Fall Bulb Planting Tips

Preparation for spring season in garden, pink tulips and yellow daffodils bulbs, flowerbed in March or April

With the weather cooling as we enter fall, it is time to start preparing for your spring flower garden. Fall is the optimal time to plant your bulbs so they are ready to bloom come springtime. Here are some tips when choosing, planting, and caring for your fall bulbs.

Choosing Spring Blooming Bulbs

White daffodils and pink tulips in the garden at spring , with blue sky.

For early blooms, try varieties of crocus, hyacinths, and be sure to add some snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) which often bloom before the snow has even melted. The never-ending varieties of daffodils and tulips have such a wide range of bloom times that you can enjoy them all spring if you do a little planning. Just read the description to choose early, mid and late blooming varieties.

When To Plant Fall Bulbs

Happy woman in autumn park drop up leaves

Your planting zone will determine the optimal time to plant your fall bulbs. Fall bulb planting season starts around mid- Sept. and runs to Dec. or even Jan. As long as the soil can be worked, you can still plant bulbs. 

In warmer climates (zones 8 +), the ground will not get cold enough required for the bulbs to bloom. With the bulbs in bags, place them into the refrigerator. Placement in the refrigerator is important as you do not want to store the bulbs near fruit due to the ethylene gas fruit gives off when ripening. Chill times vary depending on the variety of bulbs. Tulips, crocus, hyacinth, and many daffodils require 12 to 16 weeks of chill prior to planting.

Top Tips For Planting Fall Bulbs

Planting tulip bulbs in the ground
  • Select your planting site carefully factoring the flower’s requirements for sunlight.
  • Be sure to plant in soil that drains well.
  • Add compost or organic matter to the soil prior to planting.
  • A good rule of thumb is to plant them 2 ½ to 3 times the depth of the bulb size itself. However, be sure to read the package for the specific bulb purchased.
  • Water after planting.
  • By adding mulch, it will help the bulbs during winter and prevent weeds from growing over the bulbs.

Fertilizing Your Fall Bulbs

hand woman with handful of soil in garden

While you are preparing your planting soil, blend in an appropriate amount of Organic Bulb Tone or Fish & Bone Meal to the soil at the bottom of the planting hole. These are natural, slow-release type plant foods that are high in phosphorus, which aids bulbs in rooting well and stimulates superb blooming in the spring.

Troubleshooting Fall Bulb Problems

Adorable little bunny in garden

Beware and be proactive about pests in your area like deer, rabbits, chipmunks, and voles. These critters can wreak havoc on fresh bulb plantings by digging them up completely or chewing down stems and early shoots before they can bloom.

To prevent digging, once bulbs are planted bury a sheet of chicken wire over the top of where you planted the bulbs, with soil and mulch. The wire stymies any would-be diggers from getting to your bulbs.

Fencing is not always the most attractive but it is the most efficient deterrence.

Repellents can also be a big help. Rodent Repellent Granules are organic, effective, and safe for people and family pets.

Deer & Rodent Resistant Bulbs

Planting deer and rodent-resistant bulbs are always the best bet if you are in a rural area with a high probability of a problem. Try any of these as good resistant options.

Closeup of vivid or vibrant yellow tulip flower with blurry family or tourist and sakura flower blooming tree at the park or garden in cherry blossom season.

If you have never planted bulbs before, our advice is to start small. Bulbs are some of the easiest garden plants to handle and plant successfully. Once you see the lively colors next spring we know you will be reaching for that bulb planter again next fall.  And of course, if you already have a large number of spring-blooming bulbs, you know there is always room for more! A few hours in the autumn air now will reward you with the show of beauty next spring that you promised yourself you would have. If planted correctly, the neverending varieties and exotic beauty of these self-contained bulbs of sleeping energy don’t disappoint.

Other Recommended Reading

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Updated 9/28/22 by Dan Goodspeed. Dan is an accomplished, knowledgable, and valued horticulturist with years of educational and practical, hands-on experience from many locations in the U.S. He works as a horticultural consultant for J.W. Jung Seed Company and its affiliates.