The cooler weather allows spring blooming bulbs to winter over – an essential process that's needed for Fall Bulbs in order for them to bloom in spring! Plus, the cool weather in fall helps to make a more enjoyable experience when working outside in the garden.
When To Plant Fall Bulbs
Areas With Cold Winters (Zones 1-7)
Fall Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between 40° - 50° F. Ground temperatures reaching 40° - 50° F during fall is most common in cold climates (zones 1-7), generally 6-8 weeks before the ground freezes. However, as long as you can dig and your ground is workable, you can still plant! 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), where bulbs will not experience enough cold temperatures in the ground, will require pre-chilling in order to bloom. To pre-chill, leave bulbs in their bags and place in a refrigerator. Be careful not to store bulbs near fruit, especially apples, because all ripening fruit gives off ethylene gas, which can damage or kill the flower inside the bulb. Once bulbs have 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!
Hyacinth: Chill for 11-14 weeks
Crocus, Grape Hyacinth, Scillia, and Tulips: Chill for 12-15 weeks
Daffodils and Specie Iris: Chill for 15 weeks
When Your Fall-Planted Bulbs Arrive
Read the label: Try to keep the label together with the bulbs until planting. Without the label, you can't tell the red tulip bulbs from the white tulip bulbs 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, available at most local garden retailers.
Watch: How to Plant Tulips & Daffodils
How to Plant Fall 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, and 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 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 once to stimulate root growth and to fill any air pockets. There is no need to water continuously unless you live in an area with low precipitation in the winter months.
Fertilizing: For bulbs that are intended to naturalize, or 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 fertilizer 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.
Design Ideas For Fall Flower Bulbs
Plant flower bulbs in clusters. If you plant one flower 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!
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.
Stagger bloom time. Plant 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.
‘Barbados’ Amaryllis has rich red velvet petals striped in white, creating a star-like effect. ‘Barbados’ boasts giant 6- to 8-inch blooms and enormous flower-power - bulbs produces one to three stems, each bearing three to four tropical-looking blooms. Premium kits include a top-sized bulb, soil, and a festive gold ceramic bowl. Easy-to-grow Amaryllis make an elegant gift and beautiful winter home décor. (Hippeastrum hybrid)
Cassata Daffodil is best described as delicate, yet, its large flowers make an even larger statement in the landscape. A mid-season bloomer, ‘Cassata’ is a split-corona daffodil whose pale lemon cup is separated into large ruffled segments that lie on top of pale white petals. As it ages, the entire flower fades to white. Beautiful for bouquets. Deer resistant. Full sun. (Narcissus ‘Cassata’)
Snowtip Large Cupped Daffodils have unusual, heavily frilled lemon-yellow cups dotted with flakes of pure white, which stand in contrast to paler yellow petals. Grow this deer-resistant beauty with small mid-season daffodils or other bulbs, or let it stand on its own as the show-stopper it was meant to be. Full sun. (Narcissus ‘Snow Tip’)
Danceline Double Late Tulip dazzles with large white peony-like blooms drizzled in a raspberry confection. The late-season double blooms open white with a soft-pink glow and fade to ivory with age. Vibrant deep-pink striations energize the blooms, while cool green feathering on the outer petals yield a fresh, modern touch. Thick stems hold these blooms upright. (Tulipa ‘Danceline’)
Slawa Triumph Tulip might be the most unique tulip available with a vibrant color palette shifting through burgundy and copper tones for a dynamic mid- to late-spring display. Opening a rich maroon-red with deep plum feathering, the petal margins quickly take on a contrasting copper hue. Blooms mature to vivid shades of red, orange, apricot, and yellow. (Tulipa ‘Slawa’)
Sweetheart Emperor Tulip emerges alongside early spring Daffodils, illuminating the garden with a sunny yellow glow. Blossoms appear creamy yellow from a distance, but fine detail emerges upon closer inspection. Each petal begins lemon-yellow, with golden flares stretching up toward the white-rimmed tip. Emperor Tulips attract bees and butterflies to the garden. (Tulipa fosteriana ‘Sweetheart’)