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How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Looking for ways to get early spring color in the garden? Learn how to plant bulbs and grow a beautiful garden that produces amazing blooms in early spring.

After a long, cold winter there is nothing quite like seeing early spring blooms emerge from the ground.

It’s exciting to see them start to grow.

And even better to watch thcm bloom.

They bring great joy after a long cold winter.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Without planting bulbs, the garden will stay dull and dreary until spring nursery stock is available.

If you want a garden that’s always and bloom, plant bulbs in fall to get early spring color.

There are lots of beautiful spring flowering bulbs to choose from.

And today, I’m going to show you how to plant bulbs as well as sharing some of my favorites.

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How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

How to Plant Bulbs

Although the gardening season is coming to a close, now is a great time to plant bulbs for gorgeous spring flowers.

Spring-flowering bulbs need to be planted in fall so they have time to develop a good root system before winter.

It is best to wait until soil temps are below 60 degrees F before planting.

So depending on where you live, the best time to plant is generally in mid-September or October.

I live in hardiness zone 6a, so I typically wait until the end of October to plant when temps are more consistently cool.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Directions For Planting Bulbs in Fall

  1. When shopping, look for bulbs that are large, firm, and have good color.
  2. Choose a site in your yard that has good drainage and receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.
  3. Before planting bulbs, place them in the garden to plan their design.
  4. Dig holes to the recommended depth. I prefer to dig larger holes and plant in groupings of odd numbers than to dig individual holes for each bulb. Planting 100s of bulbs goes much faster this way too!
  5. Plant bulbs upright with the pointed ends up and root side down at the recommended depth (see plant tag for how deep to plant bulbs). But as a general rule, plant bulbs three times as deep as the bulb’s greatest dimension.
  6. Before backfilling the hole, add organic matter like peat moss to add drainage and help enrich the soil.
  7. Mix in a special bulb fertilizer. Avoid using bone meal if rodents, skunks, or other small mammals are an issue. Bone meal attracts them.
  8. Backfill the holes.
How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Because deer tend to leave daffodils alone, I’m planting 100s of them this fall!

And this year, I am choosing a few different varieties to enjoy in spring!

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

This is the top part of a daffodil bulb where the flower grows.

Keep this end up when planting.

Because that is where the flower will emerge.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

This is the bottom of the bulbs where the roots grow.

Place this end down when planting.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Place bulbs where you want to plant them to get an idea of how it will look.

You can plant them in individual holes or group together.

I prefer groupings because it is more aesthetically pleasing to the eye when they flower.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Read the plant label before planting.

Dig the hole according to the label’s directions.

Plant bulbs, fertilize, and then backfill.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

When plants emerge in spring, fertilize lightly with bulb fertilizer at least two inches from the plant.

Spring-Flowering Bulb Tip: When the flower petals fade, remove the flower parts and stem before the plant goes to seed.

Don’t cut leaves back until they turn yellow though. This allows the bulb to store more energy for next year’s flower production.

Design Tip: Bulb foliage that is dying back can be hidden by planting bulbs in between perennials and annuals.

The benefit of planting bulbs this way will provide color while perennials emerge and are camouflaged by perennials while they die back.

Some of My Favorite Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Shop for Spring-Flowering Bulbs

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Tip to Protect Tulips and Other Early Spring Flowers from Deer Damage

While most of the above list is deer resistant, deer LOVE to eat tulips.

We get herds of deer in my yard every year, all season long and they will decimate my tulips if I don’t protect them.

I protect them using this deer spray repellent. It is very effective if you are aggressive with the application.

  • As soon as bulbs emerge, spray it heavily with repellent.
  • When the bulbs grow a few inches from the ground, douse it again with repellent.
  • Apply repellent again when the tulip heads form.
  • When the tulip starts to bloom, douse them again.

And while we are on the subject of tulips, this is my favorite tulip. I’m purchasing them this year to plant in my garden – I love how colorful they are!

For more tips to deter deer from decimating your garden plants and flowers, read this.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

And after all that hard work, your spring garden flowers lack or fail to bloom, HERE is a great guide to troubleshoot the cause and fix the issue.

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How to Plant Spring Bulbs in Fall
How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

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    1. Yes! There’s still time! As long as the ground doesn’t freeze you are good to go! I am hoping to get a few in the ground if I can up there too!

  1. Hi- I love the information you post on your site. I would like to ask what bulb fertilizer you recommend that doesn’t contain bone meal. I do have skunks , chipmunks and squirrels that love to dig in my garden and are attracted to the bone meal. The ones I have located say to feed the bulbs right after blooming, not when planting for the first time. Thanks!

    1. Hey Karen! I’d have to research products for you – I was just looking online and most have bone meal. Another option is to plant bulbs wrapped in chicken wire. Have you ever tried that? If you try this, make sure the chicken wire holes are big enough to allow for the flower stalk to grow through from the top part of the bulb (the pointy end) through the wire. In the meantime, I’ll look at products at the nursery when I head out there this week to read the ingredients on some bags.

    1. Alliums are my favorite! I’m so excited for you! It is really fun to see them peak through the ground after a cold winter. xoxo

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