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How to Plant Fall Bulbs for Gorgeous Spring Color

how to plant fall bulbs Ted Lare

It might seem like fall is time to clean up the garden, pull out all the dead plants, and put everything away for the season. But it’s actually a brilliant time for planting. 

Fall is a great time to get trees and shrubs planted, as well as lay sod or start grass. But the most fun planting in the fall is getting spring-flowering bulbs tucked away for a winter’s nap. In the spring they’ll give you beds full of effortless, colorful flowers to cheer you up and blow away the winter blues.

Why We Plant In Fall

Some plants, particularly spring-flowering bulbs, need sustained exposure to low temperatures in order to kick start the growing process. This cold exposure breaks their dormancy and helps them bloom well. It also helps improve cold tolerance, build better fungal disease resistance, and overall helps them be healthier.

Luckily here in Iowa we can rely on winter to do the chilling for us. In warmer climates, they have to chill spring-flowering bulbs in the fridge.

how to plant fall bulbs Ted Lare

What Bulbs to Plant Now

There are a surprising amount of spring-blooming bulbs you can plant. It’s not just tulips and daffodils. But, if you love tulips and daffs, you’re in luck. There are so many different varieties of bulbs available, many bred for different blooming periods. Take note of the bulb’s blooming period on the package, and you can fill your flower beds with flowering tulips or daffs from March to June.

Here are a few of the different bulbs you can plant this fall for spring flowers.

  • Aconite
  • Hellebore
  • Daffodils
  • Snowdrops
  • Spring Snowflakes
  • Tulips
  • Alliums
  • Surprise Lilies
  • Crown Imperials
  • Hyacinth
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Crocuses
  • Irises

how to plant fall bulbs Ted Lare

How to Plant Your Bulbs

There are a few simple guidelines for planting spring-flowering bulbs. Follow these tips, and you’ll soon have lots of bulbs in the ground, ready to pop up in the spring. 

  1. Fall bulbs should be planted about 6 weeks before the first hard frost; however, as long as the ground is still soft enough to dig, you can still plant them.
  2. You should plant bulbs approximately 3 times as deep as the bulb is tall, and 2 times as wide as the bulb is tall apart. So for a bulb that’s 2 inches tall, this means 6 inches deep and 4 inches apart from each other. 
  3. The rounder bulbous end of the bulb should be down; that’s where the roots come out. The pointed end should be facing up. If one bulb ends up upside down, it’s not a huge deal. It will still grow; it just might take a little longer to come up than the others.
  4. Bulbs need water to start putting out roots in the fall. The best way to water your newly planted bulbs is to give them a long slow, soak. If you have a soaker hose, you can coil over the area that works, or just set the hose on a slow trickle for a while.

how to plant fall bulbs Ted Lare

A Note on Succession Planting

As mentioned above, bulbs have been bred for different blooming periods. Usually, this information is indicated on the package as early-spring, mid-spring, or late-spring. If you check your packages and make sure to buy bulbs for each blooming period, you can extend the brief spring blooming period significantly and enjoy spring flowers much longer. With blooms like snowdrops and crocuses sometimes appearing before the snow is even gone, to the alliums, irises, and lilies bridging the gap from spring to early summer. 


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Our spring-blooming bulbs always sell out fast, so stop by the garden center sooner than later to pick out your favorites.


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