Add Flowering Bulbs in Your Garden This Fall

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Fall is a great time to add flowering bulbs to your garden. Flowers that bloom early in the spring, such as daffodils, tulips, crocus, and hyacinth, are planted in the fall. Horticulture Agent Leslie Rose has created a video series to help you with planting bulbs this fall.

Scroll down for a list of tips for selecting, planting, and caring for bulbs in your garden.

Using bulbs in the garden

  • Plant bulbs in drifts for more impact
  • For the most color impact, buy more bulbs of fewer varieties
  • Consider the timing of blooms
    • Plant early-, mid-, and late-blooming bulbs to extend the bloom time
    • Or, pair different bulbs that bloom at the same time for a spectacular but short color show

Selecting bulbs

  • Mail order gives you more option, but buying in the store allows you to select bulbs
  • Look for plump firm bulbs. Avoid bulbs that are soft or have started sprouting before planting
  • See the NC Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox ( for assistance with plant selection
  • See the NC Extension Gardener Handbook, Chapter 10 for a list of tulip cultivars for NC

Planting and caring for bulbs

  • Soil test to determine if the soil pH is correct; apply lime according to your results if needed to adjust the pH.
  • Amend your soil – clay is the worst planting soil for bulbs! Use an amendment such as compost or leaf mulch to add organic matter and improve drainage.
  • Generally, plant bulbs at a depth that is 2-3 times the size of the bulb
  • Incorporate slow-release fertilizer with nitrogen and phosphorus at the time of planting. In future years, you can apply each fall or apply when the shoots first emerge in spring.
  • Don’t fertilize after blooming – this leads to disease.
  • Use mulch to cover bulbs, or consider planting cool-season annuals on top of your spring-flowering bulbs.
  • Wait to cut back shoots until they begin to brown. Avoid tying up foliage as it inhibits the plant’s ability to perform photosynthesis.
  • If your bulbs are planted in grass, wait 6 weeks after flowering to mow the grass.
  • If dividing plants that grow from bulbs, do this after flowering has ended.
  • If storing bulbs, store them in a cool (60-65°F), dry place. Avoid exposure to ethylene.
  • In the fall, you want to plant your bulbs when the soil temperature is consistently 60°F or below. You can check the soil temperature at weather stations through the NC Climate Office. If you’re in Forsyth County, the closest station with soil temperature data is the N.C. A&T State University Research Farm in Greensboro.

Want to know more about planting bulbs?