Colorful and Unusual Bulbs to Plant in Autumn

Happy Upstar tulip unique spring bulbs to plant in autumn

If you live in a northern climate like mine, you probably feel color starved by the time spring rolls around each year. After months of looking out your window and seeing endless variations gray, white, and brown, you might start to think you’ve forgotten what other colors look like.

That’s why the first spring bulbs can be such a joyous shock to the system. The day I walk out my front door and yelp in delight over the cheerful blooms of the early crocus is one of my favorite times of the whole year.

The return of color to the landscape is the beginning of the return of our favorite hobby. But, sometimes spring arrives a little bit more slowly than we might like.

That’s why, over the years, I’ve found that my spring planted bulbs offer just the dose of early season interest and excitement to distract me from my impatience about spring’s slow advance.

And one important lesson I’ve learned – there’s no such thing as too many spring bulbs. 

Colorful and Unusual Bulbs to Plant in Autumn

When I first started planting spring flowering bulbs, I just picked from the selection at my local nursery. But, over the years, just like with my vegetable garden, I’ve felt the urge to expand my selection and search out unique and colorful varieties. (I even plant bulbs inside my vegetable garden now!)

Many of the deepest joys of the gardening experience can be found by immersing yourself in the details. Seeking out and planting unusual varieties adds an extra layer of exploration, fun, and experimentation to your garden. Here are my picks for interesting bulbs to plant in autumn for some extra special spring color the following year.

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J S Dijit Iris bulb for autumn planting

Dwarf Iris – reticulata J. S. Dijt

Most gardeners are familiar with the well-loved and commonly planted dutch irises. This is the genus that blooms big and bold in mid- to late spring.

But, there is another category of iris that blooms much earlier and has a much daintier and petite flower – the dutch iris. In my garden in Wisconsin, these cultivars start putting on a show right after the crocus fade, late March to early April.

They come in various shades of purples, yellows, and whites, but my favorite is J.S. Dijt.

closeup of dutch iris J. S. Dijit for autumn bulb planting

This past spring I had so much fun getting up close with my camera to revel in their striking details and color combinations. While technically planted from rhizomes, you can find irises with the spring bulbs in your local nursery.

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Bridal crown daffodil list of bulbs to plant in autumn

Daffodil, Bridal Crown

The standard yellow daffodils are a dime a dozen, and while they have their place in the landscape, there are so many more interesting and unique cultivars to trial in your garden right alongside them.

I definitely favor tulips over daffodils, so last year I decided to search for more interesting daffodils to spice things up in my garden. I ordered the unusual Bridal Crown cultivar, which barely looks like a daffodil at all!

It’s an early to mid-spring bloomer (early May in my zone 5a garden) and is referred to as having a double flower. I layered them with tulips in one of the beds of my vegetable garden and was thrilled with the results.

layering of tulip and daffodil bulbs for fall planting

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Daffodil, Pheasant’s Eye (poeticus var. recurvus)

Pheasant's Eye daffodil a unique bulb to plant for autumn

This cultivar, Pheasant Eye, is another interesting play on the run of the mill yellow daffodil. The flower petals are white and the cup is yellow with red ringing its outer edge. These would look amazing paired with bright red or yellow tulips to highlight the coloring of the cup.

It’s listed as one of the lastest blooming daffodil varieties and bloomed in mid-May in my zone 5a garden.

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Flair tulip for colorful fall planted bulbs

Tulip, Flair

If I had to pick a favorite spring bulb, tulips would definitely win the contest. The staggering array of colors and textures available (from purple, to coral, to multi-colored, and double, fringed, and parrot types) make tulips virtually incomparable to other spring bulbs.

If you’re like me, and you find it difficult to decide between the hundreds of different cultivars, let me introduce you to two of my favorites.

The jaw-dropping details on each petal of the Flair tulip kept me busy for hours trying with the macro lens on my camera. Look at those thin stripes of reddish orange! Have you ever seen anything more beautiful?

Flair is a single, early spring blooming tulip that makes for a great cut flower to add to indoor flower arrangements. These photos were taken in late April in my Wisconsin garden.

Flair tulip colorful spring bulbs to plant

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Tulip, Happy Upstar

It was the pink streaking on the leaves of this Happy Upstar tulip that first caught my eye in the early spring garden. This feature gives it extra points in my book because the visual show begins even before it starts to push up its flowers. Again, I had a lot of fun taking photos with my macro lens.

Happy Upstar tulip leaf for interesting bulbs to plant for spring

Happy Upstar is listed as a late-blooming tulip, and it was flowering in mid-May in my garden. The different colors of pink, green, and light yellow mixing together in the flower is what makes this a unique variety. As it blooms and ages it turns pinker, and I often added it to bouquets around my house.

Happy Upstar tulip interesting tulip bulbs to plant for autumn

This fall, instead of settling for the average, ho-hum cultivars of spring bulbs, make a little extra effort to seek out the unique options available. My favorite source for ordering bulbs is Brent and Becky’s, a family-owned company in Virginia.

Request a copy of their catalog and dig into the fascinating world of unusual bulbs so you can add more early spring interest, excitement, and photo-worthy scenes to your garden in the coming years!

And don’t forget my mantra, – come spring, there’s no such thing as too many bulbs!

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