Bulbs For Fall Growing: What Are Fall Flowering Bulbs

Bulbs For Fall Growing: What Are Fall Flowering Bulbs

By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

Bulbs that flower in the fall add beauty, color, and variety to the late-season garden. Different types of bulbs produce different flowers, and each has specific growing needs. Be sure to pick bulbs for fall growing that do well in your area, soil, type, and amount of sunlight. Let’s take a look at some common fall flower bulbs.

What are Fall Flowering Bulbs I Can Plant?

Here are some of the more common bulbs that flower in fall or late summer:

Autumn Crocus – This beautiful flower can be pink, red, or purple and have very large leaves. It blooms in early fall and can reach a height of 8 inches (20 cm.). It prefers well drained soil and partial shade.

Calla Lilies – Calla lilies have green speckled pointed leaves and funnel shaped flowers. These fall bulbs are usually white, pink, orange, or yellow. This plant can be 1 to 4 feet (0.5-1 m.) high and likes full sun or partial shade. Calla lilies need to have well drained soil, and can be brought inside during the colder winter months.

Climbing Lily – This climbing vine has yellow and red flowers that look like lilies. It blooms in early fall and can climb up to 6 feet (2 m.) high. This vine prefers to grown in an area with filtered sunlight.

Fall Blooming Crocus – These pretty flowers can bloom white, purple, or blue, as well as red and orange. These plants can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm.) high and bloom from the middle to the end of fall. For best growth, crocuses require well drained soil and full to partial sun.

Lily-of-the-Nile – This pretty plant has small flowers that bloom in blue and white clusters in the early fall. This plant grows to be around 3 feet (1 m.) high and likes to have full sun. These lilies to well in containers and can be brought indoors over the winter.

Rain Lilies – These beautiful flowers only show their blooms after a rain storm, which makes them a fun addition to your garden. The blooms are pink and white and they will bloom all through summer and fall. They only grow to about 6 inches (15 cm.) high and prefer wet, shaded areas.

Summer Hyacinths – These interesting looking plants grow tall spikes with small white flowers and are considered some of the most beautiful summer plant bulbs available. These little flowers are very fragrant and bloom all summer into early fall. The stems of this plant usually reach 40 inches (1 m.) tall. Hyacinths prefer well drained soil and partial shade.

Peacock Orchids – These beautiful blooms are white with a deep purple center. They bloom from the late summer to early fall and grow up to 4 feet (1 m.) high. They like to be grown in full sun or partial shade. They do best with heavy mulch in the winter.

Tips for Planting Fall Bulbs

Select quality bulbs that are firm and big. Small mushy bulbs will most likely not bloom well.

Plant bulbs at the proper depth. Most bulbs do well in a hole three times as deep as they are tall. Check planting instructions that come with your purchased bulbs for further information.

Plant them facing the right way. The pointy side of the bulb needs to be facing upright. Don’t just throw them in a hole and expect them to grow well.

Give them some compost. Improving your soil quality will help your bulbs grow into big beautiful blooms. Add compost and mulch well.

Water your bulbs after planting. Check the soil around them a few days after planting. If it seems dry, give them a drink.

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Read more about General Bulb Care


10 Best Bulbs for Fall Planting

The Spruce / Evgeniya Vlasova

Spring-blooming bulbs are a feast for the eyes after a long, dreary winter. And if you think your only choices for spring blooms are daffodils or tulips, you are in for a treat. There are many bulb options that come in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. In addition to the springtime, some bloom in the summer or even early fall. You can plant all of these bulbs in the fall when the weather is mild and it's enjoyable to be working in the garden. Then, all you have to do is sit back and wait for your garden to wake up in the spring.

Choose bulbs that bloom at different times, so you can have several weeks of flowers in your garden once spring arrives.

Here are 10 of the best bulbs to plant in fall.


Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale)

Jacqui Hurst/Getty Images

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You might be familiar with the spring-blooming crocus, but this little beauty does not put on its show until fall. Autumn crocus grows best in partial shade, and a little dampness is welcome. It grows only a few inches tall and makes a wonderful carpet scattered under trees and along walkways. For healthy plants, reduce watering in midsummer when the foliage starts to die back and yellow, and resume watering to keep the soil moderately moist in the late summer when the foliage gets green again.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 8
  • Color Varieties: Yellow, white, burgundy, purple, pink
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade
  • Soil Needs: Rich, medium moisture, well-draining

Warning

All parts of the plant are poisonous, which means deer, rabbits, and other animals steer clear of it. Avoid planting it around children and pets.


Care for Fall Flowering Bulbs

Most of us think of bulbs as being a springtime thing with blooms happening as soon as the weather begins to warm. There are, however, several varieties that bloom in the fall as well. These popular garden fillers are some of the most beautiful as well! Fall flowering bulbs are definitely a favorite for keeping the garden in bloom all season long.

Planting Fall Flowering Bulbs

As with all bulbs, your fall bloomers should be kept in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to plant. This is critical as fall bulbs will sprout very quickly and grow rapidly – often going from being planted to full bloom in only 3 or 4 weeks! So plant accordingly.

The soil should be rich and receive full sun so the bulbs will bloom quickly. Many gardeners remove their summer bulbs and replace them with fall blooming bulbs in order to keep the garden in color. Your time line is the same as with all other bulbs, just adjusted to meet the fall deadline. Plant as required for the species, water often, and fertilize once blooms appear.

Fall Flowering Bulb Varieties

Some popular fall flowering bulbs include:

Allium

Related to the onion, these lovely flowers are also a spring bloomer, but you can also plant them for a fall season if you wish. When you plant will determine their growth and bloom times. Planting in the fall produces spring blooms and planting in the late spring produces fall flowers.

Begonias

Begonias are great shade flowers that do well in less than full sun. They come in single and double varieties (referring to their flowers). They are popular and easy to care for.

Caladiums

Also known as elephant ears or angel wings, caladiums are planted more for their leaves than flowers, these are very popular garden plants as they add a lot of color that lasts for quite a while.

Colchicum

A relatively large flower, this excellent variety is some of the most colorful you can have in your fall garden. These are members of the lily family and have large green leaves to keep the landscape vibrant as well.

Autumn Crocus

Similar to the spring flowering bulb of the same name, fall crocuses bloom in September-October with beautiful flowers that brighten any fall garden space. A popular variety is the “showy crocus” and is easy to grow and has a sweet scent.

Dahlia

With a rainbow of colors possible, dahlias are some of the most popular flowers for fall gardens. Dwarf varieties are popular edgers while large varieties such as pompom and water lilies are often planted to emphasize a space. These should be planted in a sunny location as soon as the weather warms and the frost is gone. They are relatively slow growers, so the early spring planting produces early fall blooms.


Spring-Flowering Bulbs to Plant in Fall

Here are some of the most popular spring-blooming bulbs planted before winter.

Daffodils

We prefer daffodils over any other bulbs because squirrels, deer, and chipmunks leave them alone! Daffodils come in many colors, not just yellow (pink, orange, white, multi-colored) and their flowers range from trumpets to flat rings to little rose-like cups. They grow best in well-draining soil that has been amended with organic matter or compost. They should be planted at least 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart. They look great in large drifts in groundcover beds or in meadows or planted under hostas.

  • Jonquils is the term usually used for a specific type of daffodil known as Narcissus jonquilla. They have tiny blooms and naturalize. They’re one of the first flowers to bloom—and look especially lovely when planted in a grove or field together.

Crocuses

One of the earliest spring flowers, we’re always delighted when crocus appear. These low-to-the-ground bulbs flower in purple, white, yellow, and striped variations, growing about 4 to 6 inches high. Crocus prefer well-drained soil and will grow in partial shade or full Sun. They are perfect for garden borders and even look great when planted in a lawn. They’ll finish their bloom before it’s time to start mowing!

See the Almanac’s Crocus Growing Guide for more planting information.

Snowdrops

Snowdrops (Galanthus) are dainty little little white bells that are just delightful in the late winter and early spring. When blooming en masse, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into a fairy tale. They are adaptable, growing well in full or partial shade and in moist or dry soil but they do need plenty of organic matter (compost) for plentiful blooms. Plant three inches deep and three inches part. We love them when planted in drifts in groundcover beds.

Like daffodils, snowdrops are rodent-adverse. See our article on Rodent-proof Flower Bulbs.

Tulips

One of the best-known spring bulbs, tulips come in a rainbow of colors and variations. They prefer well-drained or sandy soil that is rich in fertlizer. Tulips looks beautiful when planted en masse and bloom after the daffodils. They look great paired with grape hyacinth.

A word of caution: Tulips today are often one-season wonders. Due to hybridization and the fact that squirrels love these bulbs, we tend to treat them as annuals. Expect no more than ¾ of the bulbs will return in their second year and even less in their third year. You’ll just need to plant more tulip bulbs every year (it’s not hard) or protect the bulbs with a nylon mesh.

Some readers claim that planting tulips with allium or daffodil bulbs helps since critters find the latter two bulbs “stinky.” Let us know if this works for you.

Hyacinth

These spring beauties bloom around the same time as daffodils and tulips, and have a wonderful fragrance! Small blue clusters of tiny bell-shaped blooms, hyacinth are also good for naturalizing. (They also come in paler pinks, baby blues, yellows, and white). An annual application of compost should provide adequate nutrients. Flower size may decline in subsequent years, so some gardeners treat hyacinths as annuals and plant fresh bulbs each fall.

Irises

These tall beauties are hardy, reliable, and easy to grow, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds and making lovely cut flowers. Irises need at least a half a day of sun with EXCELLENT drainage. Planting on a slope or in raised beds helps ensure good drainage. If your soil is heavy, coarse sand or humus may be added to improve drainage.

It’s imperative that the roots of newly planted Iris be well-established before the growing season ends, so we’d plant irises on the earlier end of the range (September in the North and October in the South).

Ornamental Onion (Allium)

Ornamental alliums are great for cutting and bees adore them, too! Planted in the fall for spring blooms, these purple pom-pom flowers make a dramatic statement when planted en masse. Even better, they’re from the onion family so they are generally deer- and rodent-resistant. Depending on variety, these easy-to-grow plants add color to the flower garden from spring through fall. Select a site with well-drained soil in full sun. Learn more about growing allium.


Photo Credit: Manfred Ruckszio/Shutterstock

How to Plant Fall Bulbs

Planting bulbs is generally an easy task (unless you’ve ordered hundreds of them), but there are some things that you want to make sure to get right. Here are tips to keep in mind:

  • Of course, the first tip is to remember to plant bulbs with the point facing up! Examine bulbs carefully before placing them in the planting hole, being sure to set them with the roots facing downward.
  • Bulbs need soil that drains nicely or they are prone to rot. Work a few inches of compost or organic matter into the soil before planting for nutrients and drainage, especially if you have heavy clay soils. If your soil is sandy, plant bulbs slightly deeper in clay soils, slightly shallower.
  • The general rule is to plant bulbs at a depth of three times the width of the bulb, but refer to our chart above for specific planting depths.
  • Consider bloom time for each bulb (early spring, mid-spring, late spring) and plant bulbs with different bloom times so that you have flowers throughout spring!


This diagram shows the bloom time, average bloom height, and planting depth for common bulbs.

  • Place shorter bulbs in the front of beds and borders.
  • Plant bulbs generously in case some do not sprout (or are devoured by hungry squirrels). Plant them in random order and spacing for a more natural appearance. Or, if you love groves of daffodils and blanketed landscapes of tulips, be prepared to buy and plant a large quantity of bulbs together!
  • You can use a special bulb-planting hand tool to assist you, but if you are planting en masse by the dozens, just use a shovel and make a wide hole for planting many bulbs at once.


Bulbs look great planted en masse—in a grove, near the mailbox, as swaths of colors in garden beds, and as colorful borders.

    After planting, apply fertilizer that’s fairly low in nitrogen, such as a 9-6-6 formulation.

Water bulbs deeply after planting—and remember, if your bulb was planted 6” deep into the soil, that water needs to soak in 6” deep to benefit the bulb. This will help settle the soil in the planting bed plus provide needed moisture for the bulbs to start rooting.

Water again before the ground freezes — the wintertime is when they are developing roots. Don’t overwater which can lead to bulb rot. Gardeners in southern locations can water again in late December or early January if it’s been an unusually dry winter.

Apply mulch to the planting area to keep the weeds down, hold in moisture, and avoid heaving from wintertime thawing and freezing.

Note: You will not need to start watering again until the flower buds first appear on the plant in the spring. Once bulbs start growing in the spring, water once a week (if you haven’t had any measurable rain) — this is especially important while they’re flowering. Water with a soaker hose to keep water off the bloom.

Now that you’ve mastered the art of the fall bulb, check out our page on how to grow spring-planted bulbs!


How to Plant Your Bulbs

If you’re already familiar with planting other perennial or annual ornamentals, the steps to planting bulbs will seem somewhat similar.

Keep in mind though, bulbs are difficult to tell apart, so when you’re about to start planting keep the labels close by so you can keep your yellow tulips separate from the red ones or prevent an errant daffodil from ending up planted in the middle of your irises.

  1. Start by preparing the flowerbed to make it light and friable. Bulbs need well-drained soil to keep from being waterlogged and possibly rotting. If need be, work compost or sphagnum peat moss into the top 8-10 inches of soil. That will add organic matter and improve drainage.
  2. Determine the planting depth for each bulb type. The rule of thumb when planting flower bulbs is to bury them two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall.
  3. Dig holes at the recommended planting depth. Set bulbs in the bottom with the roots down and pointy side up. Specialized bulb-planting tools, available online or at gardening stores, include augur-style drills and tubular steel planters. If you’re unsure which end should go up, plant it on its side. Through a process known as geotropism, the roots of most bulbs will make their way down into the soil while the shoots grow up.
  4. Fill in the hole with soil, tamping gently without packing the soil too much. Water well initially and then avoid watering through the winter unless you live in an area with very low winter precipitation.


Daffodils (Narcissus spp. and hybrids)

Would it be spring without daffodils? There is no more welcome sight after a winter of white than the slowly opening golden buds of daffodils in the early to mid-spring. And there is probably no easier bulb to grow either. Daffodils are incredibly long-lived and low-maintenance plants. Just make sure their soil stays moist but not soggy, which can cause rot.

Not all varieties of daffodils are the trademark brilliant yellow flower. You can get ruffled pink blooms, long-necked trumpet daffodils, tiny 3-inch charmers, and more. Mail-order daffodil bulbs can be more expensive than the bulbs often sold at nursery centers, but they will also be larger, which means more and larger blooms. Of course, you could always be patient and wait a few years for the smaller and less expensive bulbs to mature.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 4 to 11
  • Color Varieties: Pink, white, yellow
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-draining


Watch the video: Spring Flowers