How to Plant Spring Bulbs in the Fall


Some of the first flowers to show their colors in spring are bulbs. These include daffodils, hyacinth and tulips, to name a few. Spring bulbs begin emerging from the ground in early spring, sometimes before all the winter snows have melted. In order for the bulbs to bloom this early, they must be planted in fall before frost hardens the ground. Plant most bulbs six to eight weeks before the first expected autumn frost in your area or when oil temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but read the plant labels to ensure that you are planting them at the right time.

Step 1

Purchase large bulbs from a respected nursery or garden center. Look for firm bulbs with no damage or soft spots. Purchase early in fall when selection is at its peak and store in a dry, cool place until planting a few weeks later.

Step 2

Prepare the garden bed before planting. Choose a well-draining garden bed in full to partial sun. Loosen the soil to an 8-inch depth using a spade or tiller. Lay a 2-inch layer of compost on top the soil and till in as you loosen the soil.

Step 3

Dig planting holes to a depth three times the width of the bulb. Space bulbs 2 to 6 inches apart depending on bulb size and label recommendations.

Step 4

Add 1 tsp. of bulb fertilizer or high-phosphate slow-release fertilizer to the bottom of each planting hole. Cover in a half-inch layer of soil so the fertilizer isn't in direct contact with the bulb or roots.

Step 5

Place bulbs in the hole root side down and pointed side facing up. Cover in soil and gently firm over the bulbs with your hands.

Step 6

Water the bed thoroughly after planting. Cover in a 3-inch layer of organic mulch to preserve moisture, prevent weeds and maintain soil temperature. Water as needed until the first fall frost to keep the soil moist.

Step 7

Fertilize in spring once foliage emerges from the ground. Apply 7 tbsp. of balanced fertilizer to each 10-square-foot planting bed. Work into the top 2 inches of the soil around each bulb.

Step 8

Keep soil moist once buds begin forming. Water only as needed to maintain moisture but avoid getting the bed soggy as this leads to bulb rot.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid getting fertilizer on the leaves or roots, as this permanently damages them.

Things You'll Need

  • Compost
  • Spade
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch


  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
  • University of Illinois Extension
Keywords: spring bulbs, fall planting, growing daffodils

About this Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. 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.