Planting Bulbs in Fall for a Colorful Spring Bloom

September 22, 2022

Closeup of pink and white plants bulbs

As summer comes to an end, it’s a great time to prepare for the colder months and beyond. Planting spring-blooming bulbs in the fall can provide you with a colorful garden in springtime that can bloom through early summer. If you want a splash of color next spring, we show you when, how, and what to plant this fall.

What Are Fall Bulbs?

Fall bulbs are hardy bulbs planted in the fall, or as late as January if your ground is workable during this time, and blooms in the spring. Fall-planted bulbs include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, snowdrops, crocus andfritillaria.

Bulbs refer to a wide range of plants with underground structures that store nutrients. The energy reserves allow them to survive during the winter and bloom perennially, in some cases, under optimal conditions with the stored energy.

Here are the five types of bulbs:

  • True bulbs: Hyacinths, tulips, daffodils
  • Tuberous roots: Dahlias and certain begonias
  • Tubers: Caladiums and anemones
  • Corms: Gladioli and crocuses
  • Rhizomes: Cannas and bearded irises

In contrast, summer-flowering bulbs, such as elephant ears, gladiolus, caladium, dahlias, and cannas, are planted in the spring.

Benefits of Planting Fall Bulbs

Whether you’re a first-time or seasoned gardener, planting flower bulbs in the fall has numerous advantages, from being relatively low-maintenance to providing a colorful bloom every year.

Here’s why you should plant bulbs this fall:

  • It’s easy and affordable
  • They add a pop of color in the spring
  • Bulbs can be planted just about anywhere with well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight
  • Many bulbs are deer and animal-resistant
  • Fall bulbs can come back every spring
  • They’re low-maintenance plants
  • They’re drought-tolerant

What You Need to Plant Bulbs


  • Bulb planter
  • Garden hose
  • Garden spade
  • Hand trowel
  • Knee pads
  • Garden gloves


  • Fall bulbs
  • Bulb fertilizer
  • Soil amendments
  • Mulch

When to Plant Fall Bulbs

Generally, fall bulbs should be planted when the soil is under 60º F late in the fall or about six weeks before the first hard frost. Research your region’s first fall frost dates to determine the best time to plant your fall bulbs.

Zone 1-7 (Cold Winters)

In zones 1-7, fall bulbs should be planted when the ground starts to cool down, ideally when evening temperatures fall between 40 and 50º F. In these zones, the ground gets to this temperature usually 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost.

You can start planting your fall bulbs when the soil is workable. If it’s taking a while for the ground to get to the right temperatures, you can keep your bulb stored in a dry and cool place.

Zone 8-11 (Warm Winters)

If zones 8-11, you may need to pre-chill your bulb until it’s cold enough to plant. You can pre-chill your bulbs in a refrigerator for 8-14 weeks. Keep them away from ripening fruit emitting ethylene gas, damaging the plant.

Bloom Time

You can find the bulb’s bloom time on the packaging, usually listed as early, mid, or late spring bloomers. Some late spring bloomers can flower as late as early summer.

In our region, expect the following bloom times for fall bulbs:

Early spring:

  • Snowdrops
  • Windflowers
  • Tulips
  • Crocus
  • Scilla


  • Hyacinth
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Fritillaria
  • Daffodils

Late spring:

  • Dutch Iris
  • Allium

Buying Bulbs

When buying bulbs, larger bulbs usually provide bigger blooms. Healthy bulbs should not have any signs of rot, including mold and soft spots, and should feel firm. They also shouldn’t feel too dry.

Most stores start selling fall bulbs in July or August, requiring you to chill bulbs for a few weeks or months. You can also order bulbs online, and suppliers will keep your bulbs cool until you’re ready to plant.

Best Spring-Flowering Bulbs to Plant in the Fall

Pink and blue flowers in.lawn

Ready to get your spring garden started? A bright and colorful yard starts with high-quality bulbs. Here are a few popular fall bulbs to consider.


Daffodil bulbs are easy to care for and resistant to deer, squirrels, and chipmunks. They’re available in various stunning colors, including yellow, pink, orange, white, and peach. Flower shapes include trumpets, rings, and cups. If planting in Oregon, look for the Jonquil daffodil, Jetfire daffodil, and Accent daffodil.

  • 6-7 inch planting depth
  • 6-8 inch plant spacing
  • Spring bloom
  • Full to partial sun outdoors


Tulip bulbs are one of the hallmarks of spring, available in many colors and varieties, perfect for different color schemes and designs. Tulips are a gorgeous addition when planted in clusters, blooming right after daffodils. They also pair great with grape hyacinth. The Parrot tulip and the Double Late tulip thrive in Oregon.

Tulips do not often come back year after year because of cross-breeding and squirrels and deer eating them. You will likely need to plant most of the tulips again next year to keep the flowers coming back. A nylon mesh or chicken wire can keep these critters away from your flowers.

  • 5-inch planting depth
  • 6-8 inch plant spacing
  • Spring bloom
  • Full sun


Snowdrops, like tulips, signal the start of spring. Snowdrops have delicate bell-shaped flowers with white petals and green tips. Unlike most bulbs, snowdrops thrive in moist soil. These plants are some of the hardiest, so don’t be surprised to see them sprouting through the snow. While these bulbs are deer resistant, they can be toxic to pets and children if eaten.

  • 3-inch planting depth
  • 3-inch plant spacing
  • Full or partial shade
  • Early spring bloom
  • Deer resistant


Hyacinth blooms at about the same time as tulips and daffodils, providing your garden with a beautiful fragrance. Their bell-shaped blooms come in various pastel colors, including blue, yellow, pink, red, and white. Grape hyacinths are not true hyacinths but can also bloom in mid-spring and require similar care as true hyacinths.

  • 4-inch planting depth
  • 6-8 inch plant spacing
  • Mid-spring bloom
  • Full sun/partial shade

Allium (Ornamental Onions)

Alliums are attractive additions to any garden. As part of the onion family, they have round flower heads featuring dozens of bright, star-shaped florets. These colorful spheres can grow from 1 to 4 feet and have massive blossoms. As hardy plants, they can handle a few snips to help you produce creative arrangements.

  • Deer resistant
  • Late spring/summer bloom
  • 6-8 inch minimum spacing
  • 1-2 inch planting depth
  • Full sull


Crocuses are some of the first flowers to bloom in the spring and come in various colors, including purple, white, and yellow. Crocus is available in varieties of Dutch Crocus or Species Crocus (Wild Crocus, Snow Crocus, etc.), ranging between 2-4 inches tall.

  • 4-inch planting depth
  • 4-inch plant spacing
  • Early spring bloom
  • Deer resistant
  • Full sun/partial shade


Named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow, irises come in various colors, including yellow, red, white, and blue. There are over 300 species of iris, with a handful native to Oregon. Popular iris varieties that thrive in Oregon include the Golden Iris, Yellow Leaf Iris, and the Iris Bracteata.

  • 4-inch planting depth
  • 1-2 feet plant spacing
  • Spring bloom
  • Full sun
  • Deer resistant


These exotic-looking bulbs prefer moist and rich soil and start blooming in late spring to early summer. They can add a striking touch to your garden due to their bell-shaped blooms, which can pair well with hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips. Color varieties include orange, red, yellow, white, gray, and purple.

  • 6-7 inch planting depth
  • 8-10 inch plant spacing
  • Late spring/early summer bloom
  • Deer resistant
  • Partial sunlight

How to Plant Fall Bulbs

Gardener planting bulbs in soil

Planting fall bulbs is easy for growers of all skill levels. During the colder months, the spring-blooming bulbs can winter over until it’s their time to flower. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for planting recommendations and guidance.

1. Choose a Planting Site

Bulbs should be planted in well-draining soil in an area with plenty of sunlight. Loamy and slightly sandy soil can provide the best level of drainage. Most bulbs do not thrive in excessively moist or wet areas. However, some bulbs prefer slightly moist soil, and some prefer partial shade.

2. Prepare the Soil

Bulbs require well-drained and loose soil, allowing the plant’s roots to get enough oxygen. Wet ground can cause the bulbs to rot. Choose a good spot in your yard that has these characteristics and gets good sunlight and some shade.

Remove grass, weeds, rocks, and other debris to make the soil workable. Use a garden fork or spade to loosen the soil. Dig at least 8-10 inches deep, depending on the bulb. If your soil doesn’t have the proper nutrients, you can add organic material like compost or a slow-release fertilizer.

3. Plant the Bulbs

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the planting depth. Generally, bulbs should be planted three times as deep as the bulb’s width. Plants with big bulbs can be planted about 8 inches deep, while small bulbs may only need to be planted 5 inches deep. Plant the bulb in the soil with the roots facing down and the pointy side facing up.

4. Water the Bulbs

Once you’ve planted the bulbs, you can cover the hole with soil and gently compress it. Then, you can water them once to promote growth and remove any air pockets. You don’t need to water regularly unless you live in an area that does not get a lot of precipitation in the winter.

5. Fertilize the Bulbs

If you want to keep your bulbs growing year after year, you can provide them with additional fertilizer, but if you’ll be digging them up after they bloom, they won’t need to be fertilized after their leaves become dry and yellow.

Spring-flowering bulbs planted in the fall can be fertilized when shoots start developing in the spring. Avoid fertilizing bulbs after they’ve flowered because this can stunt their growth.

6. Prune the Bulbs

After blooming, cut the seed heads but leave the rest of the foliage intact. Cutting off the foliage prevents the plant from flowering next year. Cut them off at soil level when the leaves become dry and yellow.

Design Tips for Fall Flower Bulbs

Field of flowers and tulips

Whether planting in containers or elsewhere in your yard, designing your planting is the best way to make your bulbs stand out and complement your landscape. Here are a few fall planting design tips to help you make the most of your bulbs.

Plant in Clusters

Single-planted bulbs or a thin line of bulbs aren’t as impactful as clusters of bulbs, in terms of color and size. Bulbs can be planted in groups of 5-7 bulbs per square foot and be arranged based on their color.

Plant by Size

Will your flowers bloom at the same time? Plant the shorter bulbs in the front and the taller ones behind, creating layers of different colors and shapes. Sometimes, you may need to put the taller bulbs up front if the small plants bloom earlier. You can hide dying vegetation with the new, tall blooms.

Consider Bloom Times

The timing of your planted bulbs can affect how you will plant them. Some bulbs flower earlier or later than others. Stagger your bulb plantings to have a long season of blooming plants. They can be planted closer together since they will mature at different rates.

Shop for Gardening Supplies at Wilco Farm Stores

Fall-bulb planting is a simple and affordable landscaping project that can pay off next season with a magical bloom. Shop Wilco Farm Stores for various bulbs, gardening tools, fertilizers, and other landscape and garden essentials.