As days warm, the season’s first pollinators emerge—and they’re hungry. Welcome them with a hearty buffet of spring bulbs.
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Spring garden flower bulbs
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

Timing is Everything: Your Guide to Spring Bulbs

Not all bulbs pop their heads from the earth at once—and that's a good thing. A progression of bloom times provides ongoing color for us and consistent nourishment for pollinators. "Early spring bulbs are so critical when there's little else blooming," says St. Louis bulb expert Jason Delaney.

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Snowdrops blooms
Credit: Courtesy of flowerbulbs.com

Snowdrops

Opening even before snow melts, these tiny, pendulous blooms are a welcome sight for eager bumblebees. For über-early blooms, plant on a sunny, south-facing slope. Start with a dozen and watch them multiply to share with others.

Purple crocus plant
Credit: Courtesy of flowerbulbs.com

Crocus

Plant a mass of these purple, yellow or white blooms along a border, under a tree or even in the lawn. (Bonus: They're a relative bargain to buy in bulk.) "Bees just mob Tommies," says Delaney about the early variety Crocus tommasinianus.

Allium, globemaster flower
Credit: Courtesy of flowerbulbs.com

Allium

The Seussical flowers of ornamental onions attract humans and insects alike. They open in late May and June, filling the gap between spring bulbs and summer flowers, and come in all sizes. 'Globemaster'can reach 10 inches across.

Fritillaria, checkered bell-shaped flowers
Credit: Courtesy of flowerbulbs.com

Fritillaria

In April, the checkered, bell-shape flowers of snake's head fritillary add a spark of novelty, especially along walkways. Another option: showy crown imperial, standing 3 feet, with orange blooms and spiky leaves.

When to Plant Spring Bulbs

Spring bulbs require a long chilling period to instigate blooms, so they should be planted in autumn. Find a sunny or partly sunny, well-drained location, and plant them three times the depth of their own height.

Grape hyacinths with bee
Credit: Courtesy of flowerbulbs.com

How to Be a Good Bee Host

Did you know queen bumblebees, the only winter survivors of their colonies, arise from underground in early spring to rebuild their nests? They may appear half awake as they clumsily bob about, sipping on nectar and loading up on pollen. Some bees are even known to sleep inside crocuses as the flowers close at night. Peggy Anne Montgomery, of the resource site flowerbulbs.com, explains how to welcome them to your garden this spring.

Refill Plates Often

Think of yourself as a server offering a succession of tapas from February to May. Snowdrops, scillas or reticulated irises come first. Fritillaria, grape hyacinths (above), species tulips, pheasant's eye daffodils and hyacinths follow. Then Allium, Camassia and Spanish bluebells are the final course before summer.

Dish Big Portions

Plant bulbs in masses so bees can spot the swaths of color and feast more efficiently.

Lay Out a Picnic Blanket

Sow early bulbs like scillas or crocuses in a sparse lawn. They'll multiply into a blanket that blooms and disappears before it's time to mow the grass.

Make Lasagna

Say what? Lasagna-style planting means placing bulbs at varied depths in one area—a layer of tulips, followed by daffodils, grape hyacinths and crocuses. Each will take the others' place through the season.