Are you already looking forward to a garden full of beautiful blooms next spring but not sure where to start? Here are some tips for planting spring-blooming bulbs this fall and setting your spring garden up for success.
Bulb planting in the fall is one of the easiest ways to ensure a colorful and stunning spring flower garden. You’re basically laying the groundwork in the fall season for your spring garden.
I’ll share some must-read tips about when to plant spring bulbs, how to plant them, and how to get the best blooms in the spring season.
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I’m a self-taught hobby gardener, not a Master Gardener. Everything I share with you on my blog is my personal opinion and things that worked for me along the way.
Tips for Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs in the Fall
Buy Bulbs at the Right Time
I don’t know about you but I am starting to see spring bulb availability as early as August these days. I’ve been told it’s because stores want to start focusing on holiday sales and need their gardening inventory sold first.
The way I see it is you have 2 choices…
- Store the spring bulbs carefully for 1-3 months until it’s time to plant them.
- Order your bulbs online when it’s closer to the ultimate planting time
NOTE: Many bulbs look the same so make sure you leave the bulbs in the original bag that you purchased them in so you don’t get the bulbs mixed up.
Buy Bulbs From a Reputable Store or Brand
Have you ever heard the phrase “You get what you pay for”?
It’s so important to buy the best bulbs from a reputable company, nursery, or garden center that has a proven track record for high-quality bulbs.
Inspect Your Bulbs Before Planting Them
ALWAYS inspect your bulbs before planting them. Look for bulbs that are plump and firm, and with no mold growing on them.
When it comes to ordering online, I have received at least one variety of moldy bulbs EVERY SINGLE time I’ve ordered them, and from most brands.
But by ordering with a brand you trust, they will guarantee their product and send out another shipment to you immediately if they’re not sold out or will give you a refund or merchandise credit.
Choose Wisely Where to Plant Your Bulbs in the Garden
You know what they say…location, location, location!
Most spring flower bulbs do their best in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun a day) and well-drained soil. Always read the care instructions that come with the bulbs to understand how each variety should be planted and what conditions your bulbs need to thrive.
Take a look at any pictures of your previous spring garden. Look through your notes. Where are your bare spots in early spring that could use some beautiful blooms to brighten things up?
Bulbs don’t do well in soggy areas as they are prone to rotting so look for areas with good drainage.
Pay close attention to areas under deciduous trees, annual garden beds, and garden spaces that won’t see perennials yet this early in the year. These are great spaces for spring bulbs.
Plan an Exit Strategy for Spent Bulb Foliage
By planting your spring bulbs behind perennials, the spent bulb’s foliage that has to basically die back in place can be hidden once the perennial plant emerges for the season.
Know When to Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs
HOW LATE CAN YOU PLANT SPRING FLOWERING BULBS?
The best time for planting spring bulbs is up until the ground is frozen.
Ideally, try to plant your spring bulbs when the evening temperatures are between 40-50°F. or about 6 weeks before any danger of frost or the ground freezes, when the temperatures are cool. I’m in USDA hardiness zone 8b so I usually plant spring bulbs starting early fall through late October.
Most spring bulbs need adequate chill time to bloom, so if you live in an area where the ground doesn’t freeze, you’ll need to chill them.
Leave the bulbs in the original bag they were bought in, and put that bag in a paper lunch bag. Place them in the refrigerator for 6-10 weeks before planting. Make sure that you don’t store bulbs with fruit since the gasses they give off can make your bulbs go bad.
Timing is everything! If you plant the bulbs too early they won’t bloom. If they are planted too late in the fall season their roots will not establish.
How to Plant Spring Bulbs
PREPARE THE SOIL
For the best results in the following spring, prepare your garden bed before planting your bulbs. Remove weeds and loosen the soil.
Add compost or organic matter to the soil for nutrients before you plant the bulbs. I add peat moss for drainage as well. Soggy soil or overwatering will cause the bulbs to rot.
ADD A LAYER OF MULCH TO THE SOIL
Adding a 2-3 inch layer of mulch on top of the soil is beneficial to grow bulbs.
- Prevents weeds from growing in with the bulbs. It’s important that the bulbs don’t have to compete with weeds for the nutrients from the soil. The weeds may also attract insects and diseases.
- Squirrels and other critters love finding bulbs in the ground. Help hide your bulb holes by adding mulch to the soil.
HOW DEEP TO PLANT SPRING BULBS
Planting instructions should come with your bulbs, including how deep to plant them. But if you don’t have any, the general rule of thumb is to dig the hole 2-3 times deeper than the bulb is tall. (a 3-inch-tall bulb would need a hole 6-9 inches deep).
You can use a hand shovel, shovel, or bulb planter to dig the holes. An auger is a great tool for digging bulb holes as well. Or how about this tool…ProPlugger 5 in 1?
If you plant the bulbs too deep they may either bloom late or not at all. If they are not planted deep enough the bulbs can become exposed too soon and risk damage by the cold temperatures.
PLACE THE BULB POINTY-SIDE UP
If the bulb has a pointed end, it’s safe to say that this is the side that faces up. If you don’t see a pointy side, just look for the end where the roots come out. That’s the end that goes into the ground first.
The good news is, even if you get it wrong the bulb will most likely find its way through the soil once spring comes.
Water After Planting Your Spring Bulbs
Water your bulbs thoroughly after planting them. Giving your freshly planted bulbs a good soak will help to encourage the roots to establish more quickly. Watering will also eliminate air pockets in the soil that could cause your bulbs to dry out.
Advanced Planning Will Make All the Difference
By planning your spring garden in advance you will extend the growing season.
SUCCESSION PLANTING FOR CONTINUAL COLOR
Plant a few varieties of bulbs in your flower beds with different bloom times in your garden for lasting spring color. By filling your garden with early, mid, and late spring blooming bulbs your spring garden will be a stunning show of color through the entire season without missing a beat.
PLAN YOUR GARDEN BY FLOWER HEIGHT
Try planting smaller bulbs in front of borders while planting taller flowers towards the back of the border.
Plan for about five bulbs per square foot. Provide an appropriate distance from established plants since bulbs will multiply.
Wait to Fertilize Until Spring
The spring bulbs will have a dormant period for the remainder of the fall and cold winter seasons, so fertilizing won’t be necessary.
Wait until you see the first shoots of spring which indicate the roots are growing and ready for nutrients. Make sure that you don’t fertilize after the bulbs start to flower because this will inhibit bulb growth.
I hope these tips will help when it comes time for you to plant your spring bulbs in the fall. Do you have a favorite bulb? Let me know in the comments.
Until next time.
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I absolutely LOVE your gardens! Thank you for the beauty you share—like a great artist! I can’t get enough of your plantings, color & creativity. You have a gift!
Thank you so much, Sandi. That is such a sweet thing to say and it really means a lot. Thank you for being here.
Kim, I’m going to include this post in a tulip post I’m sharing tomorrow morning. Your tulip beds are just amazing!
That’s so sweet of you. Thanks so much, Ann.
Rachel Harper says
Kim, so many great tips I’m behind with fall gardening!
Thanks, Rachel. I’m behind on my fall planting too. I seriously don’t know where the time goes.
I was wanted to plant a lot of Spring bulbs this year for the first time, but won’t be able to since we are looking to move. You have such beautiful ones! I will be using your great tips when I do. thanks for sharing your knowledge!
Thanks so much, Melba. I hope you are able to plant spring bulbs on your new property next year.