Spring can be a tempestuous season. Oscillating from cold to warm and back to cold, it can be hard to find cheeriness. One thing that can brighten up your spring is flowers in your garden, and we’re here to look at planting fall flower bulbs.
When to plant fall bulbs: Planting fall bulbs is an easy way to make your garden come to life in the spring. Plant your fall bulbs in the fall, before the first frost date. This can range from late September to early November, depending on where you live and how cold your fall is. Once in the ground, your bulbs don’t need much attention. They will remain dormant until the weather warms up in the spring. Then, they will come to life and sprout gorgeous blooms. There are many types of fall bulbs. Some, like snowdrops, can bloom in early March while others, like hyacinths, don’t bloom until early May. You can mix and match your fall bulbs as they are a great transition until the rest of your garden starts to wake up.
Planting Fall Bulbs in Different Climates
Planting fall bulbs in a tropical climate is tricky and not usually recommended. Fall bulbs need a period of cold for them to be dormant and a tropical climate is usually not cold enough in the winter.
If you absolutely love fall bulbs and their flowers, you can try to plant them in the spring. Then, once they have bloomed, dig them up and replant them the following year.
Fall bulbs should be ok in a dry climate as long as you add water to your garden. The key is having a cold winter and then warmth in the spring to signal growth.
While you won’t have to water when the bulbs are dormant in the winter, they do count on the water in the spring to get them growing again. Water but don’t saturate the soil as this can lead to the bulbs rotting.
One of the best climates to plant fall bulbs is a temperate climate. This type of location means you have more leeway over planting times.
Because the fall temperatures in a temperate climate are milder, you have a larger planting time frame. Most areas don’t have their first frost date until November, so you can plant any time in October.
Furthermore, a temperate climate has mild spring temperatures, which means your bulbs will often sprout a few weeks before other locations. This means an early start to a colorful spring.
Another place where fall bulbs thrive is in a continental climate. However, you have a much smaller planting time frame.
In a continental climate, the first fall frost date can be as early as mid-October. This means you want to plant your bulbs in either late September or early October.
One last consideration with a continental climate is that your bulbs won’t bloom until later in the spring. Due to the longer, colder winters, expect a two-to-four-week delay in blooming.
Even though fall bulbs need a cold winter for a dormant phase, they still need heat to sprout to life. You may be able to try more cold-hardy varieties like snowdrops if you live in a milder polar climate.
Choosing Fall Bulbs
There are many types of fall blooms. For best results, plant a mix of them for a steady stream of spring flowers.
Small in size, these bulbs are some of the first to sprout. Don’t worry if it snows again after they bloom, as they are cold-hardy.
Another dainty, early bloom, crocuses are usually yellow or purple, although you can find them in other colors. They are best grouped together and can even be planted in your grass.
One of the shining stars of fall bulbs, tulips come in a wide array of colors. You can choose varieties that are singular in color or types that have patterns on their petals.
One of the later bulbs to bloom in the spring, daffodils can be short or tall, depending on the variety. With bold pops of yellow, they bring sunshine to any garden.
How to Plant Fall Bulbs
As the name implies, the best time to plant fall bulbs is in the fall. When specifically, will be completely based on your temperatures and climate.
The ground should be cool but still workable. Always try to plant your bulbs before your first frost date. For most areas, early October should be ideal.
Bulbs will be in the ground for the entire year so you want to have good soil conditions for them. While fall bulbs will expect to get wet, they shouldn’t be sitting in pools of water. Otherwise, rot can set in.
Soil that drains well is ideal. If you have compacted soil, dig some of it up and add sand or small gravel for better drainage.
You can also add compost to your soil before planting. This will give the bulbs extra nutrients in their first year of growth.
If you don’t have compost, you can sprinkle some bone meal into the hole before you plant your bulbs.
Bulbs should be one to three inches deep when planting. The general rule of thumb is the larger the bulb, the deeper it should go. For example, tiny crocus bulbs only need to be one or two inches deep, whereas larger tulip bulbs should be deeper.
Most fall bulbs look better when they are planted in clumps. You can dig a larger hole and fill them with three to seven bulbs for a bolder appearance.
This is especially true for smaller plants, like snowdrops or crocuses. These tiny flowers can get lost in a garden so placing them together will make them more defined.
You may also want to consider what else is planted in your garden. For the most part, fall bulbs won’t compete with other perennial plants in your garden as they will start to grow after your bulbs are done blooming.
However, some perennials grow quite early in spring and if you are planting bulbs near these, you want to space them out a bit more to avoid overcrowding.
Watering Fall Bulbs
One of the biggest benefits of fall bulbs is that they require very little care. Watering is sometimes necessary but overall, not something you need to worry much about.
After you plant your fall bulbs, you can give the area good watering. This will allow the soil to settle over the bulbs.
However, if there is a lot of rain in the near forecast after planting, then you don’t have to worry. Furthermore, as long as you live in an area that either gets regular rain or snow in the winter, you don’t have to worry about watering during this season.
Spring is also usually a wet season, so again, watering is unnecessary. If you do live in a dryer area and there is no rainfall for the spring, then you can water a bit to get things growing.
Once your bulbs start to bloom, you can then assess the weather forecast. As most fall bulbs will bloom between March and April, there should be enough precipitation in the forecast. If not, you can water twice a week.
Finally, once you cut back your bulbs, you don’t have to worry about water in the summer. Usually, fall bulbs are planted in gardens that have other plants. You will naturally water these plants, and the water will eventually get to the bulbs that are underground.
How to Grow Fall Bulbs
You should aim to fertilize the soil around your fall bulbs at least once a year. As they will be mixed in with other plants in your flower bed, there are a few options to follow.
You can use a basic liquid fertilizer or you can gently mix in compost around the plants.
After your fall bulbs bloom, you will want to clean them up as the other flowers in your garden will begin to grow. Gently remove any spent blooms.
However, try to leave at least some of the foliage for a while longer. This will help bring nutrients into the bulb and it will store them for next year’s growth.
How long do fall bulbs take to grow?
Fall bulbs should be planted in the fall, usually around October. The exact date will be determined by your first frost date as you want the bulbs in the ground before this.
In spring, the bulbs will start to grow and will sprout flowers from March to May. The earliest bulbs, snowdrops, can bloom in March, while later flowers, like alliums, won’t bloom until mid-May.
Fall bulbs are an easy and effective way to add color to your garden in the spring. Plant them in the fall, have them bloom in the spring, and then leave them in the ground. Each subsequent year they will continue to grow.