As soon as you plant any bulb, it starts to build a root system that feeds it and eventually allows it to flower. Spring-blooming bulbs, says the University of Kentucky's floriculture specialist Sharon S. Bale, require fall planting so they can build sufficient roots before soil temperatures drop. Poorly rooted bulbs may dislodge from soil that repeatedly freezes and thaws. Your local nursery or garden store offers bulbs for fall planting at the appropriate time.
Daffodils (narcissus) take longer to build root systems than most fall bulbs. Plant them between mid-August and early October, says the University of Missouri Extension. Daffodils come in 12 classifications with a variety of sizes and colors in addition to the familiar bright yellow. For effect, mass them where they have room to spread, and be prepared to divide the clumps every four or five years. They make a charming presentation planted with forsythia, crocus and other early spring bloomers. While the bulbs are toxic if ingested, they're also unpalatable to voles and other bulb-eating rodents.
Fragrant hyacinths are among the most delightful spring-blooming bulbs. They're available in a wide range of colors from creamy white to deep, clear blue. After producing single-stemmed plants with showy, cylindrical flower heads in the first season after planting, hyacinth bulbs divide. You'll have more plants in following years, but they won't bloom quite as vigorously.
Like daffodils, hyacinths are most effective when planted in clumps instead of rows. Clemson University Extension recommends waiting to plant them until your soil temperature is consistently below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They bloom for between two and three weeks. After that, cut off the spent flower heads but let the leaves continue to feed the bulbs. Remove them when they yellow and pull up easily.
Tulips, says the Ohio State University Extension, do not usually perennialize--come back year after year--in areas with hot summers. Even so, they deserve a place with the daffodils and hyacinths in your spring garden. You may even extend their blooming lives for more than a single season by planting them 12 inches deep. The additional soil cover will keep them cool.
Choose your tulips according to their blooming time. Planting a variety of early, mid-season and late bloomers will maximize your tulip season. Starting with the single early tulips and ending with the late peony-flowered or parrot varieties creates a constantly changing tulip bed.