Order Your Fall Bulbs in Summer

We’ve barely begun to harvest the fruits of our vegetable garden, and I’m already talking to you about spring-flowering bulbs. Can we eat our tomatoes in peace?

Last autumn, I went to the garden center to buy some spring-flowering bulbs. I knew in advance that my chances of success were minimal, and indeed I found nothing of what I was looking for – everything had already been sold! Experienced gardeners will understand my mistake: you have to order your bulbs in advance, by August at the latest, but you can reserve them as early as spring!

When to Plant Bulbs?

After a spring-flowering bulb has finished blooming, its leaves will continue to photosynthesize and build up reserves for the following year. Eventually, the leaves will turn completely yellow and the bulb will go dormant until next spring. At this point, which varies according to species, you can plant or transplant your bulbs until the ground freezes. No need to wait until autumn.

Why Plant in Autumn?

So where does this tradition of planting bulbs in autumn come from? It’s not a horticultural question, but rather a commercial and industrial one. It’s easier for bulb producers, most of whom are based in Holland, to do it that way. I understand them completely. If they were to sell bulbs to us in summer, they would only have a few weeks to harvest the bulbs after the leaves turn yellow, clean them, package them and then transport them to the furthest corners of the globe. Why go through all that effort when the bulbs go dormant in summer and can stay there?

Another factor to consider is that in spring and early summer, garden centers are in full swing selling annuals and other plants. This would compete with bulbs. That’s why bulbs arrive in mid-September.

Personally, I love this tradition of planting bulbs in autumn, which brings back so many memories with my father, who used to receive several crates of bulbs every autumn… But if you can get bulbs before then, there’s no reason not to plant them immediately. You can also plant them well into winter, provided the soil is still loose.

Bulbs to Plant on Delivery

On the other hand, there are a few bulbs that should be planted as soon as you get them. These can be divided into two categories: autumn-flowering bulbs and bulbs that are difficult to transplant.

You’ll understand that, if you want to enjoy autumn colchicum or crocus flowers, you’ll need to plant them as soon as possible, otherwise fall will already be over or they may even start to bloom in their packaging.

There are other bulbs that don’t keep well. These include anemones, eranthis, eremurus and erythrones. By the time you receive them in early fall, they will probably have already suffered from being stored in boxes or bags. So plant them ASAP!

Érythrones d’Amérique. Photo: Alan S. Heilman.

Where to Purchase Bulbs

Vous pouvez bien sûr acheter des bulbes auprès de votre jardinerie locale et plusieurs prendront même des réservations. Cependant, vous trouverez une meilleure sélection chez des spécialistes qui offrent un service de livraison.

In Canada, try Breck’s, Fraser’s Thimble FarmsBotanusPhoenix Perennials ou Veseys. Americans will find a wide range of choices at Brent and Becky’s Bulbs and Longfield Gardens. For our European readers, here are some websites, but leave your suggestions in the comments too: LesBulbesaFleurs.comPromesse de fleurs et Verberghe FlowerBulbs.

Mathieu manages the jardinierparesseux.com and laidbackgardener.blog websites. He is also a garden designer for a landscaping company in Montreal, Canada. Although he loves contributing to the blog, he prefers fishing.

1 comment on “Order Your Fall Bulbs in Summer

  1. I always plant Spring bulbs in containers to overwinter. Come Spring after they have bloomed I just pop the bulbs in the garden. It’s easier then because perennials haven’t yet filled in and I can see the gaps whereas in Fall everything has filled out.

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