Planting Bulbs for Spring Flowers

The Best Bulbs to Plant in the Fall

tulips and daffodils

If you enjoy seeing daffodils, tulips, and hyacinth bloom in the spring, keep in mind these bulbs need to be planted in the fall. See our handy fall-planted bulbs chart for a list of flowers for your zone—and order bulbs in advance—or, mark your calendar so that you don’t forget! See more detail—plus, flower photos!

When to Plant Bulbs for Spring Flowers

Spring-flowering bulbs are planted in the fall to give them ample time to grow roots during winter and come up early in the spring. So, if you think that autumn’s the time to stop gardening, think again! Fall will be bulb-planting time! It’s so easy to stick bulbs in the ground—and so magical to see their colorful blooms emerge in late winter and early spring!

Bulbs can be ordered from a mail-order catalog ahead of time, so that the bulbs arrive right in time for fall planting. Or, make a note in your calendar to buy bulbs in the fall.  Planting time is usually late September to mid-October in northern climate so that bulbs can grow roots before the ground freezes. (Tulips are one exception–you can plant these as late as you can get them into the soil.) In southern climates, plant bulbs in mid-October through November; you can plant them as late as December but the later you wait, the less able the bulbs will be to establish themselves.

Make sure you buy your bulbs from a reputable nursery or garden center. Remember, second-rate bulbs produce second-rate flowers, don’t sprout at all, and often don’t return year after year. Don’t forget to plant extra for cutting so you can bring some of that spring color indoors. 

Bulbs to Plant in the Fall

Here are some of the most popular spring-blooming bulbs planted in the fall. See the chart farther down this page for planting information on these and other spring flower favorites.

  • Daffodils are a favorite because they are vole- and deer-resistant.

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  • Jonquils have tiny blooms and naturalize. They’re one of the first flowers to bloom—and look especially lovely when planted in a grove or field together.

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  • Crocus are a spring-flowering favorite, and come in a range of colors.

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  • Snowdrop (Galanthus) are little white bells that bloom in early spring.

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  • Hyacinth (including grape hyacinths) are small blue clusters of tiny bell-shaped blooms which are good for naturalizing.

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  • Tulips looks beautiful when planted en masse and bloom after the daffodils. They look great paired with grape hyacinth.

Flower bulbs

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  • Gladiolus have tall beautiful spikes and tend to bloom in late spring to mid-summer, depending on the variety.

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Click to enlarge the Bulbs Growing Chart below!

Fall-Planted Bulbs Growing Chart

When to Plant Bulbs:

  • Plant fall bulbs after the heat of summer has passed, but before the ground freezes. Consult our Frost Dates Calculator to see when the first fall frost will be in your area. In the lower South, where you may not have a hard freeze, early November is a good time to plant.
  • Ideally, plant your bulbs soon after you purchase them.
  •  If you cannot plant the bulbs right away, store them at around 60 to 65 degrees F. in a dry area. Temperatures above 70 degrees F. may damage the flower buds.
  • 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; they’ll bloom once and then they’re done. For example, you will have to plant tulip bulbs again each year. Still, they are a beautiful sight to behold and well worth the effort! Other fall bulbs, such as daffodils, will act as perennials and come up year after year.
  • In warm climates, you may need to pre-cool some bulbs. Most spring-flowering bulbs require a 12 to 16 week cold period in ventilated packages in the bottom of your refrigerator at 40 to 50 degrees F. before planting. Check with your bulb supplier to determine whether the bulbs you purchase have been pre-cooled or whether you may need to give them a cold treatment.

How to Plant Bulbs:

  • Select a site with lots of sun and well-drained soil. Work a few inches of compost into the soil before planting.
  • Bulbs love great planted in a grove, near the mailbox, as swaths of colors in garden beds, and as colorful borders.
  • 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 is 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 squirrels? Consider planting your bulbs in a “cage” fashioned with chicken wire. Also, check out our tips for preventing vole damage and squirrel damage. Or try planting some rodent-proof bulbs.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of the fall bulb, check out our page on how to grow spring-planted bulbs!

Source: 

The Old Farmer's Almanac

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

cutting daffodils

I was told if I cut a daffodil bloom that that bulb won't flower again. Is that true.

How often daffodils bloom

Yes, that’s true. Daffodils bloom once a year. Their bloom will last 6 weeks to 6 months, depending on the variety and your location. After blooming, do not cut off the leaves if you want blooms next year. The plant needs to rebuild its bulb. The leaves stay green while this is happening. When the leaves begin to yellow, then you can cut the leaves off but not before.

Will the bulb flower again if I cut a bloom?

If you cut the flowers, the bulb will, in fact produce more flowers, but not until the next year. I think THAT was actually what you were asking.

Late planting of bulbs ?

Help! Is it too late to plant my spring flowering bulbs ? We got too busy remodeling the house and forgot about them in the garage in a paper bag.

Planting Bulbs in Winter

Planting spring-flowering bulbs as late as January or February typically results in sub-par blooms, as the bulbs have not had enough time to root before blooming. 

You could try forcing the bulbs to bloom inside or planting in mulch.

Potting a bulb

Hello I’m new to gardening and was wondering if it’s okay to plant bulbs into a pot or does it have to be planted out in a yard?

bulbs in containers

You can definitely plant bulbs in containers, even force them to bloom indoors for a special occasion. The following articles give you some tips on forcing bulbs:
https://www.almanac.com/video/spring-bulbs-perfect-present-any-gardener
https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening/garden-journal/amaryllis-how-grow-amaryllis-bulbs
https://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening/garden-journal/forcing-bulbs-indoors-winter-blooms
https://www.almanac.com/blog/everything-almanac-blog/fooling-mother-nature-forcing-bulbs

Bulbs can be grown outside in containers, too. Just follow the same directions as if planting in the ground, for depth, spacing, etc., choosing a soil mix that drains well and gives enough depth and width to accommodate the number of bulbs you wish to plant in the container. If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to either select a pot that can be stored outdoors over winter, and protect it with insulation such as several inches of straw, or you can move it to an unheated garage. Water less frequently in winter. When growth starts in spring, remove the mulch and move the pot outdoors once temperatures are warm enough to make your particular bulb happy. When your bulbs are growing, be sure your pot is placed in the appropriate light, and check the water requirements for the bulb(s) you have. Some bulbs, such as summer bulbs, will like warm temperatures. Other bulbs require a chilling period over winter to encourage spring blooms next year.

Just a tip if anyone bothers

Just a tip if anyone bothers to read these comments, don't plant bulbs where you mow. Because it is a pain to mow around the standing foliage after the flowers have faded. Remember for 6 weeks to leave the leaves, so plant out of the way.

Daffodils

When do I plant daffodil bulbs in San Francisco where the climate is mild and there is no frost?

Daffodils in California

The area around San Francisco ranges from Zones 9b–10b, which means it would be best to plant your daffodil bulbs in early to mid November.

Planting bulbs as well as daylillies

My question is, I live n SE NC but am planning to share bulbs and daylillies with a friend in the Cincinnati, OH area. My thought is plant bulbs later Oct, but uncertain about the daylillies and will they winter over ok. Also amaryllis bulbs and succulents. Where we are, it's not an issue but my friend has a new house with a big yard.

Nothing Ventured ...

Hi, Renee: What a pleasure to respond to someone with your last name! Tulip bulbs really should have at least a few weeks in the soil before the first hard frost, and conditions are optimum if the soil temperature is above 60 degrees, but if your ground is not yet frozen, you might as well put them in and give it a shot (and hope for a mild December!). Thanks for asking!

Live In Cleveland OH

We tulips that we ordered but haven't planted them yet.Can we still plant them? Thank you.
Renee

We live in zone 8b, between

We live in zone 8b, between Phoenix and Prescott, elevation 4100 ft. We want to put in some bulbs, of lillys, iris, other flowering flowers. When is the best time to get these in the ground. Our ground doesn't get the hard freeze that Flagstaff gets. Trying to find what temp we need to be at to plant the bulbs. We are in low 70's high and mid 50's to hight 40's for low.

Spring-flowering bulbs need

Spring-flowering bulbs need between 90 and 120 days in the ground to come up and bloom in the spring, so they should be planted soon, despite the warm temperatures. Also, you want to get them planted before they start sprouting.

Fall Bulbs

I planted my Spring Bulbs in the beginning of October. However, here in New England we are experiencing warm temperatures. I started to see a few shootings from some bulbs. Will they continue to grow and then die comes winter? Please let me know if I should do something to prevent this from happening. I feel I will not get a any flowers comes April - May. Thanks.

spring bulbs appearing in fall

Your bulbs should be fine, Maria; the warm spell is not expected to last. Apply another inch or two of mulch to the areas in which you planted the bulbs, covering any tips that may be showing. Leave the mulch until early spring. While it is not uncommon for bulbs to “pop” during an uncommonly warm fall spell, it’s also possible that you did not plant the bulbs quite deep enough. There is nothing you can do about it now, but if that is a concern, consider lifting (removing) them late next summer—long after they’ve flowered and after the foliage has died—and reset them a little deeper.

In the meantime, the blanket of mulch will halt their growth—and protect them for potentially damaging thaws and freezes in winter. You should get plenty og flowers!

Allium bulbs

Zone 5. We planted the Allium globe bulbs in fall. Wanted them to bloom for a wedding the first week in July. (I even planted them little deeper than rec.) They blossomed much too early! Where can I find Allium bulbs that bloom in the SUMMER...June & July-on. Mine blossomed in late spring and very early summer. They were brown by July 9th wedding. Darn. Any help or ideas what another Allium purple globe would do?

Daliah bulbs

I like in Kansas City and I planted some daliahs about 3 weeks ago since then we've had about 8in of rain. I haven't seen a sprout at all and I planted 8 bulbs. Should I dig them up and let them dry out and try again?

It’s true that the tubers may

It’s true that the tubers may rot if the plants have received too much water. It is suggested that dahlias get watered deeply 2 to 3 times a week. It is a good idea to gently dig up a tuber and see if it is rotten or if it has any new growth showing.

tulips

I live in zone 4. My tulips are coming up. No the foliage is coming up. Very few flowers. What did I do wrong?

wrong?

You have not necessarily done anything wrong. Tulip foliage precedes the flower. You’re in the northern part of the US. So you are in the part that warms up later than more southerly parts of the US. And you have not indicated whether you planted early, mid, or late season tulips (the packaging usually indicates wich part of the season the bulbs within will bloom).
So wait a while. Let nature take its course.

Allium

In Maine, how long will Allium planted last fall still bloom? Will they still bloom July 9th for a wedding?! Thank you for any information.

allium in Maine

Tough one, if only because there are so many allium. Onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, scallions, and chives all belong to the genus Allium, as do about 20 other species of food crops used around the world. Do you have the packaging the bulb/s came in?

Flowering onions (Allium spp.) are early summer perennials. We’d call that June to early July.

David Fuller, here https://extension.umaine.edu/about/staff-directory/david-fuller/ might be better able to help you with more specifics.

 

Question daffodil bulbs

I received daffodil flowers in a small pot at easter. I'd like to keep them and try to grow them again. I live in an apartment so I can't replant them in a garden. The flowers and leaves have started to wilt. I'm in an apartment in San Antonio tx so I don't really have a cool place to keep them. How should I care for the bulbs? Dig the out of the pot? Just let the soil dry out until..? Cut dead leaves and water soil and try to regrow right now?

saving Easter daffs

Well, you’re asking a lot of the bulbs, under the circumstances. Normally, we would say, wait until the foliage dies back, then plant them outside. There, they would be rained on occasionally. They would certainly get the benefit of a cold season (presumably that’s the case in your area), and they would have a chance at new life. Having them in a pot indoors for the next 9 to 10 months and watering them occasionally…it’s not the same. You could try putting them into the refrigerator over the fall and early winter (not in the pot). Do not store them in a plastic bag; that would deny them air, and they are living things, even in dormancy. Store them in some peat moss. It’s hard to know if they will come back. (Lots of people ask this question of gift bulbs.) Consider that they were grown, probably forced, for the season/holiday. You might have luck with them…and if it’s not looking good, you can always purchase another pot—or put another one on your list for the Easter Bunny to bring.

Good luck!

My bulbs always come up but do not flower

So I have a lovely bunch of bulbs - they grow lots of leaves and no flowers. It may be all my fault, because I planted a ton of wild flowers in the same area and have no idea how to fertilize them all in a shady desert texas flowerbed... I've added a lot of nice looking soils and have attracted many many snails... So I have a shady, hot, crazy soil (possibly acidic) area that only grows snap dragons and bulbs and mums right now. Should I just stick with these tough guy plants or should I get worried?

Hello I planted over 300

Hello I planted over 300 tulips, crocuses , anemones. And hundreds of other. I live on a small lake so my soil is rather good I would say. But this is my first year gardening. I'm a bit addicted. But my mistake is I did not place fertilizer in the areas where I planted is that bad ?Because of this weird weather in Virginia beach zone 8. I can see the tulips poking from the ground. When is the next time I can fertilize to make up. And will a liquid fertilizer do the job?

Best time to fertilize bulbs

Best time to fertilize bulbs is in the fall and in early spring when you see the first leaves. Sprinkle some 10-10-10 or 10-15-10 slow-release fertilizer on top of the soil. Then lightly cultivate the soil to disperse the fertilizer and water.

Early bloomers?

Hello, I live in zone 9 & planted numerous bulbs in November. About half of them are already sprouting 4 to 6 inches, is this normal for early spring bloomers or will it affect the blooms? I am worried about overnight temps killing the sprouts. Thank you!

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