Fall Bulb Planting FAQs

Helpful guidance and tips to help ensure beautiful blooms!

What are fall planting bulbs?

Fall planting bulbs are plant species that need to be planted in the ground in the fall before the first hard frost. Bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, iris, allium, fritillaria, and scilla require a cold period in order to form roots, and based on lighting and warmth conditions will bloom in the spring.

What should I look for when buying fall planting bulbs?

Look for bulbs that are firm. Bulbs that are mushy usually have not been kept in a cool dry place and will rot, and therefore, not flower. As a consumer it is important to understand bulb sizing. While bigger is not necessarily better, it is important to understand what is and what is not a consumer value. For example, top size tulip bulbs have a circumference of 12 centimeters or more. If you are trying to showcase a set of 10 tulips in your yard, look for top size bulbs. On the other hand, if you would like to plant a large bed of tulips for cut flowers or just to display a carpet of spring color, smaller tulips with a minimum circumference of 10 centimeters are perfectly acceptable. The bigger the bulb, the more blooms you get and the larger they will be. Bulbs will grow larger in the ground after blooming.

What is a hardiness zone?

The US Department of Agriculture and the US National Arboretum have prepared a map representing winter hardiness for certain types of plant material. Most fall planting bulbs are considered hardy and will survive the most severe winters including, tulips, daffodils, narcissus, hyacinths, crocus, scilla, fritillaria, iris, snowdrops, muscari, eranthus, and chinodoxa. However, if you do live in zones 1 through 4, or if you live in the mountains, additional mulch to protect against severe freezing temperatures (20 degrees below zero) is recommended. For more details about your specific region please see the USDA Hardiness Zone Map.

What type of fertilizer should I use?

Fertilizer is not necessary, but for increased performance a small application of Bulb Booster or bone meal is acceptable. It is more important to make sure the pH level of your soil is correct.

What is the right pH level of soil for bulbs?

Having the right pH level in your soil is important to bring out the true flower color. The ideal pH level for bulbs is between 6 and 7. To check your pH level, bring a soil sample to your local garden center or purchase an inexpensive testing kit.What do I do after my fall planting bulbs have bloomed in the spring?Let the leaves die down naturally; do not cut them off or mow over them. After bulbs have bloomed it is important to let them rest because during this period, the bulb is gathering nutrients from the soil and growing so that it can bloom again next year.

How do I grow Tulips, Daffodils, or Crocus inside?

The term often used in the industry is “forcing.” However, not all varieties are suitable for indoor forcing, therefore, for best results, look on the packaging of the bulb or ask your local garden center which bulbs are most suitable for indoor forcing.

  • Select a shallow 6″ ceramic pot, and fill the bottom with an inch of gravel. It may be necessary to place a shard of broken pottery or large rock over the hole in the bottom of the pot.
  • Next, fill the pot with moist potting soil.
  • Place your bulbs in the soil mix, leaving just the tips exposed. A good rule of thumb is 15 crocuses, 6 tulips, 6 daffodils, or 3 hyacinths per six inch pot. After you’ve finished planting the bulbs, place the pot in a cool place. A refrigerator works great for this. After the bulbs have been cooled for about six weeks, remove the pot. Place the pot in a sunny, warm location and keep the soil moist but not wet. In a few weeks the bulbs should start growing.

How do I grow Hyacinths inside?

Hyacinth bulbs require a dormancy period in order to flower when forced.

  • Place them in a refrigerator for about six weeks before forcing. After the bulbs have been cooled sufficiently, place them into a special hyacinth vase. These can be found at your local garden center. Add water up to the neck of the vase. Place your hyacinth in the vase.
  • It is important that the water level is kept just below the bulb itself. If the water is touching the bulb it will rot.
  • After a few weeks, roots will start growing towards the water. Once the roots are well established the bulb will sprout, and shortly after that it will begin to flower.

How do I plant Amaryllis bulbs?

Potting Instructions
Place 2 inches of potting soil in the bottom of your pot. The Amaryllis bulb likes to sit with 1/3 of the bulb above the soil line so place bulb accordingly in your pot and gently pack the soil between the roots. There should be about 1 inch of soil between the bulb and the edge of the pot as they like a tight fit.

Watering Habits
Water once when you first pot up your Amaryllis bulb, then sparingly until the sprout is well out of the bulb. Then water regularly, and you will soon be rewarded with the most spectacular blooms, 4 to 6 per stalk and 2 – 3 stalks depending on the size bulb planted.

Aftercare
When blooms fade, cut off the tubular flower stem near the top of the bulb, leaving the foliage to continue growing. Water as usual and apply a water-soluble fertilizer every four weeks. Once the danger of frost is past, you may move your Amaryllis bulb outdoors to your garden where it can enjoy the summer sun. Be sure to continue your fertilizer program every four weeks as this is necessary for the next round of indoor forcing. In early autumn, bring your Amaryllis inside and allow it to completely dry out. Cut off the dry leaves and let it “rest” for 6 weeks. Now repot your Amaryllis in new soil and start the process all over again.

How do I grow Paperwhite Narcissus?

Paperwhites can be grown without going through a cold storage period. Simply fill a pot halfway with soil, set the bulb gently in the soil and pack more soil around the bulbs leaving the tips visible. Water the bulbs thoroughly, allowing time for the soil to absorb enough water so it is thoroughly soaked. Place anywhere in the house and watch them develop. Place them preferably in a window sill where there is plenty of light. If you place your Paperwhites for 3 to 4 weeks in a cooler place (45 – 55 degrees F.) directly after planting, they generally stay shorter which prevents them from falling over when in full bloom.