It's the Plants, Darling, Shut Up and Dig

Grow bulbs for their foliage? Sure!

Erythronium Pagoda

Many cite the long-lasting and unsightly foliage of spring bulbs as a reason not to grow them. I have two answers for that. One is my ongoing strategy: grow the temperamental tulip hybrids that don’t perennialize as annuals. I find the pleasure they give and the fun of changing them up more than worth the cost.

But there’s another, even better, strategy. Grow bulbs for their foliage. Here are some of my favorites where the foliage is almost as striking as the flowers. Best of all, this appears very early in the spring and lasts for weeks.

Erythronium
The small, lily-like flowers are exquisite, but so are the glossy, mottled leaves. I wish they lasted all summer. They’re coming up now (under a thin but tedious layer of ice/snow/whatever). The Pagoda hybrid provides the showiest; natives have more mottling but aren’t as big and glossy.

This Greigii are playing nicely with the nearby Brunnera.

Greigii tulips
It depends what variety you get of these. Mary Ann and Oratorio have very marked, dramatic garnet striations. Fire of Love’s foliage is such that you’d be fine if no flowers came up at all. It’s worth shopping around among the mail order places to find other varieties—I don’t think I’ve tried them all.

Kaufmanniana tulips
I can’t vouch for these myself, but I believe some of them are known for foliage.

Darwin Hybrid Jaap Groot
Surprisingly, some of the big hybrids do have cool, white-edged foliage; this is one. We’re told this happens because of insufficient pigmentation and chlorophyll in the plant cells on the outer edges.

Viridiflora China Town

This “green” tulip has strong, white-edged, blue-green foliage that lasts a really long time. It takes quite a while for the flowers to emerge above it, and that’s fine with me.

I am so, so ready for bulb season. Really. Any day now.

Posted by on April 15, 2018 at 11:35 am, in the category It's the Plants, Darling, Shut Up and Dig.
1 Comment

One response to “Grow bulbs for their foliage? Sure!”

  1. Elaine says:

    I have hundreds of different varieties of daffodils in beds that line my front walk. I also grow very large (sun tolerant) hostas in the same beds. When the daffodil foliage is starting to look ratty the hosta foliage has grown enough to completely cover them up. This combination had worked well for me for decades.

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