October 12, 2022

Fall may not seem like the ideal time for planting flowers, but if you plant flower bulbs in the fall, you will have a stunning, layered flower display in the spring. From the early bloomers like the crocus and snowdrop, to the mid-spring muscari, daffodils, and hyacinth, to the final flourishes of tulips and allium, you can have a beautiful spring flower garden by putting in the effort in the fall.

Beautiful close-up of spring garden with daffodils, tulips, lilacs and other spring flower lit by the warm spring sun. Tulips and daffodils in the spring patio.

Choosing Bulbs

Good bulbs should be fresh and firm. When you choose bulbs, look for healthy bulbs with intact husks as they are better at fighting off any potential diseases. When you purchase your bulbs, you want to be ready to plant them immediately or store them in a cool, dark, dry place. Temperatures above 70 degrees can damage the bulbs. If you want a beautiful garden, go for high quality bulbs. They are often bigger and will flower more abundantly. Smaller, cheaper bulbs will often have smaller blooms and can sometimes fail to germinate at all. Buying from a nursery or garden center will give you the best bulbs for your region. It’s also smart to consider the critter pressure in your area. Daffodils are deer resistant, but tulips and crocuses are a favorite spring food for most deer. Talk to a few landscape experts about choosing the right bulbs to keep critter damage to a minimum.

How to Plant and Layer Bulbs

Planting bulbs is a pretty easy task. They need a spot with good drainage to avoid rot, and they will need at least part sun during the spring. Flowers grown from bulbs look beautiful underneath trees, and they can get the sun they need as they will flower before the trees are full. Work a few inches of compost into the soil, especially if you have heavy clay content. Make sure to plant bulbs with the point facing up. Examine each bulb to make sure the roots are down. The general rule is to plant bulbs at a depth of three times the size of the bulb. After planting, apply fertilizer and water bulbs before the ground freezes. You won’t need to water again until the first buds appear in the spring.

Layering bulbs means planting the bulbs in a way that allows you to enjoy new flowers all throughout the spring and summer. As one set of bulbs blooms and begins to die back, new bulbs are sprouting and blooming. To keep things simple, you can dig a hole about 18 inches wide, and deep enough to accommodate a few layers of bulbs.

At the bottom of the hole, add a layer of gravel, then a layer of potting soil. Place your first level of bulbs-your earliest blooming bulbs-and cover with a layer of soil. Continue the pattern throughout the layers, constructing a sort of “bulb lasagna” that begins with a layer of early bulbs, and sequential layers thereafter based on bloom times. As the roots, stems and leaves form, they will seek open spaces to grow through. The deep bulbs will reach between the bulbs above to find the sunlight.

A good recipe to follow would be: 20 or so early bulbs, 5-7 tulip bulbs, 3-5 daffodil bulbs, and 4-5 lilies on the top layer.

When to Plant Bulbs

Spring-flowering bulbs that are planted in the fall are called “dormant perennials”. They need the cool moist autumn soil to wake them up and begin growing roots in preparation for spring. The best time to plant fall bulbs is when the soil is below 60 degrees, or about 6 weeks before the first hard frost. Usually, this means September or October, with Halloween as a good deadline. If the warm weather lingers longer, bulbs can even be planted into November. The one exception to this is tulips – as long as you can dig into the soil to get them planted, they can be planted as late as you want. Some bulbs may need to be pre-cooled if the fall has been warm.

Layering bulbs of different varieties will give you a beautiful garden that will last all season long. As the early bloomers die off, new blooms will appear to change the look and feel of the bed. You can combine colors, varieties, and blooming times to create a unique bed that will be the envy of your neighborhood.

Let Twin Oaks Landscape Help

Our landscape design team can create a stunning flower bulb display for you and your family to enjoy for many years. We understand what plants do well in this area, and we have the experience and vision to know how great things will look once they sprout and bloom next year. For help in designing and planting a stunning spring and summer perennial bulb flower bed that will return year after year, contact us to schedule a consultation.