5 Best Bulbs for Fall Planting

Find out the best bulbs for fall planting. Five favorites to plant in the fall months for spring and summer blooms. Includes tips and advice from a DIY gardener.

allium globemaster in garden with rock border

In order to enjoy late spring and early summer flowers in your garden, you have to do a little work in the fall, and plant some bulbs. Even a beginner gardener can do this easy task. All you need is a shovel (or a bulb planter,) flower bulbs, and a lovely autumn afternoon. Here are some tips for planting bulbs in the fall.

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Fall Planting Tips

  • If you are planting a variety of bulbs, make sure to keep the labels with the bulbs so you know what you are planting. Bulbs vary by size and shape, but they are very easy to mix up. Take it from someone who got her bulbs mixed up…keep them in order!
  • Plant high-quality bulbs in soil with good drainage. Most bulbs bloom in early to mid-spring, before the foliage appears on the trees. This allows you to plant almost anywhere, even areas that are shaded in summer.
  • Plant your larger bulbs between 8 and 10 inches deep. Smaller bulbs need to be about 5 inches deep. Make sure to set the bulb down into the hole with the pointy side up.
  • Cluster several bulbs together when planting. The flowers will come up as little groups, and make more of a statement.

When should I plant fall bulbs?

In zones 1 – 7, the best time to plant your bulbs is when the temperature dips to about 50 degrees F at night. Depending on your zone, those chilly nights begin in late September, or early October. By waiting until the temperature drops, you will guarantee that the ground is cool and ready. In zones 8 – 11, bulbs will need to be pre-chilled in a refrigerator for about 6 weeks before planting. You can also purchase pre-chilled bulbs. Plant during the coolest time of year.

Where can I buy spring-flowering bulbs?

Bulbs begin to appear in garden centers in late summer. The most popular varieties can be easily found at places like Lowe’s or Home Depot. They can also be purchased online. A simple Google search will result in many sites that sell just about any bulb you want. Two of my favorites are Wayside Gardens and White Flower Farm. Bulbs come with instructions that provide planting depth, along with climate and moisture requirements.

Best Bulbs for Fall Planting: Five Favorites

Anemone blanda (common name Windflower)

With blooms that resemble daisies, these delicate flowers grow up to six inches tall and don’t require much water. Anemones make great ground cover, and will naturalize beautifully in good garden soil. Bulb depth is only about two inches, so there isn’t much digging, which is always a good thing!

Anemone blanda bulbs produce the loveliest periwinkle blooms with yellow centers, and thrive in zones 5 to 10. They are deer resistant, and enjoy partial shade.

best bulbs for fall planting anemone 2019

Allium ‘Globemaster’

I am obsessed with allium right now. Believe it or not, allium is a member of the same genus that includes garlic, onions, and chives. Some varieties grow up to 3 feet tall. The ‘Globemaster’ bloom is a soft lilac color, and spans about five inches wide. Plant both spring and summer varieties of allium in full sun for months of color in your garden. If you have a problem with deer, this is the plant for you. They are deer-tolerant, make a lovely cut flower, and even attract some birds.

My neighbor has the most amazing allium, so last fall I ordered 8 bulbs, and got them in the ground just in time. A few years ago, at the house on Sutton Place, I had beautiful blooms that you can see {HERE.}

Update 2022

This past spring, the first in our new home, I didn’t really know what to expect in regards to the landscaping. I was hoping blooms would appear from bulbs planted by the previous owners, but sadly that wasn’t the case. So we just planted Allium ‘Millenium’ which presents a smaller bloom than ‘Globemaster’. I have seen them in and around our neighborhood, and they are so pretty. I’ll update this post in 2023 after the new Allium blooms!

best bulbs for fall planting allium 2019

Tulip ‘Pink Impression’

Planting tulip bulbs has been an American autumn tradition for decades. Picking a favorite tulip is not the easiest thing to do. There are SO many to choose from. One of the prettiest by far is the Pink Impression tulip. It was introduced in the late 1970’s, so it’s been around for a while. If left uncut, it is a true perennial. However, that’s hard to do because the beautiful, big blooms sit atop strong, tall stems…and they make lovely cut flowers. This tulip is easy to grow in well-drained soil, and blooms in mid-spring.

best bulbs for fall planting tulip pink impression 2019

Muscari armeniacum (common name Grape Hyacinth)

Grape Hyacinths are easy to care for bulbs that multiply and spread easily. They have a lovely scent and bloom in early spring. Growing from 6 to 12 inches tall, they make a great border and are the perfect height to be planted in front of tulips or alliums. Grape hyacinths have been known to show up through an early-spring layer of snow.

best bulbs for fall planting grape hyacinth 2019

Trumpet Daffodil

Trumpet, or large-cup daffodils are reliable bloomers and multiply each year. One of the reasons they spread so nicely is because deer and rabbits don’t like them. The blooms are left to fade, and as they die down, the bulbs are re-energized for a colorful display next spring. The “cup” in the middle, or trumpet, is longer than the actual petal. This show-stopping flower has one bloom per stem.

best bulbs for fall planting daffodils 2019

Other Colorful Spring Flowering Bulbs

  • Snowdrops
  • Bearded Iris
  • Gladiolus
  • Crocus
  • Fritillaria
  • Lily
  • Freesia

The Best Hardy Perennials for your garden!

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24 Comments

  1. I live in the mid Atlantic region.
    Three years ago I ordered bulbs from Colorblends and can not tell you how beautiful both the tulips and daffodils are. They are a wholesaler but they do sell retail as long as you buy $60 worth of bulbs.
    I mainly planted them so as I could take some bouquets to a couple local nursing homes for people who don’t get many visitors. These flowers are sturdy and beautiful.
    You can tell by just looking at the bulbs how nice they are. This year I had several friends that wanted some bulbs so I took their orders and added to mine so we could get even a better price because the more you order of one kind the cheaper they are priced. Highly recommend this company. They will ship when it is time for planting in your zone or if you have a particular week you want them shipped during your zone’s planting period they will accommodate you.
    I do NOT have a green thumb but these bulbs make me look like I do.
    The hardest part is picking out what you want.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your source…I will definitely check them out!

    2. I plant all my Tulips in large planters which are situated close to my house a d so far the deer have left them alone.This also makes for easier planting and I can cover the pots with chicken wire to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out. I make sure to order early to get the best choice and make sure to order plenty of white and yellow to make my favorite arrangements inside.

  2. I do 2 things extra when planting bulbs. I shake cayenne pepper all over the bulbs then place them in mesh bags with the top open and the bulb tips down. This has helped keep underground critters from eating them. I have not bothered doing this with grape hyacinths. This fall I will be planting in a new raised bed that my husband built for my birthday. Hopefully this method will work again. Like others, I think I simply must have a couple giant allium! Thanks Ann!

  3. This brightened my day! Our high yesterday was either 99 or 100. August has to be my least favorite month her in Arkansas because I am always sooooo tired of summer by now. Thinking about fall and planting bulbs has already made me feel cooler!

  4. Barbara Loyd says:

    Thanks for the reminder. We need to chill bulbs for our Texas home. And, deer-proof plants are great suggestions. However, I have had our daffodils eaten by the deer. Will try the larger trumpet daffies this year.

  5. Thank you for this ..perfect time to get ready to plant. It will be into late Oct before it’s cool enough to plant where I live in California! Ann, your photographs are always so beautiful!. You definitely inspire me!
    June

  6. Mary Kaiser says:

    I planted Allium bulbs last year and they were so beautiful when they bloomed this year. When the color faded I went out with a piece of cardboard and some spray paint and painted the heads that were no longer any color, but were still standing tall and proud. I am happy to say that they looked beautiful. I spray painted the heads of them red, white and blue. My neighbor thought that I bought them and that they were metal. I got so much more enjoyment from them for a long time. The paint did not come off and they lasted for a long time before the stems finally dried out and a wind blew the stalks over. I wanted you to know about this so you could do the same in your garden once the purple color goes out of them. I really enjoy your blog and I wish I had taken pictures of them after I spray painted them, but you will want to try this with yours next year!

    1. Christine says:

      I love allium. Two years ago I planted Globemaster and they came up beautifully the following spring. This year I got one set of leaves out of the five bulbs and no flowers. So disappointed! Maybe moles or chipmunks got to them. The short white ones I planted in another area have done well. Good luck!

  7. I love all of these and have many of them!!! I read your blog on a regular basis, and your gardening posts are my favorite. New in my garden this year was allium, and I plan to plant more this fall. Globemaster is sadly expensive, so I only add one of him per year. “Brent and Becky’s” has a HUGE selection of bulbs, and I am waiting on my fall order so I can get them in the ground.

  8. I would love to plant bulbs, never done it before, but what do you do with them once the flowers are no longer blooming? Do you dig them up?
    Thank you!

    1. Ann Drake says:

      It depends on the bulb. After the blooms are spent, it’s important to let all the leaves and stems die down because this regenerates the bulbs. Most bulbs actually multiply and bloom for many years.

  9. Cecilia from Georgia says:

    It is still so hot here in SW Georgia that I haven’t even thought about bulbs! However, now that you have reminded me that it is that time of year, I will get some more tulips and add to my flower bed. We have critters too that would dig them up but the stray dog that showed up is patrolling nicely to keep down on the little pests. Guess he feels he needs to earn his keep!! Thanks for the refreshing post!

  10. I would love to have all these beautiful flowers, in my yard,but we have so many deer and squirrels here that love them too ! You have to plant in pots and keep them in a screened in area.Who would think this would be such a problem in Florida ! Happy planting to you Ann.

  11. Thank you for sharing your experience with planting bulbs. I love them but they are difficult to plant and get good results here in South Carolina. Jean

  12. Lucia Donahower says:

    Hi Ann
    These spring flowers are so beautiful! Thank you for your tip on planting them. I live in Northern California and have to put the bulbs in the fridge for a bit before I plant them.
    Have a great week
    Lucy

  13. I love the Windfowers..they are a delicate looking flower…so pretty..just to bad they bloom for a short time.

  14. Pat Stoughton says:

    Alas! Every time I plant bulbs, out come the rabbits and squirrels and they dig up almost all of them. So I have to pass on these but I do love planting bulbs.

    1. Ann Drake says:

      I hear you…I have squirrels too. I am just hoping for the best!

  15. I love snow drops – they will poke their heads up through the snow as early as February here on Long Island, NY. I’ve also have great success with species crocus. They come in shades of purple to soft lilac. They bloom sequentially with the lighter ones early and the darker ones a few weeks later. The species crocus spread by seed! I just love my early harbingers of Spring- they never fail to make me smile! Happy planting Ann!

  16. Tracey Hokanson says:

    Thank you so much for these suggestions, I love planting bulbs but am sometimes disappointed when they come up and aren’t what I expected, so I love having specific names of cultivars to go looking for!

  17. Great inspiration and there is noting like a beautiful daffodils to let you know spring has sprung

  18. Mary from Virginia says:

    I’d love to see where you are planting these beautiful bulbs. Do you amend your soil with anything before planting?

    Thank you so much for the great ideas!