When to Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs
Crocus, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, alliums and other spring-blooming bulbs are planted in the fall. This gives them time to establish roots before they go dormant for the winter. Planting can happen anytime from late September through December, but this varies by location and the type of bulbs you are growing. Read on to to learn how to adjust planting times so your bulbs get off to the best possible start.
Flower Bulbs Are Perishable
Inside every flower bulb is a plant that’s waiting to bloom. So before you get your bulbs into the ground, it’s important give them as much care as you would any plant. Healthy fall-planted flower bulbs should feel heavy and firm. Ordering bulbs by mail helps to ensure they are stored correctly until you receive them — at the proper planting time for your growing zone.
How to Store Fall Bulbs Until Planting Time
Warmth and moisture are the enemies of dormant flower bulbs. If you need to hold the bulbs for a few weeks before planting, store them somewhere that’s cool, dark and dry. Air circulation is very important, so don’t keep them sealed up in a plastic bag. Trapped moisture can encourage mold and fungal growth. It’s best to store the bulbs in paper bags, perforated plastic bags or a ventilated cardboard box.
Make sure the bulbs stay completely dry, which means not storing them in the refrigerator. Darkness is also important because light can stimulate sprouting. And don’t let your bulbs freeze as it will kill them. Check the bulbs over and remove any that are soft and beginning to decay.
What’s the Best Time to Plant Most Fall Bulbs?
Flower bulbs are remarkably tough and forgiving. But planting them at the right time will help them grow and look their best.
Ideally, spring-flowering bulbs should be planted about 6 weeks before the soil begins to freeze. In growing zones 4-5, the ideal planting time is mid to late October. Gardeners in zones 6-8 can wait until November. In warmer areas (zones 9-10), most spring-blooming bulbs must be chilled before they are planted. Learn more about that here: How to Grow Spring Bulbs in Warm Climates.
Once your bulbs are safely in the ground, small feeder roots will begin to emerge from the base of the bulbs. These roots anchor the bulbs in place during winter and help to keep them properly hydrated until spring. If the soil is too warm when you plant the bulbs, they may begin to sprout as well as grow roots. To avoid this, it’s best to wait until the recommended planting time for your area.
When to Plant Tulips and Daffodils
Daffodils actually benefit from being planted in early fall, before most other bulbs. By September, daffodil bulbs often begin to wake up and start growing roots – sometimes even before they’re in the ground. Once this happens, the bulbs become more vulnerable to drying out and the best way to avoid that is to plant them. Daffodils bulbs that are planted in very late fall may bloom later than normal or not bloom at all. If this happens to your bulbs, don’t worry. Daffodils are tough and even if they don’t flower well the first year, they almost always recover and bloom normally the following spring.
Tulips, on the other hand, benefit from being planted a little later than other bulbs. Cold soil helps to inhibit fungal diseases (such as fusarium) that can plague tulip bulbs. If you live in hardiness zones 3-5, you can wait until early November to plant your tulips. In zones 6-8, you can plant them from mid-November through December. And here’s another benefit to planting late. Pesky chipmunks and squirrels, who love to steal tulip bulbs, are frantic in early fall and tend to slow down as winter approaches.
When Best Laid Plans Go Awry
Planting bulbs is easy, but sometimes other things wind up coming first. And we know it’s not unusual for packages of flower bulbs to get purchased and then be misplaced or forgotten. Fortunately, as long as the soil isn’t isn’t frozen, you can plant bulbs as late as Christmas and still have a good chance of seeing them bloom.
If you live in a cold climate and must plant later than what’s recommended, consider covering the planting area with mulch. This will keep the soil warmer and give the bulbs a few extra weeks to get their roots established. Another option is to plant the bulbs in pots. To learn more about that, read How to Grow Spring Bulb in Containers.
Most spring-blooming bulbs need to go through at least 10 weeks of cold temperatures (35-45°F) in order to bloom properly. During this time, the plant inside the bulb completes a critical stage of its development. Bulbs that don’t go through the full chilling period may have very short stems and small or malformed flowers. But if you can’t plant your bulbs until early winter, that’s still better than trying to hold them over until spring. By spring the bulbs will be desiccated and no longer viable.
You can shop our complete selection of spring-blooming bulbs HERE. For more information about growing spring-blooming bulbs, you may be interested in reading: