Our professional gardener tells us the best spring flowering bulbs that can be planted near a hosta plant

Our professional gardener tells us the best spring flowering bulbs that can be planted near a hosta plant

Before hostas show their dramatic flair, your spring landscape may look a little drab. This is where spring flowering bulbs come in. Planting bulbs near hostas uses available spring sun before deciduous trees leaf out, and these flowers appear over a long spring season: some before hostas bud, others when their leaves open. The best spring bulbs you can plant around hostas include snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, grape hyacinths, Dutch lilies, English bluebells, and Spanish bluebells.

It's a good idea to divide your hosta plants every three years, increasing each year, to maintain a manageable size. Allowing the root system to become too large makes dividing it more difficult. Dividing hostas loosens the soil and is a great opportunity to add some soil amendments to improve drainage and texture — and plant more spring-blooming bulbs. All the perennial bulbs here increase in number each year and can also be divided and replanted, with the exception of the Dutch lilies which tend to increase much more slowly.

Spring bulbs and hostas are excellent investments that bring rich rewards. I was able to grow small quantities of spring-flowering bulbs and hostas for clients, and after several years, I divided and replanted them to provide greater diversity across multiple gardens. This is a great way to save money to increase the spring beauty of your garden.

Snow drops

Snowdrops are one of the oldest spring-blooming flowers, getting their name from their tendency to bloom while there is still a chance of snow. They are a reliable harbinger of spring, and planted in groups (they do best in partial sun), they light up the landscape in early spring with their delicate but powerful white flowers. Plant these bulbs in your garden, and before long you'll have plenty of them to cover the ground in the spring. By May, when the hosta plants begin to bloom, the snowy foliage will disappear completely.

Sila

While the name “scilla” (or “squill”) refers to a number of different bulbs that bloom in the spring, the one many people are most familiar with is the Siberian scilla (Scilla siberica). They're small in size, but their bright blue flowers make a big statement in the spring garden. They naturalize easily almost anywhere and can be planted in clumps in flower beds by hostas for bright splashes of color, spreading across your garden to create a carpet of blue that fades before the mowing season begins. This is a great choice if you like blue flowers and low-fuss spring perennials.

Saffron

Crocuses come in a number of different types, but the most common varieties are the spring-blooming crocus and the giant crocus. These bulbs reproduce quickly and can be planted in flower beds or across the lawn for brilliant color in early spring. The slender foliage fades by mid-spring, just in time for hostas to begin growing larger. Crocuses come in a range of pastel (white, yellow, blue, lavender, and pink) and bright colors (dark purple and bright yellow). Veneers – the part grown underground – can be toxic if ingested by pets, so use appropriate caution.

daffodil

Who doesn't love daffodils? These sunny flowers light up spring days with their brilliant colors and decorative petals. Once established, daffodils increase each year and clumps can be easily divided and replanted every 2-3 years. They have a range of sizes (6-inch-tall miniatures to 24-inch-tall trumpet daffodils) and colors (white, yellow, gold, orange, and pink), and there are thousands of varieties. Daffodils thrive best in full sun and look great planted in large drifts. Once the flowers fade, the foliage quickly follows, leaving room for perennials that emerge later in the spring, such as hostas.

Grape hyacinth

Grape hyacinth (Muscari) is small in size but its colorful flowers make a real impact on the spring landscape. The small bulbs grow fairly quickly and spread outward, adding more beauty every year. They come in a range of colours, mostly from pale to dark blue, with some bi-colours and many white and pale pink varieties. They like a little sun to bloom at their best, so plant them in front of hostas where they will get at least partial sun. Grape hyacinths don't like wet soil, so make sure you plant them in a well-drained spot.

Dutch lilies

Dutch lilies are exciting and very fragrant spring flowers. A single stem of flowers can scent an entire room, and their wisteria-like scent makes the garden smell wonderful, too. The range of bright colors is wonderful, including white, a wide range of pinks, purples and blues, as well as yellow and orange. Try planting Delft Blue (pale periwinkle blue) alongside Woodstock (deep reddish purple) and Jan Bos (hot pink) for an attention-grabbing display. Plant hyacinth bulbs in rich, well-drained soil where they will get some sunlight in the spring. Its flowers begin to fade just as the hostas appear.

English Bluebells

If you search online for 'bluebell wood', you will see many pictures showing magical-looking woods carpeted with blue-violet flowers in spring. This is bluebell season in England, when bluebells grow wild, and it's a magical time. Fortunately, these bulbs are hardy in many other places too, and add great color to your spring flower bed. These flowers do best in dappled sun or partial shade and in well-drained, slightly acidic soil. They increase fairly slowly but will spread over time. Bellflowers are toxic to animals and humans if ingested, so be sure to take precautions.

Spanish bluebells

Spanish bluebells (hyacinthoides hispanica) look very similar to English bluebells (hyacinthoides Non-scripta). The flower stalks are somewhat shorter, and the flower clusters are slightly fuller. They also come in shades of pink, white, and blue. Spanish bluebells spread easily and unlike most bulbs which propagate from just one planting, they will reseed themselves far from their plant groups, in this way they can become slightly invasive. They're a good choice if you have a large space to fill, such as a shady woodland garden, and their cheerful bell-shaped flowers look great under larger hostas.

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