1. What are fall bulbs?
Fall bulbs are bulbs which must be planted in Fall. This is because they require a lengthy “chilling period” (winter) in order to grow and bloom.
Most (but not all) fall bulbs actually bloom in Spring. For this reason, the terms fall bulbs and spring-blooming bulbs are often used interchangeably.
You’re probably familiar with many fall bulbs; crocuses, daffodils, and tulips are just a few examples.
Fall bulbs are also:
3. When can I plant fall bulbs?
Fall bulbs should be planted between mid-September and late October, and no earlier. In fact, they can be planted even later, so long as you can stick a spade in the ground.
4. Can I plant them in spring instead?
The short answer to this is no. You’ll see a few potted tulips, daffodils, or grape hyacinth available in spring but selection is very slim. Moreover, you’re paying a much higher price per bulb.
5. Where should I plant fall bulbs?
The #1 Rule is to plant fall bulbs in well-drained soil. They will rot in heavy, clay, or boggy soils.
Otherwise, fall bulbs can be planted just about anywhere in the ground. Intersperse them throughout your perennial gardens, add them to your annual beds, or plant them around the base of deciduous shrubs or trees.
Planting Tip: Most bulb leaves go yellow once the bulb has bloomed. It’s tempting to cut down this unsightly foliage but DON’T do it! Bulbs need these leaves to gather energy for the next season’s growth.
Instead, strategically plant bulbs near slower-to-emerge plants that will later hide the yellow bulb foliage.
6. When do fall bulbs bloom?
Bloom times vary; some bloom as early as March (in some years) and others bloom into late May. Bulbs are generally categorized as early, mid, or late spring bloomers.
9. How deep do I plant them?
Recommended planting depths and bulb spacing are normally printed on every package. A good rule of thumb is to plant small bulbs 4 inches deep and mid/large bulbs 6 inches deep.
10. Which bulbs are best for our region?
There are many perennial bulbs suited for our region, some longer-lived than others:
If you weren’t already convinced about the virtues of fall bulbs, I hope you are by now.
In my humble opinion, they are tragically underutilized in gardens and I’m passionate about changing that. When people see tulips or daffodils in spring, they want them in their garden too; they just simply aren’t aware that the planting process starts in fall.
I encourage you to experiment with fall bulbs this season. Shop for a variety of bulbs in colors you love. Grab a travel mug of coffee or tea and get in your garden on a cool, crisp fall day. As you turn over the dirt, making space for your little gems, think about how cheerful and welcoming they will be in 6 months. You can thank yourself now and you’ll certainly thank yourself later.
My education in gardening began at 13, when I started working at our family-operated garden centres. Truth be told, I wasn't always thrilled to be sweating away my weekends in the greenhouse. However, I did become undeniably interested in the vast world of plants, and my summer job eventually transformed into a lifelong passion.