Q & A: Bulbs Under Trees

What are some bulbs that will grow and bloom in the shade under trees?—DW, Lenox, Pa.

Answer: Many spring-flowering bulbs, particularly those from woodland habitats, thrive under mature trees. They flower and set seed quickly at the first signs of spring, before the tree canopy robs them of light and water. Then they die back and sleep until the next year.

Spring-flowering bulbs to plant under trees include English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), Camas lily (Camassia leichtlinii), winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis).

Bulbs that flower in fall can also do well under trees. They flower then produce leaves. By the time their foliage appears, the tree canopy has thinned, allowing light to hit the bulbs’ leaves, allowing the bulbs to rebuild their energy stores.

Fall-flowering bulbs to plant under trees include Cyclamen hederifolium and autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale).

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