While one flower bulb will produce flowers every year anew, others will not. This is because flower bulbs are divided into three different groups:
- for annual plantings-,
- for perennialized flowering-,
- for naturalized plantings.
Flower bulbs can be used in many different ways depending on the ultimate objective.
For annual plantings
Annual plantings are usually used to create a massive color display. Good examples are flowerbeds planted with crocuses and tulips that flower successively, a sea of grape hyacinths, or long ribbon plantings of large-cupped daffodils. Flower bulbs that produce flowers with bright colors such as red, yellow and blue are particularly suited for this purpose.
For perennialized flowering
Spring-flowering bulbs are allowed to remain undisturbed in the ground after they have finished flowering. This gives their foliage the time to wither back and provide the bulbs with nutrients to prepare them for the next growing season. Spring-flowering bulbs used this way are actually following the same cycle as perennial plants. Usually, spring-flowering bulbs planted for this purpose are included in an existing border consisting of perennials, shrubs or roses. Spring-flowering bulbs that can be used for multiple-year flowering include certain daffodil, tulip and hyacinth cultivars and a group of specialty flower bulbs. In this situation, it is essential to coordinate not only the colors of the bulb flowers themselves but also with the colors of the bulb flowers in combination with the surrounding perennial plants.
For naturalized plantings
Flower bulbs suitable for naturalizing will thrive even longer over time than the ones used for multiple-year flowering. Like these, bulbs for naturalizing also remain undisturbed after flowering and will come back again every year, but their added benefit is that their numbers will continue to increase as long as they have been planted under ideal conditions (light and air). Naturalized flower bulbs can function as independent plantings – snowdrops and crocuses in lawns and grass-covered verges – but they can also be included in existing plantings such as in planting beds with groundcover plants beneath trees and shrubs. In these more natural-looking situations, overly vivid colors would be out of place; better here would be the more muted tones of pastel yellows, light blues and white. Daffodils, scillas and leucojums are examples of flower bulbs that will naturalize and look just right here.