How to Plant Fall Flower Bulbs
How to Plant Tulips & Daffodils
Planting flower bulbs is fast, easy, and nearly foolproof.
Fall bulbs are loved by both beginner and master gardeners, there are so few issues to consider. Gardeners can put all their effort into the fun part of gardening — design.
Fall allows a “second season” of planting for spring blooming bulbs. Planting in the fall allows a jumpstart to spring growth. The cool weather helps to make a more enjoyable experience for working outside in the garden and requires less watering. The cooler weather allows spring blooming bulbs to winter over, this is important in order for bulbs to provide beautiful spring cheerful blooms.
- When bulbs arrive. Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° to 50 deg; F. You should plant at least six weeks before the ground freezes. This is most common in cold climates (zones 1-7). You can, if necessary, store bulbs for a month or longer, if you keep them in a cool dry place. Planting fall bulbs in warm climates (zones 8-11) such as Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths, Scilla, and Snowdrops, require pre-chilling in order to bloom. To pre-chill, leave bulbs in their bags and place in a refrigerator for 6-10 weeks. Be careful not to store bulbs near fruit, especially apples, all ripening fruit give off ethylene gas. Ethylene gas can damage and or kill the flower inside the bulb. Once bulbs are chilled plant them at the coolest time of the year. Most importantly bulbs won't last till next season, so make sure to plant them.
- Read the label. Try to keep the label together with the bulbs until planting. Without the label, you can't tell the red tulips from the white ones just by looking at the bulbs.
- Where to plant. You can plant bulbs just about anywhere in your garden as long as the soil drains well. The Dutch say, "bulbs don't like wet feet." So, avoid areas where water collects, such as the bottom of hills. Bulbs like sun and in many areas the spring garden can be very sunny, since the leaves on the trees are not out yet. So keep in mind when planting in the fall that you can plant in many places for spring blooms.
- Prepare the planting bed. Dig soil so it's loose and workable. If it's not an established garden bed, chances are the soil could use the addition of some organic matter such as compost or peat moss. These are available at most local garden retailers.
How to Plant Bulbs – Step by Step Instructions
Step 1: Loosen soil in the planting bed to a depth of at least 8”. Remove any weeds, rocks or other debris. You can mix in compost, other organic matter or slow releasing fertilizer if your soil lacks nutrients.
Step 2: Depending on the bulb, follow the recommendation on the label for planting depth. As a general rule, plant big bulbs about 8" deep and small bulbs about 5" deep. Set the bulb in the hole pointy side up or the roots down. It's easy to spot the pointy end of a tulip; tougher with a crocus. If you can't figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side, in most cases, even if you don't get it right, the flower bulb will still find its way topside.
Step 3: Now that the bulbs are planted, back fill with soil over the hole, lightly compress the soil but do not pack it. Water to stimulate root growth. There is no need to water continuously unless you live in an area with low precipitation in the winter months.
Aftercare in the Spring
Fertilizing: For bulbs that are intended to naturalize (return for several years) or for bulbs that are coming into their second year, spread an organic fertilizer such as compost, or a slow release bulb food on top of the soil.
Pruning: When the flowers have completed blooming, cut the flower head off but do not cut the foliage. Bulbs will use the foliage to gather nutrients from the sun and store for the following seasons. Once the foliage have turned yellow or brown you can cut them to ground level.
- Plant bulbs in clusters. If you plant one bulb alone, or make a long thin line along the walk, the impact is less desirable. Clusters give a concentration of color for greatest impact. Even if you don't have enough bulbs for a big bed, small clusters can make a super spring show.
- Plant low bulbs in front of high. This is a good general rule for bulbs that bloom at the same time. Of course there are times to break this rule. For example if the low growing bulbs bloom early and the tall bulbs bloom late, plant the tall in front. Their display will camouflage the dying foliage of the smaller bulbs!. Read more design tips in our blog.
- Try a double-decker effect. You can plant small bulbs in a layer right on top of large bulbs. If you plant bulbs that flower in the same period you can create an interesting double-decker effect. Or you can stagger the bloom time by planting mid- and late-season bloomers together, creating a spring display that blooms in succession, for a whole season of color!
In the end, what you do with fall bulbs is limited only by your imagination. A few hours one brisk autumn afternoon can yield months of colorful excitement in your yard or garden next spring. For more information on planting bulbs in the fall visit Flower Bulbs Planting Guides. We want you to be successful in your garden all of our plants are backed by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.