Best Fall Bulbs to Plant for a Spring Bloom

Spring flowering bulbs, tulips, narcissus, muscari, hyacinth

It's bulb planting season! As cooler temperatures signal the start of Fall, it's time to get those spring blooming bulbs into the ground where they need to remain dormant through the cold winter so that they're ready to burst into bloom in Spring. Without this long, cold period of dormancy, they will not flower in Spring.

Wondering about the best bulbs to plant in Fall? Read on.

I buy all my bulbs from Home Depot and I've had great success with ensuring systematic waves of color from early March through early June. Living in  a zone 5 region, the winters can be really harsh and long. But, nothing shortens a long and dreary winter than early spring bulbs like winter aconite and snowdrops poking their pretty little heads, oftentimes out of the snow, heralding the start of spring.

Here are my top tips on choosing the best bulbs for Fall planting.

1. When is the best time to plant spring blooming bulbs?

    1. Spring blooming bulbs should be planted when soil temperatures have cooled.  So late September- early October would be ideal. However, I have planted bulbs as late as early-November and have still had great success with 95% of the bulbs blooming. Plus, they're  on 50% discount at the Home Depot when I wait that long to buy them! 
    2. My success with the late planting, might have something to do with most of the squirrels having already gone into hibernation.  Squirrels love the smell of freshly dug earth and usually poke around after bulbs have been planted, carrying away bulbs. To prevent squirrels digging up your bulbs after you've planted them, cover the planted areas with cardboard weighted down with stones. Remember to take the cardboard off after a couple of days.
    3. Don't wait too long to plant bulbs though. Bulbs require time to grow roots before the ground freezes up for winter. Don't forget to water your bulbs soon after you plant them. This helps them put out roots sooner. No further watering is required.

2. What fall planted bulbs will bloom in Spring?

These are my 10 favorite bulbs to plant every Fall to ensure that something is constantly blooming between early March through early June. Ordered by blooming period, they are:

1. Snowdrops- Bloom early Spring 

Snowdrops and red mittens
Raindrops on crocuses and whiskers on kittens
Picking up snowdrops in warm woolen mittens
Silver white winters that melt into Spring
These are a few of my favorite things.

2. Crocuses
- Bloom early Spring 


3. Chinodoxa- Bloom early Spring


4. Daffodils- Depending on the variety bloom from early-mid Spring.
    1. Ice King- Early to mid-Spring
    2. Replete- Mid-Spring
    3. Yellow Trumpet- Mid-Spring
Yellow daffodils
Golden Trumpet daffodils

5. Narcissus- Depending on the variety blooms from early- mid Spring

Narcissus on a table
Narcissi just can't resist admiring themselves.

6. Tulips- Depending on the variety blooms from mid-Spring through late-Spring


7. Hyacinths- Late Spring

Tulips, hyacinths and muscari
Hyacinths, tulips and muscari usually bloom around the same time. A stunning combination when planted together.

8. Muscari or Grape Hyacinths- Late Spring

Muscari, Grape hyacinth

9. Mini-daffodils (Jet Fire)- Late Spring

Jet fire mini daffodils and muscari
Jet fire and muscari blooming together. Another beautiful combination.

10. Alliums- Late Spring through early Summer

Alliums, bleeding hearts and bird bath
Alliums towering over my birdbath.

3. What to consider when choosing bulbs?

  • There's such a variety of bulbs to choose from. It's easy to be be swayed by color and bloom size when selecting bulbs. Golden daffodils, purple alliums, tulips in a rainbow of colors from deep reds and purples to pretty pastels, simple single stem crocuses to complex clusters of fat little muscari and hyacinths.  From small nodding delicate snowdrops to stunning Giant Allium heads, the choice is endless. 
  • And if you consider fragrance, then there's a variety of hyacinths with their heady fragrance and sweet smelling muscari to choose from.
  • While these are all great considerations, don't forget to consider bulbs that bloom at various times of the season. Remember Early, Middle, Late. This will greatly increase your blooming season and provide you with much enjoyment for a good 3 months in Spring.
  • And finally, consider what companion plants bulbs should be planted with. Companion plants should complement each other in color and size and make each other shine.

4. What bulbs are deer and rodent resistant?

There's nothing sadder than seeing your blooms vanish overnight in spring because of hungry deer or rodents. So, try planting bulbs that are distasteful to them. Daffodils, snowdrops, alliums, Spanish bluebells and Crocus tommasinianus (not all Crocuses) are some good choices.

5. Will bulbs return every year?

Look for 'naturalizing' bulbs when selecting bulbs. These will 'naturalize' i.e. come up every year and spread informally through your garden. I've noticed that my crocuses, chinodoxa, daffodils and alliums planted in sunny locations naturalize well. But, tulips on the other hand don't naturalize much. So, every Fall, I plant more tulip bulbs to make sure I get a good bloom in Spring.

So, have fun planting some bulbs this Fall. It will make your winter so much shorter and will provide you with years of enjoyment. 

To explore my other garden related posts, click on "GARDEN" below.

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