If you enjoy the beauty of spring blooming bulbs, it takes a bit of early planning to get that look in your garden . This list of 15 bulbs to plant in fall will make sure that next year gets started with a burst of color with very little effort on your part.
Fall is an interesting time in the garden. Most flowers have stopped blooming and perennials are getting ready to go dormant. There are lots of fall gardening tasks that can be done, but this often seems mainly like clean up and work, to me. Planting spring blooming bulbs now is a task that I really love. I plant them, forget about them for a few months and then get a lovely and colorful reminder of the work that I did a few months ago getting these bulbs in the ground before it freezes.
But wait – before you dig out that shovel, you need to know your gardening zone. Bulbs, like other perennials, have ideal growing conditions and climate needs. Plant hardiness is one of the key factor in deciding what to plant. As pretty as caladiums are in Florida, if you try to plant them in Maine, you’ll just be disappointed next year. Lucky for us, most plant packages will display the cold hardiness zones right on the packages..
15 Bulbs to Plant in Fall
How well do you understand flower bulbs? Did you know that, even though we call them bulbs, there are actually a combination of many geophytes: bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers. The main thing these spring bloomers have in common is their planting time – autumn! Most of these bulbs flower in spring but a few are early summer blooming plants.
Plant your allium bulbs where they will receive full sun to get stronger stems and brighter colors. Their tall round blooms are a stunner in the garden and varieties bloom in both spring and summer. Allium will grow in zones 4-9 but do better in the warmer zones. They are a true bulb.
If you are looking for a bright pop of color in your spring garden, plant anemones. This low growing tuber seems to prefer a soil that is slightly acidic (add some coffee grounds in the soil!) and they also seem to prefer part shade. Anemones are hardy in zones 5-9
This early spring bloomer grows from a corm and is hardy in zones 5-9. The hardiness varies depending on the variety you have. Planting times depend on your zone. The plant needs up to 16 weeks of chilled ground before it will bloom. You will have better luck getting them to bloom in the cooler zones.
Hardy cyclamen tubers are a plant that enjoys the colder climates and freezing winters more than most bulbs. This cool loving plant doesn’t like it when the summer is hot and dry. The plant is hardy to zone 5 and grows from tubers. The floral cyclamen that we see around the holidays can only be grown as an annual in colder zones, since it is only cold hardy in zones 9 and 10.
Daffodils are probably the most common of the bulbs to plant in fall. The cold hardiness varies but most are hardy in zones 3-8. Daffodils are grown from a bulb. I love the sunny faces that just seem to say “welcome spring.” They are one of the first spring blooming bulbs and come in both white and yellow varieties with different colored throats.
Unlike other types of irises that grow from rhizomes, a Dutch iris grows from a tear shaped bulb. It is cold hardy in zones 5-9. Another difference in the Dutch Iris is that it doesn’t need to be divided the way normal irises do. Dutch Irises naturalize better in the warmer zones and take up less garden space that other irises. They bloom in late spring.
The brightly colored citrus scented flowers of freesia are a treasure to behold but are only cold hardy in very warm zones 9 and 10. If you are lucky to live in these areas, you can plant freesia corms in the fall. In cooler areas, wait until spring to enjoy them that year. They won’t overwinter in zones cooler than 9, however.
Most irises, other than the Dutch Iris, are hardy in zones 3-10. They are grown from rhizomes planted in the fall and need to be divided regularly. They come in many colors and varieties and will bloom in late spring and sometimes re-bloom again later in the summer, depending on the variety.
More Spring Blooming Bulbs
Still looking for more bulbs to plant in fall? Here are a few more that like to be planted in before the frost hits.
Gladioli were my dad’s favorite flower. The blooms are amazing. They grow on very long stems which may need staking. Gladiolus grows from a corm and is totally hardy in zones 7-8. It will grow to zones 5 if protected by mulch in the winter months. Gladiolus flowers in summer. While they can be planted now in the warmer zones, many gardeners plant gladiolus in early spring after the danger of frost has passed.
This early spring bulb is hardy in zones 3-9. The small stems have buds that look like clusters of grapes. Depending on your zone, grape hyacinth will flower in late winter or early spring. Grape hyacinths are planted 2-3 inches deep.
Another of my favorite bulbs to plant in fall is hyacinth. This early spring bulb is a popular choice for those who like to force bulbs. The bulbs are hardy in zones 3-9 and come in shades from bright pink to soft blue. Plant the bulbs 6-8 inches deep.
The flowers of the snowdrop bulb and white are drooping and appear as early as late winter. The bulbs of snowdrops are hardy to zone 3 and can take freezing temperatures to a -25 degrees F. They are a sight to see poking up through the snowy ground!
Star of Bethlehem
The star shaped flowers of Star of Bethlehem appear on stems that sit above their foliage. Care must be taken with this bulb, since it can easily take over a garden bed. The safest way to grow it in containers where its spreading habit can be managed. The bulbs are cold hardy in zones 7-9.
This early spring bloomer is hardy in zones 4 to 9 and grows in full sun to partial shade. The plant grows from tubers and has a pretty three petaled flower with a yellow throat. Unfortunately, trilliums have been dug up from the wild, so it is important to purchase plants that you know have been propagated from cultivated stock.
The final flower of my list of bulbs to plant in fall is the tulip. Even though I only get a couple of weeks of this beauty, it makes me smile every one of those days when I walk by them in the garden. Tulips are hardy in zones 3-7. The bulbs will grow in zones 8-10 but should be planted in November or December in those warmer zones, since they need soil temperatures that are lower than 60 degrees.
When is the best time to plant spring blooming bulbs?
Generally, the best time to plant bulbs in the fall is when the soil is around 60 degrees F (18 degrees C) but definitely before the first frost. Most fall planted bulbs like 16-18 weeks of cold temperatures to bloom well in the spring the following year. Once again, check your bulb packages, they will often tell you when to get the bulbs into the ground.
A good rule of thumb for these bulbs to plant in fall is to find out when your expected first frost date normally arrives and get the bulbs in about two weeks before this date.
A note on Squirrels and bulbs
You can plant bulbs directly in the ground or in containers. Be aware that squirrels love the taste of most spring blooming bulbs and will often dig them up as fast as you can plant them. Hardware cloth cut to size and laid over your bulbs can be a help in saving your bulbs from squirrels. (affiliate link)
Adding some sharp gravel around the top and sides of your bulb planting holes will also help, since the squirrels won’t like to dig through the sharp gravel.
This list of bulbs to plant in the fall allows you to enjoy a second round of planting and also gives you a head start on spring blooms. A great benefit of planting in the fall is that the cool weather makes working in the garden so much more pleasurable.
You won’t need to water as often, too! The cool weather allows the bulbs to winter over and makes sure that the growing season next year starts with a lovely blast of color.
Time to get some spring blooming bulbs in the ground!
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