Planting Spring Flowering Bulbs in the Fall

Posted by Jessie Jacobson on Sep 14th 2021

It’s Fall, but it’s time to think spring. Yep! You heard it here first. Now is the time to start planning next year’s garden, and that includes planting spring flowering bulbs.

One thing is clear, it’s thrilling to see those first green shoots pop out of the ground in spring - a delightful pop of color after all you see is white. Something that may be a little less clear, however, is exactly what is a bulb and why do we plant them in the fall?

A bulb is actually a modified stem, an underground storage unit with all the elements required to grow into a plant including leaves, flower stem, and sometimes even flower buds. The whole life cycle of the plant, along with energy and nutrients, is stored within this underground structure during the resting stage of this plant life. Bulbs are living things. They should be treated with care, planted at the appropriate time, and should not be allowed to dry out.

Bulbs are classified as either “major” or “minor,” and the difference is pretty much in size. Also, minor bulbs tend to be hardier and more likely to naturalize and spread.

Major bulbs include tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Late blooming tulips and hyacinth will only last a year or two and will need to be replaced. Daffodils are hardy and will multiply and naturalize.

Minor bulbs include gallanthus, crocus, and muscari. These bulbs are smaller in size and produce smaller flowers. They are extremely hardy, will naturalize in an area, and look best planted in mass.

How to plant bulbs:

Plant bulbs where they will get full sun in early spring. It is okay to plant bulbs in what is normally a shady area, such as under deciduous trees, as the leaves will fill in as flowers fade. Get your bulbs by the end of September (or early as possible in October) for best results. They do best with a little extra time to put down roots.

Bulbs prefer rich, well-drained soil. Work in Premium Compost or Planting Mix for to amend your soil for best results. Make sure to pick up either Bulb Tone or Bone Meal to supplement your soil’s nutrition. Both products include phosphorous which is essential for root development in the fall and big, beautiful blooms in the spring AND mycorrhizae which is our favorite beneficial fungus which colonizes roots increasing nutrient and water uptake and absorption.

Bulb blooms look best in naturally scattered clumps or in mass plantings. Plant bulbs in groups throughout a perennial bed, feel free to mix different colors and varieties together. Plant smaller bulbs over larger ones, in the same hole, for a heavier blooming effect. Be creative and have fun!

Use a trowel or bulb planter and dig 2-3 times as deep as the bulb is tall. Or dig a wide hole to hold several bulbs. Be sure to read the directions on the package, some bulbs may require a different depth.

Drop the bulb. Teardrop-shaped bulbs should be planted tip-side up, flat bulbs should be planted flat side up. Look for roots, if there are any, plant them facing down. If it’s hard to tell which way is up just plant the bulb sideways, the plant will figure it out and get growing in the right direction.

Cover and protect. Rodents love bulbs, for them its tasty food. Cover the planting with chicken wire secured by sod staples to deter these little diggers. As an added deterrent, spray bulbs with a repellent, let them dry out, then plant. You can also sprinkle Liquid Fence Granules over a newly planted area.

Hot tie: Make sure to apply repellants such as Liquid Fence or Repels All as bulbs emerge in the spring. Our furry friends love bulb foliage and flowers just as much as we do!

Water them in and you are set to go! Now its time to sit back, relax and enjoy the show – next spring that is!