Trott: Now is the time to plant bulbs for spring blooms

Are the bulb catalogs tempting you with their promise of beautiful spring flowers? Fall bulb planting is an easy way to jump-start the spring gardening season, and the best time to plant bulbs is mid-September to mid-October, so bulbs can establish roots before the soil freezes.

Visit your local garden center and pick out bulbs individually. Choose bulbs that are large, firm, and free from disease or decay. Consider the flowering time and period when choosing bulbs. Select an assortment of bulbs that will provide a long-lasting show in spring. Information about bloom time (early/middle/late) and mature height should be included with each bulb purchased.

Early bloomers include crocus, snowdrops, species tulips, dwarf iris and Siberian squill. Next are grape hyacinths, tulips, daffodils, fritillaria and common hyacinths. Late spring to early summer bloomers include alliums, bearded iris, and Dutch iris. Careful planning can lead to a colorful display from early May through late June.

Choose a well-drained location for planting to reduce the risk of the bulbs rotting. In general, plant bulbs at a depth of three to four times the length of the bulb. If planting in sandy soil, plant two inches deeper. Consider having a soil test done before planting to determine if the soil needs any amendments.

Bulbs do well in both sun and shade, but be careful of micro-climates in your garden where the soil can warm up too early in the spring, and the bulbs may emerge only to be killed back by freezing weather. Apply mulch, such as wood chips, several inches deep after planting. Mulches insulate and keep the ground from warming up too quickly in the spring.


Mulch also keeps the soil moist and prevents weeds. After planting, water the bulbs well to encourage healthy rooting. After the plants bloom in the spring, let the foliage die down naturally. The foliage is used by the bulb to provide energy for next season’s bloom. Because fading bulb foliage is often unattractive, consider planting annuals or tall ground covers near the bulbs to hide the foliage as it fades.

For more information about planting bulbs in your garden, visit:

Until next time, happy gardening!


“She turned to the sunlight

And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor:

"Winter is dead.”


― A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Robin Trott is a horticulture educator with University of Minnesota Extension. Contact her at 320-762-3890, or at

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