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Tip of the Week: Tiny Bulbs, Big Color

Tips for choosing and growing dwarf irises and early crocuses, some of spring’s very first flowers.
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Growing Dwarf Irises: In order for dwarf irises to flower in following years, they need to be planted at least 6 inches down, and they prefer alkaline soil that gets a summer baking. The fat buds start to push through the ground in midwinter, waiting for some warmer weather before bursting into flower; they are perfectly hardy and don’t mind being covered in snow. After the plant flowers, the leaves will elongate. They need to be left to die down naturally, so grow them among summer plants with substantial foliage that will hide them.

Showy Early Crocuses: Some early crocus hybrids have exotically marked blooms, making them showy and flamboyant despite their diminutive size. They are useful in pots and to add clumps of welcome color at the front of the border. Try these:

  • Crocus chrysanthus ‘Ladykiller’ (USDA Zones 3 to 8) Blooms are cream inside with deep purple markings on the outside.
  • Crocus sieberi ssp. sublimes ‘Tricolor’ (Zones 3 to 9) Petals are bright lilac at the tips, white in the center and yellow at the base, giving a banded appearance to the open flowers.
  • Crocus chrysanthus ‘Gipsy Girl’ (Zones 3 to 8) Butter yellow blooms are marked and striped with dark purple on the outside.

Learn all about growing bulbs with Horticulture: Bulbs