As the days shorten and your perennials begin to fade, there are plenty of autumn-flowering bulbs that are willing to take over and fill the gaps. And even as we head into the darkest days of winter, there are a few tough little winter-flowering bulbs that are happy to brave the cold.
We asked our expert horticultural team to share their top ten favourites, and here are the autumn and winter bulbs they chose:
For even more inspiration, browse our full range of flower bulbs and tubers.
Crocuses are some of the best known of the autumn corms. These lovely plants force their blooms through the fallen leaves to create a festival of colour, even before their foliage appears. Try the unusual Crocus ‘Vanguard’ with its stunning silvery-lilac petals - plant it among silver birch stems for an exquisite colour combination. Autumn crocuses can be spoiled by wet weather so plant them beneath trees where their brilliant display will be protected from heavy rains. See all crocus bulbs here.
The striking blooms of these tuberous plants start to open in summer, but are at their best from August to September, bridging gaps in borders as other perennials begin to tire. Dahlias flower in an extraordinary range of rich colours making them useful for creating an exotic effect in hot-coloured borders. They even come in a range of sizes from dwarf dahlias to towering types - try dahlia Dahlia ‘Teesbrooke Audrey’ which makes a wonderful cut flower. See all dahlia tubers here.
Perfect for a dramatic end to the season, a bold block of cerise pink Nerine flowers makes a breathtaking sight on a bright autumn morning. These colourful bulbs save their display until September or even later, while the long strap-like foliage remains intact over winter, unscathed by cold weather. Nerines are surprisingly easy to establish - we recommend Nerine bowdenii 'Mister John' which is guaranteed to flower in the first year of planting and produces up to 10 stunning blooms per stem.
Closely resembling Crocus, Sternbergia make excellent bulbs for autumn colour at the end of the year. Sprinkle them throughout rockeries or plant them in large naturalised groups for a big impact. Sternbergia lutea bulbs are surprisingly both hardy and vigorous in the right location and enjoy reasonably poor soils with sharp drainage. Give them a really sunny position where the bulbs can bake in the summer sun.
An established carpet of autumn-flowering cyclamen is a real delight to see. These well-loved woodland autumn corms are particularly useful for brightening up dry shady areas beneath trees, where other plants struggle to grow. With its silvery, marbled leaves and sugar pink and white blooms, Cyclamen hederifolium is a popular choice, and is hardy enough to survive winter weather before dying back for a dormant summer.
Undoubtedly the most elegant autumn-flowering bulb you'll find, these wonderfully fragrant flowers begin to form in late summer on tall, slender stems, and by September, Gladiolus has really hit its stride. The large white blooms of Gladiolus murielae nod demurely downwards, but cannot hide the striking burgundy blotches at the base of each petal. Enjoy its blooms throughout autumn, but remember to lift the corms as the grassy foliage dies back - these sophisticated beauties have a delicate disposition and prefer to spend winter in a cool, dry shed.
Tuberous begonias are the most glamorous bulbs for adding a bright colour accent to shady patios. Their beautiful flowers are produced over an incredibly long period, from summer all the way through to the first frosts in November. These are perfect candidates for a window box or hanging basket - choose a bright variety like Begonia 'Cascading Fireball' to hang close to doorways where you can appreciate them at their best. See all begonia tubers here.
Cyclamen coum takes over where its autumn-flowering cousin Cyclamen hederifolium leaves off. Braving the cold winter weather from as early as January, the pretty pink blooms emerge ahead of the foliage which later forms a carpet of silver-marbled leaves. Whilst C. hederifolium prefers dry shade, Cyclamen coum enjoys a damper soil, thriving in moist shade beneath trees and associating beautifully with snowdrops.
This classic winter bulb has endless appeal. With so many different species and varieties to choose from, the snowdrop has gained almost fanatical popularity and galanthophiles pay enormous sums for a single bulb. But you don't need to break the bank to enjoy these winter beauties. Try the giant, honey-scented snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, or the double-flowered variety, Galanthus nivalis 'Flore Pleno'. For natural-looking drifts, gently cast the bulbs across the planting area and plant them exactly where they land.
These cheery winter aconite bulbs produce golden, cup-shaped flowers surrounded by a green collar of leaves - just like buttercups in the depths of winter. Winter Aconites are best grown in bold natural drifts where they can be left undisturbed to die back naturally in spring. They love moist soil and a shady position, so they're perfect for under-planting among woodland trees.
We hope our pick of the top autumn and winter flowering bulbs and corms has given you plenty of ideas. For the best results, plant your autumn and winter-blooming bulbs, corms and tubers during the spring. Most bulbs should be planted to a depth of three times the height of the bulb, but there are a few exceptions so it's worth checking the planting depth table in our 'How to grow bulbs' article. For more inspiration, check out our winter flowers hub where you’ll discover lots of ideas to bring colour and cheer to your garden during the colder months.