Our top picks for brilliant, easy-care spring color
What they’re like: Growing 2 feet tall from rushlike foliage, Dutch irises are marked by clear, intense colors such as deep blue, purple, and orange, usually with a yellow blotch on the falls (the petals that drape off the sides of each flower).
Our favorites: For blue, try ‘Professor Blaauw’; for magenta purple, ‘Purple Sensation’ (at left); for yellow, ‘Royal Yellow’.
How to display: Mass irises among low ornamental grasses for a meadow effect. Or mix them in pots with yellow violas. They grow in all but the coldest parts of the West and naturalize even in mild climates.
What they’re like: Slender and lovely, Lady, or Candy, tulips are pale yellow or white inside, red to magenta outside; they grow 6 to 9 inches
Our favorites: Blossoms of Tulipa clusiana chrysantha are rose carmine on the outside and bright yellow inside. Or for yellow star-shaped flowers with white tips, try T. tarda.
How to display: For a big show next spring, plant three dozen bulbs 2 inches deep in a shallow, 15-inch-wide terra-cotta container. These tulips grow anywhere and usually come back year after year even in mild-winter climates.
What they’re like: Darwin hybrids are the tallest, largest-flowered tulips. The cup-shaped blooms hold well in a vase, making them ideal for
cutting. Most are in the scarlet-orange to red range, but pink, yellow, and white varieties are also available.
Our favorites: With 2-foot stems, ‘Pink Impression’ makes the best pink. For a flame-colored Darwin hybrid, try ‘Beauty of Apeldoorn.’ ‘Daydream’ opens yellow and matures to orange.
How to display: All three varieties are pretty in beds with blue forget-me-nots, or massed in containers (video). They tend to perennialize better than most tulips if they get enough winter chill (six weeks under 45°). In mild-winter areas, chill bulbs in the refrigerator for six weeks before planting.
What they’re like : Like parrots, these tulips come in brilliant hues (some are striped and flamed in various colors); petals have ruffled
or feathery edges. Big flowers are easily animated in the wind.
Our favorites: ‘Blue Parrot’ (at left) has mauve-blue flowers on 18-inch stems. ‘Estella Rijnveld’ is even more flamboyant, with red-and-white flowers on 20-inch stems. For red splashed with green, try the 20-inch-tall ‘Rococo’.
How to display: Plant bulbs shoulder to shoulder in a 16- or 18-inch-diameter pot, or in drifts behind white or purple violas. Before planting in mild-winter climates, chill the bulbs for six weeks.
What they’re like : Naturally yellow or white, daffodils sometimes come with a salmon, apricot, or coral corona (the cup in the center of the
flower). They stand up to cold and are easy to grow.
Our favorites: ‘Apricot Lace’ (at left) has a divided, apricot-colored corona framed against a white perianth (outer petals) on 14-inch stems. For a salmon trumpet against yellow outer petals, try the 18-inch ‘Lorikeet’.
How to display: Pretty when massed in pots or combined with violas in antique shades of apricot and blue. Daffodils grow and perennialize anyplace there’s even modest winter chill.