Spring Bulbs You’ll Want to Plant This Fall
Get a little dirty this fall by planting bulbs, and reap the rewards with a ton of gorgeous flowers come spring. Here are some classics you’ll want to plant and tips on how to plant them.
The heavy-petaled ranunculus is similar looking to a rose. Those living in USDA Zones 8-10 are able to plant the bulbs in the fall, but since ranunculus cannot survive cold winters, other zones should wait until spring for summer blooms. Plant the bulbs about 2” deep with the claw-shaped sides facing down.
Although most of us think of the large, trumpet-shaped flowers as daffodils and the small white ones as narcissus, the genus actually refers to them both. The most popular variety, ‘Golden Harvest’, is an early flowering bulb with an impressive 100-year history. Typically hardy in Zones 3-8. narcissus should be planted in the fall.
Lovely as cut flowers, fall-planted Dutch irises are easy to grow. Simply get them into the ground before the first hard freeze, and make sure they are in a place with full sun to partial shade. Plant them about 4-6” deep and 3” apart. Hardy in Zones 5-9, let the leaves remain on the plants until they die back naturally. The bulbs should flower again the next year.
Although they are related to onions and garlic, alliums typically don’t give off an offensive odor unless the leaves are crushed. They feature long, thin stems and ball-shaped flowers, and are great for a cutting garden. Don’t fret if the foliage starts to turn yellow by mid-summer, this simply means they are going dormant until the bulbs are ready to bloom again. Plant alliums in the fall about 6” deep and 12-14” apart with the pointed ends facing upward.
Fall planting for freesias is only recommended for those in hardiness Zones 9 and warmer. Otherwise, they should be put in the ground in spring and then dug up and stored at the end of the growing season so they don’t die in the cold. If digging them up is too much trouble, simply plant new bulbs again the next year. Freesias thrive in soil that drains easily. Plant them 2” deep in a spot with sun to light shade.
A great source of true-blue flowers for your garden, grape hyacinths (muscari) are available in white and various shades of blue and purple. They like full sun and soil that drains easily, and are hardy in Zones 4-8. In addition, grape hyacinths are great for mixing with other spring-bloom flowers like tulips and daffodils. Plant them in the fall about 2-3” deep and 3-4” apart.
Known for their powerful perfume-like scent, hyacinth bulbs should be started in the fall. Plant them 7-8” in a soil mixture that contains a lot of good organic matter, and be sure to choose a planting site that drains easily so the bulbs do not rot in standing water or overly wet soil. If you live in an area with really cold winters, or where the ground might freeze in the spring, consider mulching them. Like other bulbs, do not remove the foliage when the flowers die. Instead, let the plant die naturally so that it will store energy to prepare for next season’s flowers.
The quintessential spring flower, daffodils are bright and cheerful. Many gardeners enjoy a more natural look for them. To do so, simply toss them around your yard or landscape and plant them wherever they land. Choose large, healthy bulbs and plant them about 6” deep in the fall, 2-4 weeks before the ground freezes. Hardy in Zones 3-8, they thrive on sun to partial sun.
Perky little early bloomers, snowdrops are even known to emerge from a bed of snow. Choose a spot for them that gets sun to light shade, and plant the tiny bulbs 2-3” deep and 3” apart. They are hardy in Zones 3-8. In time, snowdrops will multiply by forming offsets that you can then separate and re-plant. Be sure not to let the bulbs dry out before you get them in the ground.
Another spring classic, tulips should be planted (pointed ends up) about 6-8 weeks before the first hard frost. Plant larger bulbs about 8-10” deep and smaller bulbs about 5-6” deep. Tulips require a set amount of cold weather to flower, so they may not come back after the first year or two. If you live in a mild climate, look into buying pre-chilled tulip bulbs, or chill them yourself in the refrigerator before you plant.
Dainty and colorful, crocus bulbs are planted just underneath the grass in the fall and yield early spring blooms. Hardy in Zones 3-8, they prefer a sunny garden spot and usually multiply over time. To ensure repeat blooms the next year, wait 6-8 weeks before mowing over their foliage. Since the small bulbs typically flower before the grass needs mowing, this most likely won’t be an issue.