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Colorful Spring Flowers for Chicago and the Midwest - Plant Bulbs in the Fall

Updated on March 23, 2018

What kind of spring flowers grow best in the Midwestern United States

I love perennial flowers, and spring bulbs are at the top of my list. I live in northern Illinois in the Midwest of the United States, so the choices of spring bulbs are limited to Crocuses, Daffodils, Tulips, and Hyacinths.

The United States is divided into 26 growing zones . The USDA divides the zones based on the average annual extreme temperature. The northern part of Illinois including the Chicago area is in zone 5B. 5B also includes parts of Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and Vermont. To look up your zone, you can utilize the USDA Plant Hardiness page. The spring bulbs on this page are hardy between zones 4 and 8.

Spring bulbs are divided into three categories, early spring bulbs, normal spring bulbs, and late spring bulbs. The typical order you will see the flowers bloom is Crocuses, Daffodils, and then Tulips and Hyacinths. Below is information about each type of flower bulb and different varieties that can be planted in the Midwest and in particular around Chicagoland.

In addition, there are many flower festivals that occur in the spring which are great places to see the flowers before buying the bulbs.

Photo credit: Vince Alongi / / CC BY

What is your favorite spring bulb?

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Plant Spring Bulbs in the Fall

Spring bulbs are a perennial flower which means they come up every spring without having to buy them each year. They also multiply so you can split them and have more flowers each year. The trick to planting spring bulbs is to plant in the fall so the bulb goes through the winter freeze.

Early Spring Bulbs - The Crocus - Early Spring Bulbs typically bloom in mid-March

Crocus flowers come in basically three colors: White, Yellow, and Purple. You will see the first signs of crocus leaves in early March. The plant will grow 3-4 inches tall and the flower will be approximately 2-3 inches. A purple crocus can be solid purple or purple with white lines. The following varieties of crocus bulbs are typically available:

Where did crocuses come from?

Crocuses are known to come from Crete in the Mediterranean, and are native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. Crocuses were first brought back to the Netherlands around 1560.

Pickwick Crocus Bulb - Purple flower with white lines

Rememberence Crocus Bulb - Solid Purple flower

Peter Pan Crocus Bulb - White flower

Mammoth Crocus Bulb - Yellow flower

Plant crocus bulbs in groups of 10-20 flowers so that the entire area pops. If you plant the bulbs too far apart it won't feel like you have a lot of flowers.

Spring Bulbs - Daffodils - Daffodils blum at the end of March beginning of April

As crocuses are blooming, Daffodils are starting to come through the ground. Around Easter in Chicago, the daffodils are about to bloom or are in full bloom. Daffodils typically have six petals that surround a trumpet in the middle. The pedals are typically a shade of yellow or white. The trumpet in the middle is white, pink, yellow, or orange. Daffodils stand about 12-18 inches tall.

Daffodils will bloom at different times during the spring, so be sure to look at whether it is an Early Spring, Mid Spring, or Late Spring variety.

Where did daffodils come from?

Daffodils originated in Spain and Portugal, before they migrated to Holland where they are now produced in mass for the world. Today's daffodil is called by many names including: daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil.

Some different varieties of daffodils include:

Jetfire - Golden pedals with an orange trumpet

Sentinel - White pedals with a pink trumpet

Thalia - White pedals with a white trumpet

Sorbet - White pedals with a cream, yellow, and orange trumpet

Jack Snipe - White pedals with a classic yellow trumpet

Merlin - White pedals with a yellow trumpet ringed in red-orange

Where is a Daffodil Festival?

The Daffodil festivals are just as popular as the tulip festivals, just a little earlier in the year. Like the tulip festivals, the daffodil festivals can't guarantee blooming daffodils, only mother nature can.

Spring Bulbs - Tulips

Tulips are my favorite spring flower. Tulips come in almost any color and range in size and shape so there is almost a tulip for every flower enthusiast out there. Tulips are easy to grow and bloom for about 1 week before they lose there pedals and all you are left with are the foliage.

A group of tulips is a lot more pleasing than one tulip all by itself. Everyone has heard of the great tulip bubble, where tulips were sold like gold in Holland in the 1700's. In the United States, the town of Holland, Michigan, holds an annual festival called the Tulip Time Festival in the beginning of May. At the Tulip time festival you can see hundreds of varieties of Tulips in their natural habitat.

Where did tulips come from?

You are probably thinking that tulips come from Holland. Even though, today, Holland is the biggest grower of tulips, they actually come from Turkey. The first shipment of tulip bulbs didn't reach Holland until 1562. Around 1630, the tulip craze was in full swing and it wasn't long before the whole tulip market crashed. In Holland this was called tulipomania. Note, that the word tulip comes from the Turkish word for turban, tuilbend.

Tulip Festivals across the United States

Every year, many people flock to tulip festivals across the United States. These festivals typically have a parade and lots and lots of tulips of every color, size, and variety. Unfortunately, the festivals can not guarantee that the tulips will be blooming, that is controlled by Mother Nature.

Spring Bulbs - Hyacinths

Hyacinths typically flower in early spring with in many colors including: white, yellow, red, pink, orange, mauve, blue, and purple. The plant grows to a height of 12 inches. All hyacinths are fragrant.

Types of hyacinth flowers include:

Blue Jacket - deep blue flowers

Carnegie - white flowers

Fondant - pink flowers

Woodstock - red purple flowers

City of Haarlem - yellow flowers

Dividing Spring Bulbs

One of the best things about any perennial flower is the fact that it can typically be split so that you continue to increase the number of flowers you have growing each spring. Tulips, daffodils, and crocuses all multiply and need to be divided to keep them healthy and growing strong.

What is your favorite spring flower?

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    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 

      4 years ago from Canada

      I love flowers, too and know how important spring bulbs are for those of us who survive cold winters!

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      4 years ago

      Interesting advice on lovely flowers.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      4 years ago from West Virginia

      I like the curly petals of the hyacinths.


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