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Past Articles Library | Flower Bulbs | Fall Bulb Planting Guide


While it may seem a little odd to plant bulbs in the fall, there is a biological reason for this process. These bulbs need exposure to the cold to encourage them to bloom. If you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 1 through 7 during the fall meets this requirement. On the other hand, if you live in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 11, you will need to mimic this requirement. This is easily done by placing your bulbs in their original bags in your refrigerator for 6 to 10 weeks prior to when you plan on planting them. But….there is a catch. You need to make sure that you have no fresh fruits or vegetables in the fridge at the same time as your bulbs. Why, you may ask? Well, the ripening process of this natural material produces ethylene gas. This gas will damage or kill the bloom inside the bulb, which takes away the reason you would plant bulbs.

If you do get bulbs and you are not ready yet, store them in the refrigerator. Keep in mind though that the bulbs will not keep over a year since their food stores will be depleted.

Prior to planting your bulbs, you have a little garden homework to do. First, you will need to pick the location. A key to any bulbs is to make sure the area is well draining. Planting bulbs in wet areas will cause the bulb to rot. The second thing you need to take into consideration is the amount of sunlight an area receives. During the fall, this can be concealed by the leaves on the trees. In the spring when these bulbs would be blooming, many deciduous trees will not have leafed out. In doing so, there are many areas of your garden space that meet the sunlight requirement in the spring but not in fall. A careful study of your garden space year round will open up those unexpected areas in your garden area.

Now that you have picked your garden space, the next step is to prepare the area. You will need to remove any unwanted plant material from the area. If the space is a new planting spot, add a good amount of well seasoned compost.

When it is time to plant your bulbs, loosen the garden soil down to at least eight inches. Smooth the soil surface over and prepare to plan out your garden space. If you like that natural look, take your bulbs and give them a gently toss in the air. Plant them where they land in the garden. On the other hand, if you want a more formal arrangement, plan out the space. Bulbs planted in the fall come in many different heights but one key to garden design is to take advantage of this fact by planting shorter bulbs in front of taller ones. Also, you will get a bigger impact if you clump your bulbs together. Another designer trick is to plant mid and late spring blooming bulbs together for continuous bloom throughout the spring. Finally, to create a double-decker effect, plant large bulbs first and then plant on top of these bulbs smaller ones. This works easily since the larger bulbs require a deeper planting compared to the smaller bulbs.

When it comes to planting the bulbs though, a golden rule to follow is bulbs that traditionally have large bulbs should be planted eight inches deep. On the other hand, varieties that produce smaller bulbs should be placed five inches deep.

Not sure what bulbs are planted in the fall, check out the list below. Keep in mind though that this is just a partial list.


This bulb produces a bloom that appears in late spring. The flower head itself can range between 10 and 48 inches, depending on the variety. This bulb produces blooms that can be white, purple, blue and deep burgundy. Beyond the color, the allium produces a bloom that is easily dried for floral arrangements.

Due to the height of this bulb, which can top five feet, it is better to plant this bulb as a backdrop to other plants. Alliums bulbs need to be planted eight inches deep.


The hyacinth is another large bulb variety that needs to be planted eight inches deep. The blooms of this bulb are very fragrant and colorful beyond the typical purple. Hyacinth blooms can be found in white, orange, and pink. Due to their aroma, this bulb is forced for indoor enjoyment.


While you may not recognize the name, the common name of this bulb is Grape Hyacinths. This truly blue flower requires a depth of four inches. Yes, the grape hyacinths can be found in blue, it can also be found in white, pink, and even purple. Due to the short stature of this plant, the grape hyacinths are perfect for a seasonal groundcover.


One of the earliest bloomers, the crocus is a very early spring favorite. The blooms produced by this bulb come in a range of color. Since this is a small bulb type, you will need to plant the crocus four inches deep.

This is a great one to use for naturalizing an area or adding a splash of early color in unexpected areas.


This is a bulb you may have never heard of but it is one in the nursery industry. The flower stalk produced by this bulb is tall, which makes it a colorful backdrop for other plants. As far as the color range of the blooms, the rainbow provides the choices. Fritillaria can be found in reds, purples, oranges, white, and pinks. The other advantage of this bulb is the fact that it deters deer and rodents.

When it comes to planting this bulb, make sure to plant it at the eight inch depth.

Regardless of the type of bulb you decide to plant, the planting process is simple. Dig a hole the correct depth. Place your bulb in the hole so that the pointed end is up and the roots are in the bottom of the hole. While this sounds simple, there are some bulbs that can be a little tricky. If you are not sure which way to plant, lay the bulb on its side. The plant will grow correctly.


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Rotate Certain Crops

Avoid planting potatoes and tomatoes where they grew last year. They carry the same diseases, so it's best to rotate them.

You'll have much healthier plants, and more successful crops.

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