As the days grow shorter and the nights cool down, it’s time to get ready for the fall bulb planting ritual. Here are 5 steps to success when planting bulbs in the fall.
The best time to plant spring bulbs depends on the plant hardiness zone where you live.
Wait until the soil temperature is below 60°F.
Plant in September through early October if you live in Hardiness Zones 4 or 5, October to early November in zones 6 or 7, and November to early December in zones 8 and 9.
In mild winter regions, you can give the bulbs their required cold treatment by placing them in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 weeks in the fall. Then plant them in late December to early January.
Plant a variety of bulbs to extend the flowering season.
In addition to daffodils and tulips, include some early-flowering bulbs – such as grape hyacinths, crocuses, snowdrops and scilla – to herald the start of spring.
Late-flowering alliums will continue the show into early summer.
5 Steps to Planting Spring Bulbs
1: Pick a Site
Most bulb species prefer a well-drained soil and a location with at least 6 hours of sun a day during spring through summer. Make sure the bulbs will not be in the shade when the nearby trees leaf out.
2: Dig Holes
Dig up the whole bed to loosen the dirt and make bulb spacing easier. The depth of the hole should three to four times the bulb height. In heavier clay soils plant bulbs 3X deeper and in lighter, sandier soils plant 4X deeper. Space bulbs according to the supplier’s recommendations.
3: Arrange bulbs
Set the bulbs in holes with their roots or downward. (If you can’t tell which way is up, plant the bulb on its side.) Fill the hole with soil and pat it down gently.
4: Water and mulch
Water the bulbs right after planting to initiate growth. In mild winter areas, mulch right after planting to help keep soil cool and moist. Apply mulch after soil freezes in cold winter areas.
Bulbs need fertilizer but the kind varies with the plant. Tulips, hyacinths and fritillaria need a 9-9-6 formula fertilizer. Daffodils and snowdrops need nitrogen and potassium and thrive on a 5-10-20 mixture. For both fertilizers use about 1/2 cup per 10 square feet.
Sprinkle it on top of the soil after planting, not in the hole. Fertilizer in the hole may burn tender young roots.
Use a Bulb Planter
The easiest way to insert bulbs in the ground – especially if you’re planting a whole spring garden bed – is to use a bulb planter.
To use a bulb planting tool, just push into the earth where you want to plant the bulb, twist it back and forth a couple times and then lift the dirt out. Place the bulb into the hole and drop the dirt back on top. Easy, breezy – fast.
I hope this bulb planting guide helps you keep your fall gardening short, but sweet. Enjoy!
Want more? See all of our autumn recipes.
See our autumn recipe collection with favorites like pumpkin pies and everything pumpkin spice, and a list of recipes by ingredient for fruits and vegetables harvested in the fall.
Want even more? See our new garden tips.
Sign up for our weekly magazine with all our new recipes, party ideas and ways to put more play in every day.