Tulips, daffodils and crocus are stars of spring in Midwestern flower gardens. But there’s an array of supporting players, often referred to as minor bulbs, that can add variety to your spring bulb display.

Winter aconite brings a splash of yellow, buttercup-type blooms on dwarf, three- to six-inch plants. Winter aconite is appropriately named for its early arrival, often pushing its blossoms through a cover of snow in February, though sometimes as early as January and as late as March. Plants do well in partial shade to full sun, though they do need a good supply of moisture if in full sun.

Snowdrops are perfectly named for their snow-white blossoms that gracefully nod toward the ground, which often still is covered with the winter white stuff. Snowdrops are best planted in partial shade.

Glory of the Snow brings clusters of star-shaped blooms in purple, rose or white in late winter or early spring. Glory of the Snow performs best in full sun.

Squill includes a number of species of early spring bloomers, and though the blue squill is the most common, there also are white and pink selections. Several species are native to woodland habitats and do best in partial shade.

Striped squill blooms about the same time as snowdrops and has pale periwinkle blue-striped petals. Striped squill tolerates full sun to part shade and prefers moderately moist, but well-drained soil.

Summer snowflake blooms a bit later in mid to late spring, with white, nodding flowers accented at each petal tip with a greenish-yellow splotch. Summer snowflake does well in partial shade to full sun.

Although many gardeners are familiar with the large, lollipop types of Alliums, or ornamental onion, the lesser-known Lily Leek, Allium moly, bears bright yellow, star-shaped blooms in mid to late spring. Allium does best in full sun.

Local weather conditions and microclimates can affect the season of bloom. Southern areas of the country could be up to three weeks ahead of northern areas.

Urban areas tend to be warmer than rural areas, and even certain areas of one garden can be warmer than others. Flowers that receive reflected heat close to buildings and those in sunny spots tend to bloom before ones that are in the yard or in shady areas.

Spring-flowering bulbs should be planted in fall, about six weeks or so before the ground is expected to freeze. This allows the bulbs a chance to grow an adequate root system before winter. Spring-blooming bulbs also need a period of chilling to initiate their flower buds deep in the bulb.


Yard & Garden Calendar


Indoor Plants and Activities

* Keep poinsettia in complete darkness for 15 hours each day, for example, between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m., for eight to 10 weeks until red bracts begin to show.

* Pot spring-flowering bulbs to force into bloom indoors. Moisten soil and refrigerate 10 to 13 weeks. Transfer to a cool, sunny location and allow an additional three to four weeks for blooming.

* Houseplants, especially those grown outdoors during the summer, commonly drop some or many of their leaves in response to the lower natural light intensity in autumn and reduced light intensity indoors.

* Water indoor plants less frequently and discontinue fertilizer as plants slow down or stop growing for the winter season.

Lawns, Woody Ornamentals and Fruits

* Keep plants, especially newly planted stock, well watered until ground freezes.

* Have soil ready to mound roses for winter protection. Do not mound or cover roses until after leaves drop and soil is near freezing, usually late November or early December.

* Strawberry plants need protection from winter’s extremes, but applying winter mulch too early may cause crowns to rot. Apply winter protection when plants are dormant, but before temperatures drop below 20 degrees, usually late November or early December.

* Rake or shred large, fallen tree leaves such as maple to prevent them from matting down and smothering grass. Raking smaller leaves, such as honey locust, is optional.

* Continue mowing lawn as needed.

Flowers, Vegetables and Small Fruits

* Harvest root crops and store in a cold — 32 degrees — humid location. Storing produce in perforated, plastic bags is a convenient, easy way to increase humidity.

* Harvest Brussels sprouts as they develop in the axils of the leaves from the bottom of the stem. Brussels sprouts will continue to develop up the stem.

* Harvest pumpkins and winter squash before frost, but when rind is hard and fully colored. Store in a cool location until ready to use.

* Harvest gourds when stems begin to brown and dry. Cure at 70 to 80 degrees for two to four weeks.

* Harvest mature, green tomatoes before frost and ripen indoors in the dark. Warmer temperatures lead to faster ripening.

* Asparagus top growth should not be removed until foliage yellows. Let foliage stand over winter to collect snows for insulation and moisture.

* Remove plant debris from the garden to protect next year’s planting from insect and disease buildup. Compost plant refuse by alternating layers of soil, plant material and manure or commercial fertilizer.

* Have garden soil tested for fertilizer needs every three to five years.

* Plowing and incorporating organic matter in the fall avoids the rush of garden activities and waterlogged soil in spring. Fall-prepared soils also tend to warm faster and allow earlier planting in spring.

* Carve a Halloween jack-o’-lantern.

* Dig tender, garden flower bulbs for winter storage. Gladiolus corms should be dug when leaves begin turning yellow. Caladiums, geraniums and tuberous begonias should be lifted before killing frost. Dig canna and dahlia roots after a heavy frost. Allow to air dry, then pack in dry peat moss or vermiculite and store in a cool location.

* Complete planting of spring-flowering bulbs.