Planting Fall Bulbs for a Beautiful Spring

September 2, 2020
Hello Fall!

There is nothing more gorgeous and inspiring after a long winter to see groups of daffodils, tulips and crocus poking their heads through the snow.  Spring is on the way!  And by the way, a little snow does not deter these tough bulbs one bit.

Garden centers often get calls in spring when these flowers appear.  Where can I buy the bulbs?  The time to plant them is in fall as they need a period of winter dormancy which stimulates root growth.  If this does not occur, stems and flowers will not fully form with the stems being short and flowers being too close to the ground.

There are many types of  bulbs that can be planted in fall for vibrant spring color.   Tulips, daffodils, crocus, snowdrops, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, allium and muscari.  In our area the ideal time to plant these beauties is from about mid September to the end of October. 

Photo: thisoldhouse


Spring flowering bulbs need full sun and a well drained,  nutrient rich soil.  In this case, the bigger the bulb the better.  Larger bulbs mean more energy has been stored away for next spring.  Purchase bulbs that are plump and firm.  Put each color in a separate  brown paper bag and label right away or pop a provided label into the bag.  In 34 years in the gardening industry I have yet to meet a person who can identify the color of a tulip bulb without a tag!

The general rule of thumb is to plant the bulbs at a depth that is three times the greater diameter of the bulb.  The tag or package will also give you a planting depth to follow.  Spring flowering bulbs create more of an impact if planted in groups of odd numbers.  Dig a wide hole and mix a handful of bone meal into the soil at the bottom of the hole.  Roughly flatten this soil and place the bulbs, pointed end up, two or three inches apart in a random pattern. Cover with backfill soil and water. You can also top dress with a layer of compost.   Mark the area you have planted with a tag or wooden stake.  

If you are in doubt as to which way is up on your particular bulb just lay the bulb horizontally in the planting hole.

If you happen to miss the planting window, plant them anyway.  It is not advised to save bulbs over to the next season.

I have had great success naturalizing crocus corms in my lawn.  Cut and  fold back a piece of the lawn,  plant the corm(s) and drop the lawn piece back overtop.  The crocus will bloom, fade and finish before the first lawn mowing. 

Photo: DIY network


Spring flowering bulbs are not without a pest or two.  Squirrels are known to dig them up but luckily they do not like daffodils.  Deer as well do not like to eat daffodil flowers in spring.  If you have a vole problem one trick you can try is to plant the bulbs in a large shallow pot and sink that in the ground.  Chicken wire laid over the planting area is a good pest deterrent as well.  Just remember to take it off when the bulbs sprout.

Photo: N.C. State Univ.

Finally I suggest that you keep your bulb tags, plant tags and any garden plant location maps  all together in a journal or photo album.  If you love a particular bulb or annual one season you have the tag to go shopping with the next!