Rules for Fall Bulb Planting

A bed of bulbs, planted before the ground freezes, takes root in the cold ground and bursts forth to herald the arrival of spring in only a few short months. Spring flowering bulbs require the cool temperatures of winter to trigger the spectacular spring blooms.

Purchase Large, Healthy Bulbs

Purchase large bulbs for large flowers. The flower size directly relates to the bulb size. Choose firm bulbs with no soft spots. Store them in a cool place until ready to plant.

Where to Plant

Plant bulbs in well-drained soil with plenty of sun. Bulbs will rot in wet soil. Mix fertilizer or organic matter into the bottom of the hole. Plant the bulb 2 ½ times as deep as the bulb height, unless specified different on the instructions, with the bulb tip facing up.

When to Plant

Plant bulbs in the fall, in late September or early October. Bulbs need time to take root before winter freezes set in. Mulching the bed with 3 inches of organic mulch helps maintain an even soil temperature and prevents freezing cycles that damage the bulbs. Remove the mulch in the spring before the plants emerge.

Prepare the Bed

Remove the dirt from the bed to a depth of 2 1/2 times the height of the bulbs. Work fertilizer and organic matter into the bed floor to a depth of 3 or 4 inches. Use 1/2 pound of 0-46-0 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed. Add spaghnum peat moss or compost to the removed soil to loosen the soil and improve drainage. Use one-third to one-half the volume of the soil. Place the bulbs in the bed, cover with the amended soil and water generously.

Care for the Plants

After flowering, clip off the spent flowers with sharp scissors. This allows the plant to concentrate on storing energy in the bulb for the next season. Fertilize with 1/4 pound of nitrogen per 100 square feet of bed after flowering, before the leaves wither. Allow the leaves to die naturally on the plant.

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About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.