Fall Bulb Planting Tips

By Sarah Christian, ASLA, Landscape Architect
September 2004 Front Porch newspaper www.stapletondenver.com

When is the best time to plant? – Fall is the time to purchase and plant spring flowering bulbs such as crocuses, daffodils, and tulips. Bulbs should be planted from late September through October so they can root well before the ground freezes. Plant as soon as possible after purchasing.

Selecting Bulbs – The earlier bulbs are purchased in the fall, the better the selection. Select the largest bulbs of a variety, as there is a direct correlation between bulb and flower size. A bulb should be plump, firm and heavy, not moldy or damaged. Bulbs can be selected from bulb catalogs or open bins. Select a variety of bulbs with different flowering times to lengthen bloom period. Crocuses, snowdrops, species tulips, dwarf iris and scilla are very early reliable bloomers. Early to late-spring bloomers include grape hyacinths. Late spring to early summer bloomers include alliums and bearded and dutch iris. Careful planning can lead to an outstanding bloom display from early March through early June.

Where to plant? – Research required growing conditions. Your site should have appropriate sunlight and show the flowers off to their best advantage. A southern exposure, especially when close to the foundation, induces early emergence that may result in freezing injury. Plant bulbs in groups of the same color and variety. This looks more impressive than a mixture of colors and varieties.

How to plant? – Soil preparation is key. Bulbs prefer a sandy or clay loam soil. To improve the soil, spread 2-3 inches of compost on the bed and spade or till it in 6 inches deep. Plant bulbs with the growing tip up at the directed depth, generally four times the height of the bulb. After the ground freezes, cover the bed with 3-4 inches of mulch to prevent frost heaving and prepare for a spectacular spring display!