Fall bulbs, also known as spring flowering bulbs, are planted in the fall to create beautiful flowering displays in early spring. Fall bulbs include alliums, crocus, daffodils, fritillaria, grape hyacinths, iris, scilla, snowdrops and tulips. They offer a wide variety of colors, bloom periods, and height. After some planning and planting, they require little maintenance to continue blooming year after year.
Fall bulbs are planted in the fall and need the ground to be cool but not frozen. Planting when the soil is warm risks that bulbs will start growing in the fall, so wait to plant until we’ve had a couple of frosts, yet before the ground freezes completely. This could mean late October, but as long as the ground hasn’t frozen yet, you could plant into November or December.
Planting depth varies by variety. A good rule of thumb is to plant them 2-3 times as deep as they are wide. Follow the tag for spacing between plants and water thoroughly after planting.
Bulbs look best when planted in a group. Keep variety and color combination simple to avoid a messy or busy look.
Planting in full sun is best. Bulbs planted in shade rarely get enough light to ensure they come back each year.
The best time to fertilize bulbs is at the time of planting because it’s the only time you can get it right in the root zone where the bulb can reach it. After digging the hole, mix fertilizer with the surrounding soil before planting the bulb. The other time to fertilize is after bulbs bloom in the spring by mixing granular bulb food in the top layer of soil near the bulb.
We recommend fertilizing bulbs with Espoma Bulb-tone which is a natural fertilizer derived from organic ingredients and provides all the nutrients necessary for healthy bulb plants and flowers. Like any good natural fertilizer, it breaks down and releases nutrients gradually, so the plant has time to take it up as it grows. It also contains a blend of microbes that are vital to plant health and facilitate nutrient uptake.
Espoma Bone Meal is another good soil amendment for bulbs, providing nitrogen and phosphorus. It helps develop a sturdy root system and promotes growth.
To prevent damage from animals, use an animal repellent such as Bonide Repels-All. It’s environmentally safe and keeps away a variety of animals for up to 2 months, without harming them and comes in either a granular or spray.
To prevent squirrels from digging up bulbs in the fall, lay a piece of chicken wire on top of the soil, either pinned down or weighted with brick or rock. Remove chicken wire in early spring before the plants start to emerge from the ground.
– Let foliage yellow in spring before removing. Bulbs need to build their strength and store energy after blooming in order to bloom the following year.
– Daffodils are best for longevity and get better each year.
– Tulips are best the first spring after planting. In successive years the bulb weakens producing smaller and smaller blooms until they quit blooming all together. The exception is species tulips which, like daffodils, multiply forming larger clumps and more flowers each year. However, the flowers of species tulips are smaller and not as impressive as big hybrids. Their charming size makes them good for rock gardening.
Spacing (Bulbs/sq. ft.)
|Alliums, Large||1–3||Early-Mid May|
|Alliums, Small||10–15||Mid-Late May|
|Crocus||10–15||Late March-Early April|
|Crocus, Species||15–20||Late March-Early April|
|Daffodils||4||Varies by variety|
|Daffodils, Mini||7||Early-Mid April|
|Fritillaria, Large||3||Mid-Late April|
|Fritillaria, Small||10–15||Mid-Late April|
|Grape Hyacinths||15–20||Mid-Late April|
|Iris, Species||4 inches apart||Mid March|
|Tulips||5||Varies by variety|
|Tulips, Species||8||Early-Mid April|