Here’s how to plant spring blooming bulbs in the fall. After all, planting bulbs is a traditional fall gardening activity and there’s only a few important bits of information you really need to know.
When To Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs
Spring flowering bulbs such as tulips, hyacinths and daffodils are planted in late fall. The later the better.
In my zone 4 garden, I usually plant towards the end of October because I want the ground to be cold enough the bulb will not sprout. If you live in a warmer climate, then my best advice for you is to plant a week later for every zone you’re warmer.
Watch the long term weather patterns. With these late falls we’re all experiencing, plant bulbs later than normal.
You can plant them right before the ground freezes if you have to.
What Happens If I Plant Too Early
Well, there are two options.
1) The plant will grow and flower in the fall. If it does this, it won’t flower again in the spring. If it was a tulip, it likely won’t flower again – period. All you’ll get is green leaves from that point on.
2) If it starts to grow and doesn’t break the ground – the bulb will be unhappy but it likely will be fine.
3) If it breaks the ground with leaves but the flower bud doesn’t show, it’s likely going to be fine for the winter and flower in the spring
Note: a particularly cold or warm winter may change these survival rules of thumb.
When planting bulbs – how deep do I plant them?
An old rule of thumb says to plant a bulb twice the height of the bulb. So if a bulb is 3 inches tall, then plant it so the base of the bulb is 6 inches deep. (that puts the top of the bulb 3 inches from the surface).
Note that this is a rule of thumb and as this isn’t rocket science, a few inches here or there aren’t going to make too much of a problem for most of the larger bulbs.
I forgot to plant!
I forgot to plant mine last fall – can I do it this spring?
Ahh, it depends on whether the bulb is still rock hard – or whether it has gone soft. Generally speaking, if you don’t plant them in the fall, they won’t survive the winter but the bud inside will die. Having said that – we’ve all been fooled before and sometimes a bulb will live.
Look at it this way. If you don’t plant it – it will die for sure.
How do I keep squirrels from eating the bulbs?
The best solution is to heavily water the area after you plant the bulbs. Turn the entire garden zone into a mud bath. And secondly, make sure you pick up *every* bit of bulb debris that you drop.
Squirrels don’t like water and they don’t like mud. And the water removes the scent of the bulbs from the soil.
Removing the bulb debris does the same thing. (hint: pick up the bulb debris before you water)
Alternate solutions involve a) feeding the squirrels so they’re so busy eating peanuts they wont’ bother your bulbs 2) soaking the bulbs in a solution containing bitrex – normally sold to keep deer or other animals from eating flowers. 3) putting a layer of hardware cloth over the bulbs but below the surface so squirrels can’t dig through the screen. 4) getting a rather hungry cat or energetic dog.
How Do I Plant Into Sod or Naturalize In A Field
Get out the sharp shovel. Drive the shovel into the ground, pull it back towards you to loosen the ground and then shove it away from you.
Shoving it away creates a hole. Drop the bulb down the hole (don’t worry about the orientation of the bulb, it will change its own direction) and pull the shovel straight out without crushing the bulb. I often put two bulbs into each area like this – one on each side of the space created by the shovel.
Finally, stomp on the soil to settle it all in place.
Soak the area again if possible. Generally, when I plant for naturalizing, I don’t bother with watering. Just get them in the ground and let them go.
Here are more flower bulb articles to help you succeed with these wonderful plants.