Growing Guide: Fall-Planted Bulbs

See our how to grow fall-planted (spring-flowering) bulbs with our handy chart

Fall-planted bulbs produce the first blooms of next year's season. The bulbs spend the winter making roots and come up early in the spring.

So if you think that autumn's the time to stop gardening, think again! It's bulb-planting time!

Tips for Planting Bulbs

  • In the fall, you'll find bulbs to purchase everywhere! Make sure you buy your bulbs from a reputable nursery, garden center, or catalog. Second-rate bulbs product second-rate flowers or don't sprout at all.
  • Plant anytime before the ground freezes. In the lower South, where you may not have hard freeze, early November is a good time to plant.
  • See the chart below for type of bulbs by hardiness zone. In the warmer South, note that some bulbs need to be treated as annuals instead of perennials (e.g., tulips); they'll bloom once and then they're done. Still, they are a beautiful sight to behold and worth it! Other bulbs (e.g., daffodils) will act as perennials and come up year after year.
  • For inspiration, visit our Flower Guides which include many common bulbs.
  • Ideally, plant your bulbs soon after you purchase them.
  • Select a site with lots of sun and well-drained soil. Work a few inches of compost in the soil.
  • Plant bulbs generously in case some do not sprout. And plant them in random order and spacing for a more natural appearance. If you love groves of daffodils and blanketed landscapes of tulips, be prepared to buy and plant a large quantity of bulbs!
  • In general, plant bulbs at a depth of three times the width of the bulb.
  • After planting, apply fertilizer low in nitrogen, such as a 9-6-6 formulation.  If your soil's sandy, plant bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower.
  • Water well after planting. Apply mulch to keep the weeds down and hold in moisture.
  • Do you have voles or chipmunks? Consider planting your bulbs in a “cage” fashioned with chicken wire.

Click to enlarge the Bulbs Growing Chart below!

Fall-Planted Bulbs Growing Chart

Also, see our chart on how to grow spring-planted bulbs!



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i live in massachusetts. is

i live in massachusetts. is it too late to plant bulbs?

October is the ideal time to

October is the ideal time to plant bulbs in your zone but you can plant up til the ground starts to freeze. Some of our readers say, "If you can get them in, they should do fine!" Most bulbs need well-drained soil and full sun. Ideally, you have loosened the soil and worked in organic matter.

I planted my bulbs in

I planted my bulbs in October, I live in Southern Ontario, and they have started to grow. I can see nearly all of them sprouting up through the soil. Is this okay? Will the frost kill them when it happens?

Most spring blooming bulbs

Most spring blooming bulbs are resilient. The leaf tips may be damaged, but as long as the flower buds are below ground they will be fine come spring.

I planted Tulip bulbs in the

I planted Tulip bulbs in the Fall and they are emerging now! Hooray! Do I need to fertilize them throughout the Spring?

Lucky you! No, you do not

Lucky you! No, you do not have to fertilize tulip bulbs in the spring. You could apply fertilizer low in nitrogen, such as a 9-6-6 formulation, again next autumn.

When is the best days to

When is the best days to plant bulbs in region 2?

Plant spring early summer

Plant spring early summer flowering bulbs in the fall in order to develop a root system and satisfy the cold requirement of the bulbs.  Wait until soil temperatures are below 60 F (16 C) before planting.  In places such as North Carolina (region 2), this is usually late October to November.

I live in region 2 (KY) if

I live in region 2 (KY) if transplanting day Lillie's from one spot to another, do I need to cut the stems off & just plant the bulbs. Thank you

In Kentucky, you transplant

In Kentucky, you transplant in the early spring (February through April) or late summer (late July through the mid-September with Autumn Equinox considered the latest possible day).  When doing this in the Fall, at least 6 weeks before the first frost date is a general rule.
   Cut apart the fans at the base or crown. Cut back the foliage by at least half. You want to dig up the entire clump, including about 6 – 8 inches of soil surrounding the clump.

Can I put daffodil bulbs in

Can I put daffodil bulbs in fridge now and plant them later? Someone just gave these to me.

Spring-flowering bulbs such

Spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils should be planted in the fall. The bulbs usually arrive from growers in September. You can store them in a cool place for a few weeks and plant the bulbs when the ground has cooled (September through November depending on how warm your climate is).
We do not know where you live, but you've got nothing to lose by planting them whenever you get get them in the ground. They may not do much this year, or they may flower next year.

I live in Dallas, Texas

I live in Dallas, Texas 75237. What is the best time to plant bulbs.

In Dallas, plant bulbs around

In Dallas, plant bulbs around October 1 as long as the temperatures are beginning to cool.

I live in Region 5, we are

I live in Region 5, we are moving our daffodils to a different garden. Can we plant these now or do what do we need to do to them until fall?

You can transplant daffodils

You can transplant daffodils into a new garden now (late summer) and anytime up until 6 weeks before the first frost date.

I live in Nova Scotia,

I live in Nova Scotia, Canada. When should I plant the bulbs in the fall? Would the first week of September be too early?

Hi, Amy: You need to get them

Hi, Amy: You need to get them in the ground before the first frost, which on average may come as early as Sept. 20 in your neck of the woods. So get goin'! And thanks for asking!

Hello. I just dug up an old

Hello. I just dug up an old garden and unearthed a large amount of bulbs that have been dormant for a few years, possibly from too much crowding. I have many small bulbs along with large bulbs. My question is are the small bulbs worth planting?

We recommend planting new

We recommend planting new bulbs.

I have carcous in my flower

I have carcous in my flower bed. they came up this spring but didn't bloom just made leaves, now here it is the end of Sept and they are now blooming. I live in SW Okla and our winters are usually pretty mild, but was wondering why they are now blooming.

Thank you

Hi Sharon, You may have

Hi Sharon,
You may have planted fall blooming crocuses. There are more than a dozen species that bloom in the fall.

Can I plant marigolds in the

Can I plant marigolds in the same spot as hyacinths when they stop blooming and the leaves are dead/removed? We have a very small bed for gardening and I want to put hyacinth bulbs along the border so we have flowers in the spring, but then we will be using the majority of the area for tomatoes later on, and we usually border it with marigolds to keep the critters away.

Be careful not to disturb the

Be careful not to disturb the hyacinth bulbs when you plant the marigolds, and everything should be fine.

It is October 16 and I live

It is October 16 and I live in central WI. A friend just thinned out her bed of Iris and gave me a lot of bulbs. It appears from the comments that it is too late for me to plant these. If that is the case, how/where do I store these until spring?

I moved to southeastern North

I moved to southeastern North Carolina and in Oct. I planted Allium Purple Sensation, Daffodil and Tulips. The Allium have started to come up. Is this ok? I did throw some more dirt on them and covered with pine straw mulch. No sign of the others. Thank you

If spring bulbs are planted

If spring bulbs are planted in warm soil in fall, or if later the soil temperatures warm up, it can spur the bulbs to grow early. As temperatures cool down, growth usually will stop. Bulb foliage is usually fairly cold hardy, but if you don't have snow at this point (which insulates), you can protect the foliage over winter with about a 2-inch layer of mulch, as you have done. Remove the mulch in spring when temperatures warm.

when is the best time to

when is the best time to tranplant tulips i live in zone 5 iowa

Transplant tulip bulbs once

Transplant tulip bulbs once the plant goes dormant.
This happens in early summer after the foliage has turned yellow and the roots die back. Dig a wide hole, so you do not slice into the bulb itself. If you have a spading fork, that works well. It is best to replant the bulbs right away instead of waiting until the fall when you normally plant new tulip bulbs.

i bought a bunch of bulbs

i bought a bunch of bulbs last summer and they were delivered at fall time. An injury prevented me from planting them last fall . I have them in a box in the garage . I live in suburbs of Chicago. Are they dead or can I still plant them

Check the bulbs to make sure

Check the bulbs to make sure they are not dried out or rotten. If the bulbs got a suitable "chill" from being in the garage this winter and they look healthy, you can go ahead and plant them now.

What is the difference

What is the difference between corms, tubers and true bulbs?

Hi Jose, True bulbs include

Hi Jose,
True bulbs include tulips, daffodils, onions, hyacinths and lilies. Bulbs are usually round or eggshaped with a pointy end.
Corms are also round but flatter. They include gladiolus, freesia, and crocus. You will see bumps on the upper surface of the corm.
Tubers include potatoes, dahlias and anemones. They are thickened underground stems and are oval or look like fat fingers.
Rhizomes include iris, canna and calla lily. These are swollen underground stems that grow horizontally close to the surface of the soil.
We hope this helps.


I live in south western Ontario. It is quite unpredictable as to when it gets cold. I would guess probably mid to late October would be best for planting here. I want to plant some nice flowers around my Kitty's grave, but it is in quite a shaded area. What flowers would be best to plant where there is not a lot of sunlight?

fall bulbs for shade

Hi, Carol-Ann: To a small extent, this depends on where you are in SW Ontario, but if you are in Owen Sound, there is a 50% chance that your first frost will have occurred by October 15, so you want to make sure that the ground isn’t frozen solid. There are lots of nice spring (i.e., fall-planted) bulbs that do well in significant shade, including lily-of-the-valley, snowdrops, snowflakes, squills, bluebells, cyclamens, and fritillarias. Thanks for the question, and Kitty thanks you, too!