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The Benefits of Planting Bulbs in Fall

New gardeners are often intimidated by bulbs, and it does seem like there can be a lot of rules to follow when growing them.

Fortunately, there are bulbs you can plant in the fall that are easier to grow and more cold-tolerant than spring varieties. Planting bulbs in fall is a great way to get a head start on your garden and have lots of color right when spring arrives.

If all of this sounds appealing to you, keep reading to learn all about planting bulbs in fall.

Planting Bulbs in Fall

Why You Should Plant Bulbs in Fall

Bulbs have certain preferences that other plants might not require to help them grow successfully, but that doesn’t mean they’re difficult to grow.

They’re a bit different from standard rooting plants, so you want to make sure you’re meeting their needs. As long as you do, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful plants and flowers.

Timing Is Everything for Planting Fall Bulbs

Giving bulbs the time they need in the ground before they begin to grow is important to be successful in growing them.

Fall is the perfect season because it gives them enough time to get established and then remain dormant until the last frost passes in spring. Once the ground thaws, bulbs planted in fall will be ready to go and soak up all the moisture they need to emerge.

You want to time your fall bulb planting right, which means getting them in the ground around 6 to 8 weeks before the ground begins to freeze. At this time of the year, nighttime temperatures should be regularly between 40 and 50 degrees. This means the ground is nice and cool but not yet frozen.

A lot of the flowers that grow from bulbs come up in early spring, so waiting to plant them until spring will be too late. They require the dormancy through winter that comes from planting bulbs in fall.

This means that depending on where you live, you may end up planting bulbs in fall at slightly different times once fall weather sets in.

For more northern, cooler climates, the best time to plant is usually from late September through mid-October. Warmer Southern climates should plant fall bulbs mid-October through November or even early December when temperatures take longer to drop.

Varieties of Bulbs to Plant in Fall

There are so many amazing plants you can grow from bulbs planted in fall, and these are just a few that are popular and colorful. You’ve likely seen most of them in neighborhood gardens, and for good reason.


Daffodils are a true classic with their cheery yellow petals, a sure sign that spring has arrived. While daffodils are most commonly yellow, there are some varieties that bloom in different colors or even with different bloom shapes.


Hyacinths are another wonderful flower, and they come in all kinds of colors to attract pollinators. You just have to love their bright flower clusters.


Amaryllis comes in so many spectacular bloom types and colors that you’re sure to find just the right one for you. Choose an amaryllis variety that complements your garden and plant bulbs in fall.


Tulips bloom a little later than the early spring varieties and are a top choice. They’re such fun flowers, and they’ll start bursting with color when earlier blooming flowers are finished.


Crocuses, like daffodils, are another sign spring is here, and they fill a space nicely. If you have a large blank space, you can do a fall bulb planting of crocuses and watch them spread.

One of the great things about bulbs is that you can choose different types that will all bloom at different times. This will allow you to enjoy colorful flowers that help support pollinators from spring through summer and some even into early fall.

Once you get lots of bulbs planted in the fall, you’ll be able to rely on them popping up for potentially years to come with no extra work on your part.

Tips for Planting Bulbs in Fall

Autumn planting bulbs of flowers in the garden.

To get the full low-maintenance experience of planting fall bulbs, make sure you set yourself up for success with a few simple parameters.

Keep in mind how much light your bulbs will need when choosing a spot to plant them in. While you might be planting bulbs in fall, the sun and shade areas will be different in spring and summer. Try to keep an eye out throughout the year to become familiar with the sunnier and shadier parts of your garden.

Make sure the soil is loose and has good drainage. Bulbs planted in fall do tend to like moisture, but most plants need excess water to drain away easily. Bulbs can easily rot in the ground if they remain soggy for too long.

Incorporate fertilizer before you plant fall bulbs so they have all the nutrients they need ready to be absorbed right away.

It’s important to figure out how deep your bulbs need to be planted. Most people use the rule of planting fall bulls at a depth two to three times as deep as the total height of the bulb itself.

Dig your holes and place the bulbs in with the point facing upward, where the first stems will emerge. If it isn’t clear or you aren’t sure which end that is, put the bulb sideways. This way, it will be able to send roots down and shoot up on its own.

With your bulb snugly in the ground, refill the hole and very gently pack the soil down on top. Water bulbs planted in fall well before winter, then don’t water them again until the ground has thawed out in spring. Adding mulch in winter is a great way to provide some extra protection for your bulbs planted in fall.

Some animals will want to dig your bulbs up for food, so you may want to put some mesh over the soil to keep them out. Check regularly for signs of critters digging around where you plant bulbs in fall.

Frequently Asked Questions

Flower bulbs and garden bulb planting tool on the soil. Autumn or spring home gardening.

Do bulbs planted in fall need to be watered?

If you have a dry fall season, it’s best to help your bulbs along and give them moisture as needed.

Fall bulbs will have a harder time rooting in cool, dry soil, so some watering will help get them started. If your area gets a lot of moisture in fall, you may not need to water yourself. Monitor your soil to get a feel for whether or not you need to water.

Do you need to fertilize bulbs planted in fall?

Ideally, it’s best to provide fertilizer for bulbs planted in fall.

The easiest way to do this is to mix fertilizer into the soil before planting bulbs in fall. This will allow them to have nutrients readily available so they have a strong start. Growing takes a lot of energy, so offering nutrients right away can make all the difference.

What happens if I plant fall bulbs too early?

Sometimes, getting the timing just right for planting bulbs in fall can be a little bit tricky.

While planting fall bulbs too early doesn’t guarantee failure, it does increase the risk of your bulbs developing diseases or fungus problems in the ground.

Try to be patient and wait until the ground is consistently cool. Don’t get ahead of yourself and plant fall bulbs just because you’ve had a few cooler nights. They really need temperatures that are regularly getting lower.

Do I need to dig up bulbs planted in fall every year?

Only spring bulbs will need to be removed before winter sets in.

These are typically more tender, and they should be stored in a cool, dry place through winter. They can then be replanted again in spring.

Those that do best planted in fall can tolerate the ground freezing and are hardy enough to survive, so you don’t have to worry about digging them back up. They are perennial plants, so they will naturally come back every year on their own.

Add Beautiful Fall Bulbs to Your Garden

Planting bulbs in autumn is a great way to have gorgeous flowers ready to bloom in the spring.

They’re also lower maintenance than spring bulbs since they can withstand frozen soil. That means as long as you set them up well, you should be good to go once they’re in the ground.

You’ll be able to enjoy your fall bulbs for years to come, and you’ll especially love the way they thrive and need less care from you.

Don’t stop there. Visit our Flowers page for more colorful ideas for your garden!