The Best Time Of Year To Plant Spring Bulbs

The Best Time Of Year To Plant Spring Bulbs & Understanding Climates

The Timing Is Everything

It is important to plan when planting bulbs. Spring-flowering bulbs should be planted in the fall to ensure that they will bloom at their peak. The bulbs must be given enough time to establish themselves before the winter freezes. They also need to be exposed to soil temperatures below freezing to chill properly. Fall doesn’t fall at the same time in San Antonio, Texas as it does in Minneapolis. How do you know what time to plant? Follow these steps and you will have plenty of spring flowers.

The Best Time Of Year To Plant Spring Bulbs
The Best Time Of Year To Plant Spring Bulbs

Know Your Hardiness Zone

Use the USDA Climate Zone Map to determine when to plant bulbs. The map divides the United States into 11 zones, based on the average minimum winter temperatures. Use the map to determine which zone you are in. Consult the following list to find out when you can plant spring-flowering bulbs in your zone.

  • Zone 1 (below 50deg F): Early September
  • Zone 2 (- 50 to – 40deg F) : Early September
  • Zone 3 (-40 deg F to -30degF): Mid-September
  • Zone 4 (-30 deg F to -20degF): late September to early October
  • Zone 5 (-20 deg F to -10degF): From late September to early October
  • Zone 6 (-10 deg F to 0degF): Mid-October
  • Zone 7 (0-10deg F) – Early November
  • Zone 8 (10-20deg F) – Early November
  • Zone 9* (between 20 and 30deg F), Early December
  • Zone 10* (between 30 and 40 deg F): mid-December
  • Zone 11* (Above 40deg F): Late December

* In these areas, additional chilling may be required to grow spring-flowering bulbules.

Bulbs for Colder Areas: Tips on Planting Bulbs

Planting bulbs early is the best way to ensure that they are established before ground freezing occurs in colder areas (zones 1 – 4). Mulch the bed with 3 to 4 inches of hay or straw a month after you plant it. This will keep the soil warm enough to allow bulb roots to establish and protect tender bulbs against freezing damage during winter.

Bulbs for warmer climates: Tips on planting bulbs

If you live in a zone with warm winters (zones 7-11), choose bulb varieties that are well adapted to the climate, like wild tulips from southern Europe. For hyacinths, crocus and large-flowered bulbs to flower successfully in spring, they will require additional chilling. Place the bulbs in the crisper of the refrigerator for 8-10 weeks before planting. Keep the bulbs away from fruit and vegetables as they emit ethylene gas which can cause the bulb bud to abort. In these areas, the ground does not freeze deeply and can even be planted in December or early January.

Expert Tips for Your Success

Planting crocus in the fall is best. Also, consider planting tulips, hyacinths or other spring flowers. These bulbs can establish roots in the fall before going dormant over winter. Bulbs can be planted anywhere from late September to December. However, this depends on the location and type of bulb you are growing. Learn more about planting spring-blooming bulbs.

Two Ladies Gardening
Two Ladies Gardening

Flower Bulbs are perishable

Each flower bulb contains a plant waiting to blossom. If flower bulbs aren’t properly cared for they can dry out or become mushy. This can cause the plant to die or be damaged. By ordering bulbs via mail, you can ensure that they are stored properly until the appropriate planting time in your zone. You should receive flower bulbs that are heavy and firm. Remove any bulbs that appear soft or have signs of decay.

How to store fall bulbs until planting time

Warmth and humidity are enemies of dormant flowers bulbs. Store the bulbs in a cool, dark, and dry place if you have to keep them for a couple of weeks before planting. Avoid un-ventilated plastic bags, which can trap moisture. This will encourage mold and fungus growth. Store bulbs in perforated plastic or paper bags.

Keep the bulbs completely dry by not storing in the fridge. It is important to keep the bulbs dark, as light can encourage sprouting. Don’t freeze your bulbs, as this will cause them to die.

When is the best time to plant most fall bulbs?

Flower bulbs are resilient and forgiving. Planting them at the right time will make them look better.

Planting spring-flowering bulbs 6-8 weeks before soil freezing is recommended. Planting is best done in zones 4-5 between mid-October and late October. Gardeners in growing zones 6-8 can wait until November. Most spring-blooming bulb varieties must be chilled in zones 9-10 before planting. You can find out more here: Growing Spring Bulbs In Warm Climates.

As soon as your bulbs have been planted, you will see small feeder roots growing from their base. They anchor the bulbs during winter, and they keep them hydrated up until spring. When you plant bulbs in warm soil, the bulbs may start to grow roots and sprout. It’s best to avoid this by waiting until the recommended time for planting.

Planting Bulbs In Pots
Planting Bulbs In Pots

When to Plant Tulips & Daffodils

Tulips can benefit from planting them later than usual. Cold soil can inhibit fungal diseases that can affect tulip bulb. You should wait to plant tulips in zones 3-5 until late October or even early November if you live there. Zones 6-8 can be planted from mid-November to December. The late planting of tulips also reduces the pressure on squirrels and other pests that love to steal them.

Daffodils benefit from being planted early in the fall before other bulbs. Daffodil bulb roots can start to grow as early as September. Sometimes, they even begin growing before the bulbs are planted. Planting the bulbs is the best way to prevent them from drying out. Daffodil bulb plants in the very late fall can bloom later or not at all. Daffodils can be tough, and they will almost always recover if they do not flower well in the first year.

Enjoyed this topic? Read: How to keep animals from eating your bulbs

The worst laid plans can go wrong

Sometimes, things don’t go as planned. Sometimes flower bulbs are purchased, then forgotten or misplaced. Most spring-blooming flowers bulbs are forgiving. You can plant flower bulbs even after Christmas, as long as they are not frozen or waterlogged.

Mulch can be used to cover the area where you plan to plant if you live in an extremely cold climate. This will help keep the soil warm and allow the bulbs to establish their roots for a few weeks longer. Planting the bulbs in pots is another option.

For more information, please read How To Grow Spring Bulb In Containers

For most spring-blooming bulb species to flower properly, they need at least 10 weeks (35-45 deg F). The plants within the bulbs reach a crucial stage in their development during this period. If bulbs are not allowed to chill for the entire period, they may have shorter stems or flowers that are smaller or malformed. It is better to plant bulbs early in the winter than wait until spring. By spring, the bulbs are no longer viable.

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