Plant These Native Bulbs In Your Garden This Fall

These varieties will thrive in your garden, attract pollinators, and keep blooming season after season.

September 20, 2017
dog tooth violet
I love Photo and Apple/getty

For a brilliant display of flowers early next spring, you have to plant bulbs in fall. Daffodils and tulips are lovely, for sure, but you see thousands of them at strip malls and in non-gardeners' yards. This fall, plant native bulbs and give your organic landscape a unique look that's more sustainable than the familiar bulbs (typically imported from Holland) without compromising on ease and beauty.

(Brag your love of gardening with the Organic Life 2018 Wall Calendar, featuring gorgeous photographs, cooking tips and recipes, plus how to eat more—and waste less!— of what's in season.)

These lesser-known species live "on the economy." That is, they are important in the life cycles of wildlife and are aesthetically fitting- small, but essential parts of the larger flora. They naturalize, increasing their numbers readily, and attract pollinators (unlike many hybrid bulbs). Plus, many are perfect for low-water-use gardens. You can choose native bulbs that bloom nearly every month of the growing season.

Rarely carried at garden centers or big box stores, native bulbs are most readily found through mail order catalogs. Be sure the website or catalog specifically states that the bulbs were not harvested from the wild.

Related: The 60 Most Fragrant Flowers Across The World

oneleaf onion
Oneleaf Onion

(Allium unifolium)

Deer don't normally munch on this early-summer-blooming ornamental onion. Clusters of tiny pink flowers sway on 12- to 18-inch stalks. Like most bulbs, oneleaf onion needs well-drained soil. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 8.

Related: 7 Plants That'll Keep Deer Out Of Your Garden

mariposa lily
Mariposa Lily


Mariposa means "butterfly" in Spanish, and in late spring, when they sway on willowy 18-inch stems, you may mistake them for butterflies hovering over a meadow. Set the bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep in a sunny, very well-drained spot, moist in winter and spring but dry in summer. Zones 4 to 8.

Ron Evans/getty
Camassia, Camas or Quamash


Tough camassias hail from western meadows where their spiky flowers bloom in great rivers of blue. They grow in ordinary garden soil, but tolerate cold clay. Set the bulbs 3 to 5 inches deep in sun or light shade. Zones 3 to 8.

swamp lily
Rolf Nussbaumer/getty
Swamp Lily

(Crinum americanum)

Crinums are tough, disease-resistant and salt-tolerant; their white summer flowers attract hummingbirds. Plant bulbs with the neck at ground level in sun or shade, boggy or medium soil and stand back—plants grow anywhere from two to six feet tall. Fertilize monthly with fish emulsion or homemade compost. Zones 8 to 11.

dog tooth violet
I love Photo and Apple/getty
Trout Lily or Dog-Tooth Violet


These miniature lilies-only 9 inches tall-make the floor of a wooded garden sparkle. Creamy white petals curl back to show off yellow throats. The leaves are mottled like a trout's back, giving rise to one common name. The other arose from the bulb's shape-similar to a dog's canine tooth. With no work from you, prolific trout lily soon spreads into a colony. Plant these bulbs, pointed end up, 3 to 6 inches deep in well-drained soil where they'll get four to eight hours of spring sun a day. Zones 3 to 8.

Related: 15 Native Wildflowers Every Gardener Should Plant

spider lily
Sagar Kancharana / EyeEm/getty
Spider Lily


Great big--up to 7 inches across-white spidery blooms open en masse in early spring, and on and off until fall, exuding an exotic fragrance. Two-foot long, strappy foliage provides bold texture. Grows in sun or shade. Set bulbs 2 feet apart an inch below the soil surface in a bed enriched with organic matter. Zones 8 to 11.

pretty face flowers
Pretty Face

(Brodiaea, a.k.a. Triteleia)

In early summer, these bell-shaped flowers turn upward in succession, extending their show and their supply of fragrant cut flowers. The 18-inch stems grow in clusters, making a clump look like a tiny nosegay. Buy plenty of these inexpensive bulbs! Pretty face tolerates light shade in spring, and summer-dry soil. Incorporate humus and chicken grit for better drainage. Zones 5 to 9.

Related: 6 Must-Have Plants For A Thriving Native Garden