Fall-Planted Bulbs Guarantee a Colorful Spring Garden

Fall is in the air and that means it’s time for mums, pumpkins, apples … and planting spring-blooming flower bulbs! Invest an hour or two this fall to enjoy weeks of color next spring.

?Helpful HintFlowering fall bulbs contain an important source of energy. Inside each bulb is a reserve of stored energy that helps power the development of roots, shoots, leaves, and flowers. Being so self-sufficient means that flower bulbs don’t have to wait for perfect weather or ideal soil conditions. By nature, they already have what they need to thrive.

Here’s why fall bulbs are so easy and rewarding to grow!

Bulbs Are Easy

Flower bulbs are perfectly packaged for easy planting. Just dig a hole and drop in the bulb. Most bulbs aren’t very particular about where they are planted. They will perform in flower gardens, beneath trees and shrubs, and in woodlands, meadows, and even lawns. They’ll even thrive in pots and containers, at least in milder climates where the soil doesn’t freeze solid.

?Helpful Hint: When planting bulbs, just follow the “rule of three”: plant them at a depth equal to 3 times the height of the bulb and space them at 3 times its diameter.

Planting flower bulbs doesn’t require any special knowledge or experience. Simply plant the bulbs this fall and sit back. When spring arrives, your bulbs will start blooming before anything else in your garden.

?Helpful Hint: Soggy soil can cause flower bulbs to rot, and tulips are especially sensitive to excess moisture. Consider planting tulips in your vegetable garden! The flowers will be finished blooming before it’s time to plant tomatoes. Just be careful to not stab the bulbs when planting your veggies!

Bulbs Are Bountiful

Golden daffodils
Daffodils are long-lived bulbs and naturalize well.

Nothing says spring like a field of yellow daffodils or a flower bed filled with colorful tulips. Fall-planted bulbs have an astonishing amount of flower power for their size. They’re also inexpensive and it’s surprisingly easy to create a big impact with just a handful of bulbs.

Some types, such as daffodils, muserais and squills, are reliably perennial. Once established, they will bloom for generations and can multiply to carpet large areas with their cheery blooms. Others, including tulips and hyacinths, are often treated as annuals, which lets you experiment with new color combinations every year.

?Helpful Hint: Different types of daffodils bloom at different times during the spring. The same is true for tulips and alliums. When purchasing bulbs, check the bloom times so you can enjoy a long season of flowers.

Bulbs Are Dependable

Dordogne Tulip, Single late, flowers claret rose with a tangerine orange edge.
No other bulb offers as wide a range of colors and shapes as the tulip. This is ‘Dordogne’, a single late tulip.

Each type of flower bulb blooms at a particular time of the year and has its own proper planting time. Spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, and alliums, must be planted in the fall for flowers the next spring. Choose a planting location with well-drained soil that gets at least half-day sun.

Planting can begin as early as September and can continue right through early December in mild climates. For best results, get your bulbs into the ground at least 3 weeks before the soil begins to freeze. Once planted, the bulbs will quickly develop roots and then go to sleep until spring.

?Helpful Hint: In most areas, the best time to plant spring-blooming bulbs is mid-September through mid-November. Don’t worry if you are running late. Just be sure to get them into the ground before the ground freezes (cold climates) or by early December (mild ones).

Bulbs Offer Lots of Choices

Spring-blooming bulbs are loved the world over for their brilliant colors and ability to tolerate chilly spring weather. The earliest bulbs, such as snowdrops and crocus, start flowering just as the snow melts. Others follow in quick succession, delivering wave after wave of color, while most other plants are still waking up.

When selecting bulbs, be sure to include early, mid, and late-season bloomers. This way you will always have new flowers coming into bloom.

Spring-flowering bulbs that are planted in fall include:

Winter Hardy in Growing Zones 3–7

  • Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.)
  • Crocus (Crocus spp.)
  • Daffodils or jonquils (Narcissus spp.)
  • Squill (Scilla spp.)
  • Glory of the snow (Chionodoxa spp.)
  • Tulips (Tulipa spp.)
  • Muscari or grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.)
  • Alliums (Allium spp.)
  • Reticulated iris (Iris reticulata)
  • Greek anemone (Anemone blanda)
  • Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)

Winter Hardy in Growing Zones 5–7

  • Hyacinth (Hyacinthus spp.)
  • Fritillaria (Fritillaria spp.)
  • Wood hyacinth or bluebell (Hyacinthoides spp.)

Winter Hardy in Growing Zones 7–10

  • Dutch Iris (Iris × hollandica)
  • Poppy anemone (Anemone coronaria)

Winter Hardy in Growing Zones 8–10

  • Ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus)

?Helpful Hint: In areas with relatively warm winters (growing zones 8–10), most of these bulbs will not bloom properly unless they are pre-chilled at 40–45°F (4–7°C) for a minimum of 10–14 weeks. Begin chilling the bulbs as soon as you receive them in the fall. Once chilled, they can be planted into the garden or outdoor containers.


Flowering fall bulbs aim to please, and they make it incredibly easy for gardeners to be successful. Simply choose the colors, styles, and combinations you like, tuck the bulbs into the soil, and look forward to months of beautiful spring color.

Information and photos supplied by the National Garden Bureau.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “Fall-Planted Bulbs Guarantee a Colorful Spring Garden

  1. Those that are expected to be perennial are more discriminating about their location than those that are likely to bloom only once. After all, they can not regenerate for the following year if they are in a spot that it too shady.

  2. Rachel Carnes

    Ok so- the heresy!!- we planted our daffodils in literally February and March here in NJ last year. They were a little late but came up beautifully!!
    Also to avoid little critters having a buffet below the ground we spray bulbs with deer spray then let them dry before popping them in the ground. Worth the time!

    • Not really heresy (I’ve planted daffodils in January), but definitely later than usual. The important thing is that the bulbs have to have time to root in cold but not frozen soil. If you’d planted them after the ground warmed up, they wouldn’t have bloomed.

      Deer spray is a great treatment for bulbs that squirrels eat, that is, tulips and crocuses, but a waste of time with bulbs they don’t eat, like daffodils or hyacinths (or indeed, just about any bulb but a tulip or a crocus).

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