Planting Spring Bulbs in Fall for Blooming Tulips In Spring

When my family moved into this home, we knew we wanted a beautiful garden in the spring. In fact, my wife specifically asked for tulips. What neither of us realized when we tried to plant tulips that spring was that you can’t plant spring bulbs in the spring. Strangely enough, early spring bulbs need to be planted in the fall because they require a period of cold if they are going to bloom beautifully in the spring. That’s true for tulips, daffodils, crocuses, and a number of other flowers.

Buying Spring Bulbs

First, you need to decide how many spring bulbs to buy. The first autumn when we planted our tulips we simply didn’t plant enough so even though the tulips were beautiful in the spring they just weren’t plentiful enough to make a great impression. We later learned that’s a common problem for first time bulb planters so plan to plant more than you think you’ll need.

When you purchase spring bulbs, it’s a good idea to look for the largest ones possible. These are the most mature bulbs and, as a result, will produce the largest flowers in the spring. The only downside is mature bulbs need to be planted sooner, so don’t buy them too far in advance.

You can store your purchased bulbs for a few days before planting, but they need to stay cool. The temperature shouldn’t go below 50 degrees or above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The area also needs to be dry and dark. We usually empty out the vegetable bins in our refrigerator and use those for storing the bulbs.

Planting Your Spring Bulbs

Find a spot in your yard that will get plenty of light during the winter and where you won’t have much standing water. We plant ours around the front porch and along the walkway. You should also plan on planting the spring bulbs in groups of either 6 or 12 depending on the size of your yard (the larger the yard the larger the group).

Some gardeners use a bulb planter to plant the bulbs, and this is definitely fine. However, I don’t like to buy anything I can only use for one purpose so I just rely on a handy spade to dig my holes. As a rule of thumb, tulips and daffodils should be planted about 8 inches into the soil while crocuses do better at 4 inches. If you’re not sure how to deep plant, look at the bulb’s size. Larger bulbs thrive with deeper planting.

Replace soil and water the spring bulbs after you plant them. You don’t have to apply any fertilizer, but I try to add a couple of inches of compost to the ground. The compost helps keep the soil temperature stable and moist during the winter.

If you’re in an area with a large squirrel population, you may want to take some precautions, too. Squirrels have a tendency to dig up those spring bulbs. Make sure you don’t leave any traces of planting behind when you’re done and consider placing chicken wire over the site. You can anchor the wire to the ground with ordinary hangers. Trust me, it’s worth the extra effort to protect your bulbs but make sure you remove the wire at the first sign of growth in the spring.