Miniature Flowering Bulbs

By P. Allen Smith

I encourage you to think small this year when you plant spring flowering bulbs in your garden. The dainty blooms of muscari, crocus, miniature daffodils and the like should not be overlooked. You can create big drama with little bulbs like these.

  • Plant in big drifts of one variety for maximum effect.
  • Use small bulbs in rock gardens where soil is shallow. Combine them with alpine flowers and dwarf evergreens.
  • Miniature blooms are perfect for fairy gardens. Plant a swath of blue crocus or muscari to look like a stream.
  • Don’t forget containers. Pack the bulbs in for a bright spot of color.

Miniature daffodils, grape hyacinth and crocus are a few easy bulbs to start with but there are many more. Here are a few to check out.

Anemone blanda (Windflower)

Windflowers bloom in early spring from tubers. They get to be 6 – 12 inches tall with a 2 inch wide flower. At night and on cloudy days they will fold up their petals. Grow in partial shade in compost rich soil. Hardiness depends on the type, so be sure to check this before you purchase. The single petaled, daisy-like blooms come in blue, pink and white.

Chinodoxa (Glory in the Snow)

Chinodoxa blooms in early spring on plants that are 3 – 10 inches tall. The dainty star shaped flowers look best when planted in large groups. Plants prefer cool, moist conditions and well draining soil. They will thrive in full sun but the blooms last longer if planted in partial shade.


Crocus are often the earliest flower we see in spring. Probably one of the best known of the small bulbs they grow 4 – 6 inches tall. Plant crocus bulbs in partial shade. They are very easy to grow and readily naturalize.

Miniature Iris

Danford (Iris danfordiae) and Reticulated (Iris reticulata) irises flower on stalks that are only 4 – 6 inches tall. The blooms appear in spring before the leaves fully emerge. The foliage persists for a few weeks after flowering then goes dormant in summer. Both are hardy to zones 5 – 10, grow them in full sun except in hot regions where they prefer afternoon shade.

Muscari (Grape hyacinths)

muscariTopping out at about 3 inches tall Muscari naturalize easily and look beautiful planted en masse in woodland areas. The blue, purple or white spring blooms are long lasting in cut arrangements too. The plants go dormant in summer then send up fresh foliage in the fall.

Miniature Daffodils

Many daffodil divisions include varieties that are small in stature. As with all narcissus they do best in full sun but will also grow in partial shade. Petite daffodils are perfect for containers, rock gardens and bringing indoors. For indoor bloom, plant bulbs in fall in shallow containers and put in cold frame or refrigerator at 40 – 80 degrees for 15 weeks. After the chilling period move the containers to a sunny windowsill. When the flower buds appear, move to filtered light.

Tulip Species

Species tulips are shorter than their hybrid cousins, usually 3 – 8 inches tall. They bloom in early spring and come in a range of colors. Plant the bulbs in early fall. Choose a spot with half day sun and half day shade and well draining soil. The nice thing about species tulips is they will come back year after year even in climates where spring is brief. They are hardy in zones 3 – 7. Their size and ability to naturalize makes them particularly suited to rock gardens.