How to Plant Flower Beds in Fall

Overview

While fall is often seen as the end of the gardening season, for some flowers it is just the beginning. Spring-flowering bulbs must be planted in fall in order to bloom in spring. In areas with mild winters, fall is also the time for planting pansies, which will add color to your beds throughout the winter and into the following spring. Whether you are planting bulbs for spring color or pansies for winter color, get them in the ground in fall before the soil temperature begins to cool.

Bulbs

Step 1

Lay a 2-inch layer of compost over a full-sun, well-draining garden bed. Apply two cups of superphosphate fertilizer and 2 tbsp.10-10-10 analysis fertilizer per 10 square feet of bed, and till both the fertilizer and the compost into the bed at a 10-inch depth.

Step 2

Plant bulbs to a depth twice their width. Set them in the hole with the pointed ends facing upward. Space the bulbs 3 to 6 inches apart in clusters, as rows often look too formal for bulb plants.

Step 3

Water the garden bed immediately after planting. Provide enough water to moisten the bed without making it soggy.

Step 4

Cover the bed with a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic mulch such as bark or straw. Mulching preserves soil moisture and maintains soil temperature throughout winter when the bulbs are becoming established.

Step 5

Fertilize the bulbs in spring as soon as they begin growing foliage. Apply 5 tbsp. of 10-10-10 analysis fertilizer and two cups of bonemeal to each 10-foot-square area of bed.

Pansies

Step 1

Lay a 3-inch layer of compost over a well-drained, full-to-partial sun garden bed. Apply 15-2-20 analysis fertilizer or pansy fertilizer to the bed, following label recommendations, and till the compost and the fertilizer into the top 12 inches of the bed.

Step 2

Grasp pansies around the stem near the soil surface. Pull the pot off the root ball with the other hand. Tap the sides of the pot lightly if it doesn't easily pull off.

Step 3

Plant the pansies in holes at the same depth they were at in their nursery pots. Space the plants 6 to 10 inches apart in all directions.

Step 4

Lay a 2-inch layer of mulch over the bed and around the plants to help preserve moisture and maintain soil temperature in winter. Use a fine-textured organic mulch such as shredded bark.

Step 5

Water the bed thoroughly after planting and mulching so that any air pockets around the roots collapse. Water the bed as necessary to keep the soil moist when the ground isn't frozen throughout fall and winter.

Tips and Warnings

  • Pansies may die of dehydration when temperatures drop below freezing for more than a couple of days. Prevent ground freezing when extended cold spells are expected by covering the pansy bed with a 4-inch layer of straw.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Fertilizer
  • Bulbs
  • Mulch
  • Pansy transplants

References

  • University of Illinois Extension: Bulbs and More
  • University of Georgia Extension: Success With Pansies In The Winter Landscape
Keywords: fall flower garden, planting bulbs, growing winter pansies

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications, including the "Dollar Stretcher." Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.