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Popular Spring Flowers for Colorado and Utah… You Plant in the Fall

by | Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Tulips, daffodils and allium: Three of the best spring flowers for Colorado and Utah gardens that you plant in the fall as bulbs

It may seem like a strange time to chat about spring flowers…

… when we have jack o’lanterns popping up outside the grocery stores.

But in most elevations of Colorado, September and October are ideal times to plant spring flowers, like tulips and daffodils. In northern Utah, October and early November are usually ideal times.

Yep, you plant these flowers in the fall — not the spring!

Weird, right?

Okay, technically, you plant their bulbs.

This is what tulip bulbs look like

Think of a bulb like a battery for the plant.

It stores energy (food and water) for the flower.

It may seem counter-intuitive that you plant spring flowers in the fall, but:

  • Bulbs need to go through a cold period to be able to come up and give you big, showy color in the spring.
  • They also need a little time to establish their roots before the ground freezes.

If you like the idea of colorful spring flowers, here are 3 beautiful options for Colorado and northern Utah.

They offer gorgeous pops of color, AND they’re low maintenance.

And friends, we are all about low maintenance!

Once planted, these flowers can return year after year with minimal effort.

Tulips
(officially, Tulipa)

This is what tulips look like. They come in a WIDE range of colors.

This is what colorful tulips look like -- they come in many pretty colors

Tulips bloom in the spring, but not all at one time.

There are early, middle and late spring tulips, meaning some start blooming earlier than others.

Tip! If you’d like color that lasts longer (yes, please!), it helps to get several colors of tulips. This can help you mix up the times they’ll bloom and get pretty color for a longer period of time.

The package of bulbs you buy or the signage at the garden center should tell you when the tulips will bloom (early, middle or late spring), so you can pick bulbs with staggered bloom times.

Tulips like sunny conditions and soil that drains well.

If you have a damp spot where water sits in the ground or if your soil is dense clay, it’s probably not the best place for tulips.

What’s dense clay like, you ask?

Imagine sticking your shovel in the ground, and the soil sticks to your shovel like bubble gum to a shoe.

When clay soil is damp, it’s sticky, heavy and dense, and it’s tough for water to drain.

Tulips don’t mind if the ground is on the dryer side during the summer, which is good for our semi-arid summers in the West.

A tulip is a pretty spring flower for western states like Colorado and Utah

In my opinion, the biggest downside to tulips is that animals LOVE them:
deer, rabbits, squirrels, voles.

Take a number!

So, if you have critters, you may want to check out one of the other spring flowers below.

In my back garden, squirrels decapitate my tulips every spring, just as the petals are opening. I’ve tried a variety of suggested remedies, from sprays to cayenne pepper. (Seriously.)

The only thing I’ve found that works is to fence them off.

Not the prettiest look, ahem.

One thing worth noting…

If you have a mountain garden in Colorado, make sure the tulip bulbs you’re buying are hardy for your “zone.”

Not sure what a zone is or what it means for your garden? Get the scoop on plant hardiness zones here.

Daffodils
(officially, Narcissus)

These are daffodils. They come in colors like yellow, white, orange, peach or pink.

This is what yellow daffodils look like

Typically, daffodils prefer sunny conditions and soil that drains well.

You may be able to get away with a partially sunny spot, but your daffodils may not bloom as well.

They prefer moist (but not wet) soil.

If the ground is too wet, daffodil bulbs will rot.

Daffodils are not only beautiful, they’re also resistant to many animals. YESSS!!

Normally, deer, rabbits and other rodents avoid daffodils, so that’s a plus if you live in an area with your fair share of critters.

(Daffodils can be toxic to dogs, so keep that in mind if you have fur babies.)

Creamy white tulips with an orange center

Like tulips, daffodils vary slightly in their sensitivity to winter temperatures, depending on they type you buy.

So again, if you have a mountain garden OR you live in the one of the hottest parts of Colorado or Utah, make sure the daffodil bulbs you’re buying perform well in your plant hardiness zone.

Look for the plant zones written on the package of bulbs or in the description.

(If you don’t see the zones written anywhere, it doesn’t hurt to ask to be sure.)

Allium
(commonly known as Ornamental Onion)

Allium flowers add a hint of whimsy to your garden and such fun, round shapes!

Purple allium are spring flowers that look like round balls

They’re one of my favorite spring flowers.

You can find allium flowers in purple, white and even blue.

Yes, BLUE!

Blue allium flowers add a hint of whimsy to your garden and such fun, round shapes!

Similar to tulips and daffodils, allium will give you the best show when you plant them in places in your garden that get a lot of sun.

And like the other spring flowers we’ve discussed, allium flowers bloom at staggered times, depending on which ones you buy.

Allium are related to onions.

(In fact, they’re commonly referred to as “ornamental onions”)

Deer are not big fans of these plants.

Rabbits tend to avoid most allium as well.

In Colorado mountain towns, when allium flowers are done blooming, you’ll see gardeners spray paint the finished blooms. (Check out the photo below for an example.)

Painted allium: After allium stop blooming, you can spray paint the blooms

I think this is a fun trick to keep colorful, round shapes after the petals fall off.

You also can just snip off the dead blooms. That way, the plant can focus its energy on recharging its bulb for next season.

Allium bulbs vary in how they handle cold winter temperatures.

So, check the package or signage before you buy allium bulbs to make sure you’re choosing a type that should work in your plant hardiness zone.

Ready to dig into these popular spring flowers for Colorado, Utah and similar western states?

You can find flower bulbs at:

  • Your local garden center
  • Online retailers like High Country Gardens — which was created with semi-arid, western gardens in mind
  • Places like your local Costco (bulbs are often sold in pre-packaged bags)

Pretty flowers are like a good wine — they’re best shared with friends.

If you like the look of these pretty flowers, please share this article.

© 2020-2021, Go West Gardener
You’re welcome to share a link to this article on social media sites, but no other re-use in any form without written permission.

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Ann from Go West Gardener with her flowerpots and garden

Hey there, I'm Ann

I’m a Certified Colorado Gardener, dog mama and Midwesterner-turned-Colorado girl. I help budding gardeners in the inter-mountain west get more confident with flower gardening, so you can create an outdoor space you love. More about Ann >>

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