BA metaphor of a new beginning and an epilogue of the frigid winter, spring-blooming bulb plants are undeniably a connotation of spring. It is a highly anticipated season when the winter-dormant bulbs are awakened to compete with a kaleidoscope display of flowers; every gardening enthusiast is thrilled to witness. But to relish this eye-catching spring show, one should carefully plan it beforehand—in fall. If this idea sparked your interest, but you are unsure how to proceed, consider this blog as a crash course on learning the basics of bulbs to plant in fall, including the tips on growing fall-planted bulbs.
Flower Bulbs to Plant in Fall
If you are unsure what flower bulbs to plant in fall, we will help you narrow down the best selection of blooming plants in the following:
- Tulips — Tulips are one of the classic fall bulbs to plant, available in a multitude of hybrids, from different monochromatic corolla to multi-colored petals — often sold singly or in mixed batches. Notable unique varieties include Queen of the Night, prized for its deep mauve hue, or Ballroom Fringed Tulip, admired for its red-pink wavy tips.
- Daffodils — If you are impatient with the arrival of spring, daffodils are on the way to bringing golden hues to your garden. It is a perennial plant that blossoms in early March, displaying flowers of yellow, pink, or white tinges, often in single-layered petals or in voluminous dense heads.
- Snowdrops — White, tiny drooping flowers make snowdrops stand out, giving the first sign of life to dormant lawns. They fearlessly pierce through the snow cover with frost-resistant petals as early as January to March. After blooming, they require less maintenance and would likely reemerge every season.
- Grape hyacinth — Light up your dull lawn mid-spring with the subtle, toned-down, clustered lilac flowers of grape hyacinth. Purchasable in other varieties: pink, white, and yellow, it creates a tremendous visual impact when mixed with the blue-colored hybrids. They are versatile plants that thrive in part-shade to full-sun and with little to no care.
- Lilies — Lilies are the all-time favorite superfamily of summer-blossoming plants cultivated in fall. It is so loved by many gardeners that innumerable varieties were developed by breeding companies — enough to make other bulb plants envious. White, yellow, pink, red, orange, you name it, and lilies have it! Some hybrids bloom in early summer, while a few can last until early fall.
- Iris — Like lilies, iris also happens to exist in a myriad of colors—mute and nude taint to catchy saturated petals, bursting in late spring to early summer. Bearded iris varieties (i.e., Stellar Lights, Immortality) may flower again before the end of the season. The bulbs should be planted from September to October.
- Bluebells — If you have a garden shaded by dense trees, brighten up the gloomy lawn with a carpet of beaming amethyst flowers of bluebells. Pink or Blue Spanish Bluebells are the common varieties that flourish between March to May. Plant it in the moist but well-drained ground in the fall to avoid rotting.
- Allium — A flowering ornamental botanically related to onions, alliums make a great focal point in your garden because of their oversized spheroid lilac inflorescence (Allium Globemaster). Other cultivars with large dark magenta (Purple Sensation) or baby pink flowers (A. ostrowskianum) also create a dramatic effect when planted in clusters.
- Snake’s head fritillary — This minute bowing peculiar colored flower does not shy away from any bulbous plants in terms of its captivating beauty. It is well-suited for gardens that receive partial morning sun to full shade under a tree. The umbrella-shaped flowers are typically seen sprawling in mid-spring.
- Amaryllis — Resembling closely to the true lilies, the 6-petalled amaryllis is known for their bewitching beauty that bursts forth in summer. With a medley of hybrids to choose from–yellow, peach, rose pink, burgundy, or outlined white bloom (Jumbo A. Picotee), you can never go wrong. The only requirement is to plant it in friable soils with lots of bright direct or indirect sunshine.
- Red spider lily — If you are looking for exotic-looking ornament, fill your garden’s corner with these fiery scarlet atypical flowers—red spider lilies. Its striking lengthy stamen and strap-shaped petals incorporate texture to the landscape. Plant it in humus-rich soil, and it will do its job to bloom in summer to early fall.
Vegetable Plants That Grow From Bulbs
Planting bulbs in fall are not only for aesthetics but also for nourishing the body with healthy bulbous vegetables. To name a few, we’ve made a list of some vegetable bulbs to plant in the fall:
- Onion (Allium cepa) — Planting onion bulbs in fall induces the roots to develop robust and healthy after slowly emerging and acclimating to the cold soil in winter. Bury the bulbs 6-8 weeks before the hard frost takes place, usually in mid-September, and you will get a fresh and tasty harvest in spring.
- Garlic (Allium sativum) — Garlic is typically started from seed, but it can also be grown from bulbils or “clove” to shorten the cropping period. Aside from this advantage, fall-planted bulbils develop a richer and tastier aroma after overwintering. Plant individual cloves 4-6 inches (10-15cm) apart and about an inch (3cm) below the ground in early fall.
- Shallots (Allium cepa gr. aggregatum) — Shallots, a close relative to onion, also have a considerable advantage when planted in fall to reap a high-quality harvest. For the climates more proximate to the arctic circle, divide the mature segmented bulbs and plant them in late September or early October. It can be delayed from October until November for warmer climates with mild winters. These annual bulbs are harvested in late spring to summer when the tops start to dry out.
Other Bulbs Plants
Other bulb plants that do not fall under the vegetable or flower category are worth mentioning and deserve a space in your garden. Consider these bulbs for fall planting:
- Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) — This bulbous plant is appreciated with its fall-blooming lilac flowers and can also be enjoyed as an exotic spice called saffron. Its stigma or the female plant part inside the flowers can be harvested and added to your next dish. Plant the bulbs in well-draining soil that receives lots of sunlight. It is not a winter-hardy plant, so it should be placed indoors when the temperature dips below 43-47˚F (6-8˚C).
- Caladium (Caladium spp.) — Caladiums are technically not plants that produce botanically true bulbs. Instead, they have underground stems called tubers that can bud out new leaves. Because they are tropical plants, they are best suited indoors in a temperate climate zone, with a minimum temperature of 60˚F (15˚C).
- Elephant ears (Colocasia spp.) — Like caladiums, this humongous tropical plant also produces tubers that survive in regions with mild and warm winters. When the frost is forecast, shelter the potted bulbs indoors. When favorable conditions return, the tubers will produce large majestic leaves.
Tips for Planting Bulbs in Fall
For some, selecting what bulbs to plant in fall might already be a daunting task. To make the job easier, we have listed a few tips for planting bulbs in the fall:
- Before planting, ensure the planting beds are well-prepared. To increase drainage, incorporate sand, perlite, and organic compost into clay soil. Bulb plants are very susceptible to rotting in waterlogged ground.
- Select a sunny site where most bulbous plants thrive.
- Plant the bulbs about twice or thrice their depth to guarantee good growth and protection from frost.
- Bury the bulbs with the same colors or species in a group of six for a more impactful look. If the primary purpose is to highlight the borders, you will need approximately 20-25 bulbs to achieve the desired look.
- Watering is not critical when the soil is moist during planting in the fall. It should only be done when the soil is dry or there is not enough snow cover that can melt and water it in spring.
What kind of bulbs should we plant in the fall?
Tulips, daffodils, lilies, hyacinths, snowdrops, iris, amaryllis, and alliums are some bulbs that should be planted in the fall. They are pretty rewarding as soon as they display their brightly-hued petals in spring.
How late in the fall can we plant bulbs?
The latest you can plant bulbs is in November or at least 6-8 weeks before the first hard frost will occur. This will give the plant enough time to slowly acclimate to the cold, avoiding tissue damage with sudden frost.
Do you plant all bulbs in fall?
Ideally, bulbs should be planted in fall, although they sometimes have specific months to cultivate. Plant spring-flowering bulbs like daffodils and hyacinth in September; hardy summer-flowering bulbs like lilies and alliums in October; and tulips in November.
Should flower bulbs be planted in fall?
Yes, most spring-flowering bulbs need to be planted in the fall. However, for plants with pseudobulbs, having tender tubers or corms instead of true bulbs (i.e., Gladioli spp.), they should be planted in early spring.
Can we plant spring bulbs in the fall?
Yes, most spring bulbs are planted in the fall. These sleeping leafless and rootless plant organs require hours of cold exposure to break dormancy and pop out some flowers in spring.
Where can we buy spring-flowering bulbs?
Spring flowering bulbs are usually sold in your local garden center or available in batch orders online. Potted spring-flowering bulbs are typically a sight in the plant section of your grocery store from late winter to early spring, ready to flush their flowers as the temperature rises.