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Recognize and Identify Miniature Spring Flowering Bulbs When Not in Flower


Often when we re-organize our gardens, or work for the first time in gardens new to us, we come across miniature spring bulbs we can't identify and don't recognize at first glance. This list has photos of the most common miniature bulbs shown beside a ruler to show their size. Planting, flowering and zonal information is included.

Anemone blanda - Greek anemone, Greek windflower

Two sizes of anemone blanda corm showing the effect of soaking the corms in water.
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

These early blooming daisy like flowers like full sun or partial shade in a humus rich soil. They prefer moist springs and drier summers. Soak the rhizomes for 8 hours or overnight before planting (in the photo the rhizomes started out the same size but one was soaked). Plant the rhizomes with the circle of fine hairs showing up. If you can't see the circles of tiny hairs (which are the remains of flower stems) plant the rhizomes on their sides.

Plant one to two inches apart, two to three inches deep. Height 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) Early spring flowering, zones 5-9

Chionodoxa forbesii (formerly luciliae) - Glory of the Snow

Chionodoxa bulbs shown against a ruler for size.
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

These early spring bloomers need to be planted in full to partial sun in well drained soil. Their showy sprays of up to ten blooms can often be seen poking through the snow in early spring.

They should be planted 2 to three inches apart and 2 to 4 inches deep and can be naturalized in lawns. The plants grow 4-6 inches tall (10 – 15 cm). Early Spring, Zones 3-9

Crocus chrysanthus - Snow Crocus, Botanical or Species Crocus

Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Also Crocus tommasinianus - Early species crocus are usually scented. Crocus chrysanthus species are the earliest flowering crocus. They are much earlier flowering than the larger Dutch crocus varieties and will flower just after reticulated iris or snowdrops

Plant 3-4 inches deep and 2 inches apart. Height to 3 -4 inches (7 - 10cm). Zone 3 – 9

Eranthis hyemalis - Winter Aconite

Eranthis hyemalis tubers with a ruler to show size.
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Winter aconite with it's buttercup yellow flowers and ruff of leaves is one of the earliest bulbs to bloom, usually emerging before snowdrops. The tubers need to be soaked for 8 hours to overnight before planting. They prefer the same conditions as snowdrops, humus rich most soil which does not dry out.

Plant 1-2 inches apart and 2 – 3 inches deep (use shallower plantings in heavy clay soils) Height 3-6 inches (7-15cm) Flowering time early spring Zone 4-9 Tubers are poisonous

Galanthus nivalis - Snowdrops

Galanthus nivalis (snowdrop) bulbs shown with a ruler for size.
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Snowdrops prefer cool partially shaded sites and humus rich moist soil. Snowdrops need to be kept moist, even in summer. Before planting soak snowdrop bulbs for 8 hours or overnight.

Space two inches apart and plant 2 to 3 inches deep. Height 4-6 inches (10-15cm) Very early flowering. Zones 3-9

Iris reticulata - Reticulated Iris

Iris reticulata bulbs shown with a ruler for scale
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Reticulated Iris are recognizable by their shape and the netted covering on the bulb.Some good varieties include Cantab (light blue) Joyce (lavender blue standards with sky blue falls) (JS.Dijt, dark red purple (fragrant) – reticulated iris prefer a sunny open position in well drained soil. They need a dry season in summer to do well. If given the right conditions these tiny iris will increase and flower for many years.

Plant one to two inches apart, 3 inches deep. Height to 6 inches. (15cm) Flowering time January to March Hardy in zones 3- 10 (They may need a winter much in colder zones).

Narcissus - Miniature Daffodils

Miniature daffodil bulbs shown with a ruler for scale.
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
The variety shown as bulbs in this photograph is tete a tete which is a cyclamen flowered daffodil that has one or two flowers per stem. Other miniature varieties include Narcissus minimus, Narcissus canaliculatus, Narcissus hawara. Daffodils prefer well drained soil in sun or light shade. Plant in clumps in a rock garden, visible part of the regular garden, or in containers.


Plant miniatures 3 times the depth of the bulb height, and one to two inches apart (closer for smaller bulbs). Most grow to four to ten inches high (10-25cm) and are early to mid spring blooming. Zones 4-9

Miniature Tulips

Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Photo ©2007 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.
Minature tulips come in a wide range of heights, bloom sizes and blooming times. Tulip bulbs do not increase from year to year unless the blooms are removed, so plantings of tulips will need to be replaced, or lifted and only the largest bulbs replanted.


Blooming time mid spring. Height 4-6 inches (10-15cm). Zones 4-8.

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