbs for vivid color in spring. Tulips are the most sophisticated, high glamour flowers of all, with a flamboyance that no other plant can match, she says. ‘They have such a wide selection of colors and styles, from rich, saturated velvet reds and purples to bold and brilliant pinks and oranges that will light up any corner of your garden. 

'Fall bulb planting is one of the main opportunities us gardeners have to create our own style signature, to plot a great parade of color and contrast which will keep us going for months next spring,' she adds.

14 of the best spring bulbs for your garden

From types of tulips to stunning scillas, these are our top choices for spring blooms.

1. Tulipa 'Prinses Irene'

Tulipa 'Princess Irene'

(Image credit: Bloom Pictures/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 3-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 14in (35cm)
  • Spread: 6in (15cm) 
  • Best for: Containers

If you're planning on planting tulips this season, 'Prinses Irene’ is a fabulous orange type with coral and purple tones. 

It works well in a mix. For instance, it features in the Tuscan Tulip Collection from Sarah Raven. ‘It’s our current favorite soft and warm palette: luscious, chalky ‘Apricot Foxx’ and sunset ‘Prinses Irene’, cut through with ‘Queen of Night’ to stop anything getting remotely too "sweetie pie",’ says Sarah.

2. Narcissus 'Tête-à-tête'

Narcissus 'Tête-à-tête'

(Image credit: Martin Hughes-Jones/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 6in (15cm)
  • Spread: 2in (5cm)
  • Best for: Flower power

'Tête-à-tête' is an old variety bred by the founder of our company, but it’s still the best – very long-lived and free flowering,’ says Christine Skelmersdale at bulb supplier Broadleigh Gardens. ‘It can be grown in pots, borders, and rock gardens and is quite happy to naturalize in grass.’ 

Plant these daffodil bulbs in early fall in well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. 

3. Scilla siberica 

Scilla siberica

(Image credit: icpix_can/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 2-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 6in (15cm)
  • Spread: 2in (5cm)
  • Best for: Naturalizing

The Siberian squill has glowing bright-blue flowers in early spring. It's a great bulb for naturalizing in a variety of situations: from a sunny gravel garden to grass under deciduous trees (such as flowering cherry). 

Like bluebells, it looks breathtaking growing en masse in a carpet of blue. Plant in fall, 4in (10cm) deep, ideally in very well-drained soil.

4. Fritillaria imperialis 'Rubra Maxima'

fritillaria imperialis flowers

(Image credit: RM Floral/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-8 (UK H7)
  • Height: 3ft (90cm)
  • Spread: 1ft (30cm) 
  • Best for: Extravagant blooms

This wonderfully unsubtle crown imperial produces a handful of red-orange bells topped with a punk-head of glossy green leaves, atop tall, sturdy, dark stems in mid to late spring. 

Plant the large bulbs on their sides during fall, at four times their depth, in well-drained soil in sun, taking great care with them as they are fragile. They look great with magenta tulips. 

5. Crocus x luteus 'Golden Yellow'

yellow crocus x luteus 'Golden Yellow’

(Image credit: Clare Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)

The rich-yellow goblets of this large crocus light up the garden when they open in early spring. They will form attractive clumps in borders or can be naturalized in grass, and they work well for early container gardening displays, too.

Plant in fall, 4in (10cm) deep, in well-drained soil in sun. They look particularly lovely with white and lemon daffodils or in colorful drifts with other crocuses. 

6. Tulipa 'Ballerina'

Tulipa ‘Ballerina’

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 3-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 2ft (60cm)
  • Spread: 6in (15cm)
  • Best for: Elegant flowers

A lily-flowered tulip as slender and curved as a champagne flute, this stunning, scented variety injects garden borders with elegance and color when it opens in mid to late spring. 

Pair with cushion spurge (Euphorbia epithymoides) in well-drained soil in sun. Plant from mid to late fall, at least 4in (10cm) deep, with the pointy end of the bulb facing up. 

7. Hyacinthus orientalis 'Jan Bos'

pink hyacinth

(Image credit: Hager fotografie/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 4-8 (UK H4)
  • Height: 10in (25cm)
  • Spread: 4in (10cm)
  • Best for: Scent

rb, old hyacinth variety with rich carmine-pink heads of waxy flowers that fill the air with heady scent in late spring. 

Enjoy its vivid color in pots, at the front of borders, or as part of your spring window box ideas, alongside muscari. 

Plant 4in (10cm) deep in fall, in well-drained humus-rich soil in sun or semi-shade. You can also force these bulbs indoors in time for Christmas. 

8. Tulipa 'Golden Apeldoorn'

Tulipa Darwin Hybrid Golden Apeldoorn

(Image credit: Zoonar GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 3-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 2ft (60cm)
  • Spread: 1ft (15cm)
  • Best for: Cheering color

Producing bright yellow flowers on tall stems, this Darwin hybrid is a delight in mid-spring. 

It's reliably perennial and tolerant of semi-shade, where its flowers will not fade in the sun. Plant between mid and late fall, 4-6in (10-15cm) deep, in well-drained soil in sheltered sun or semi-shade. Alternatively, grow for spring container displays.

9. Muscari latifolium 

Muscari latifolium

(Image credit: Clare Gainey/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 3-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 8in (20cm)
  • Spread: 2in (5cm)
  • Best for: Early spring

This striking, large grape hyacinth hails from the forest groves of Turkey. It produces two-tone heads of cobalt and damson flowers, which look spectacular with white crocuses. 

Plant in fall in well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. Clumps can be lifted, divided, and replanted in summer if they become congested and lacking in flower power. 

10. Tulipa 'Red Riding Hood'

'Red Riding Hood' tulip

(Image credit: Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 3-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 8in (20cm)
  • Spread: 2in (5cm)
  • Best for: Window boxes

A dwarf tulip with intense red flowers above attractive striped leaves, this is perfect for growing in pots around a doorway, in window boxes, or in patio planters to brighten up a courtyard or balcony.

Plant 4in (10cm) deep in mid to late fall in well-drained soil or well-drained containers in sun. It is reliably perennial and pairs well with burgundy hellebores and copper-hued types of ornamental grasses

11. Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

Gladiolus communis subsp. byzantinus

(Image credit: John Richmond/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 7-10 (UK H5)
  • Height: 2ft (60cm)
  • Spread: 4in (10cm)
  • Best for: Late spring

The Byzantine gladiolus has spikes of vibrant, magenta-pink, funnel-shaped flowers with sword-shaped leaves in late spring. It will spread, providing a reliable mass of superb color through borders or areas of long grass. 

Plant gladioli corms in fall, 4-6in (10-15cm) deep, in very well-drained soil in full sun. Try pairing it with Stachys byzantina for a textural mix.

12. Iris 'Harmony'

iris reticulata harmony

(Image credit: John Martin/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 5-9 (UK H7)
  • Height: 5in (13cm)
  • Spread: 3in (8cm)
  • Best for: Entranceways

A gorgeous reticulata iris to lift the spirits during late winter and early spring, this has elegant purple-blue flowers with a golden band on its falls. 

They're perfect for planting in troughs beside the front door or alongside a garden path leading to an entrance. Dress these regal dwarf irises with pale gravel to show them off. 

Plant in fall in well-drained neutral to alkaline soil in sun. 

13. Tulipa 'Doll's Minuet'

Doll's Minuet tulip

(Image credit: Manfred Ruckszio/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 3-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 20in (55cm)
  • Spread: 6in (15cm)
  • Best for: Color

The sculptural flowers of this glorious tulip resemble hot-pink flames, ablaze in the border. Their sides are marked with a dark pink-green stripe, making them even more striking. 

Pair with bronze carex grasses in well-drained soil in full sun. Plant the bulbs at least 4in (10cm) deep, with the pointed ends facing up. 

14. Tulipa 'Queen of Night'

tulip queen of the night

(Image credit: Anne Gilbert/Alamy Stock Photo)
  • Hardiness: USDA 3-8 (UK H6)
  • Height: 2ft (60cm) 
  • Spread: 5in (12cm)
  • Best for: Dark flowers

Another show-stopping tulip, this glossy dark-claret variety is excellent for mixing with orange and magenta flowers, bleeding hearts, and spurges to add sophistication and drama. 

Plant 5in (12cm) deep, between mid and late fall, in well-drained soil in sun or semi-shade. It is reliably perennial and can be grown in pots. 

Which spring bulbs last the longest? 

Some of the most reliably perennial bulbs (meaning they flower every spring for many years) include daffodils, scillas, and crocuses – many of which flower early so are perfect for brightening up the late winter garden.

In terms of length of flowering, crocuses, scillas, daffodils, and tulips can bloom for two months each spring. 

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.