Spring bulbs are not only pretty

Sep 23, 2018

One of the fall garden tasks is to plant spring-blooming bulbs, and this year university Extension educators are making a special push for blooms that are attractive to bees.

“Bumble bee queens, honey bees, and solitary bees start emerging from their winter homes ready to feast on the landscape as early as March,” Kelly Allsup, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, said.

“Feed them from your garden by planting a mix of crocus, snow drops, Siberian squill, grape hyacinth, and bluebells to ensure many sources of nectar when little else is in bloom.” Here is a closer look.

• Crocus, snowdrops. Crocus and snowdrops are among the first spring-flowering bulbs to arrive after cold temperatures. Both of these flowers do best in full sun to partial shade and look stunning when planted en masse, Allsup said.

• Siberian squill. Siberian squill is another hardy favorite for spring as it easily naturalizes (spreads) in lawns and other areas creating large drifts of blue. These flowers prefer partial shade to full sun and bloom in early spring before trees leaf out.

• Grape hyacinth. Grape hyacinth is a showy fragrant blue flowering bulb coveted by most bees, Allsup said. Each bulb produces around three flowering scapes that contain urn-shaped, tightly packed vivid flowers. Grape hyacinths provide an outstanding floral display when planted in drifts in partial shade to full sun.

• Other hyacinths. Other hyacinths are available in a range of colors from blue, purple, pink, magenta, red, and white, and they make a good early nectar source for bees and butterflies.

They grow well in full sun and should be deadheaded after flowers are spent to increase energy to the bulb. They are best displayed en masse.

• Winter aconite. Another bee-friendly flower is winter aconite. The plant is only a half-inch tall but it is attractive to honeybees, mining bees, and hover flies, Allsup said. It is very bright yellow so it also pulls a passerby into the landscape. It is best grown in full sun during flowering.

• Glory-of-the-snow. One of the first spring bulbs to bloom is the glory-of-the-snow flower, blooming just in time to the feed the overwintering bees,” Allsup said. Only six inches tall, it easily naturalizes in a garden space. As the garden warms up, the leaves will fade.

A bit of strategic planting this fall will not only give you welcome blooms this spring, but keep your garden buzzing with bees, Allsup said.



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