Planting tulips in february

When to Plant Bulbs in Your Garden

By Steven A. Frowine, The National Gardening Association

Some bulbs need to be planted in the spring; others do best when you plant them in the fall. When to plant bulbs depends a lot on when your bulbs will bloom.

Bulbs aren’t instant-gratification plants. They need some time in the ground before they send forth stem, foliage, and flowers. But they’re not inert when they’re in the ground, of course. They’re generating root growth, which will help nourish the show as well as anchor the plants in place.

The following list provides some general guidelines about when to plant your bulbs:

  • Planting spring-blooming bulbs: Spring-blooming bulbs require a chilling period. They’re dormant when you get them and break dormancy only after the chilling. Winter conveniently supplies this necessary cold period! That’s why you put the bulbs in the ground the fall before you want them to bloom.

  • Planting summer-blooming bulbs: Most summer-bloomers, such as gladioli, calla lilies, dahlias, tuberous begonias, and crocosmias, love warm soil and toasty summer sun. If you garden in a mild climate (Zones 8 to 10), you can plant these bulbs in the early spring and expect flowers by summer. If you garden in a colder area, early spring planting isn’t feasible. Instead, wait until late spring or early summer — the same time locals plant tomatoes outside — or start bulbs early indoors in a warm spot and care for them until danger of frost has passed; then you can move the plants outdoors.

    In either case, regular doses of all-purpose fertilizer (applied according to label directions) can nudge your plants into faster, more robust growth and more and better flowers.

    To get flowers earlier and longer from these summer bloomers, visit a nursery in late spring or early summer (or place your order then with a mail-order house, either via catalog or Web site) and buy a larger, pre-started plant.

  • Planting fall-blooming bulbs: Spring gets all the attention, to be sure, but some bulbs bloom in fall, and they’re gorgeous and easy to grow — and they’re a wonderful sight to behold when the gardening year is winding down. Among this group are the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale — no relation to true crocuses — or Crocus speciosus), winter daffodil (Sternbergia), Guernsey lily (Nerine bowdenii), saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), and even a species of snowdrops (Galanthus reginae-olgae). If your local garden center doesn’t have these, look for them in specialty bulb catalogs or on gardening Web sites.

Fall-blooming bulbs have a dormant period, too: summer. Thus, you ought to plant them in late summer — as soon as they’re available — because the plants are ready to wake up. Some bulbs, like the autumn crocus, send up their leaves in spring and flower leaflessly in fall. Usually, these bulbs spring to life soon after planting — within a few weeks — though you’d best mark the spot so you don’t forget them and plant something over them. In any event, the flowers will arrive on schedule.

Can you plant bulbs in spring if you didn’t get around to it in the fall?

Yes, indeed, you can, and it’s easy because plant sellers now offer bulb plants grown in containers and ready to pop into your garden at normal bulb-blooming time.

Nursery-grown plants can take what Mother Nature dishes out in spring, if you help them acclimatize in a sheltered spot outdoors before you plant them.

When to plant bulbs in spring

To plant bulbs in spring – or rather bulb plants – wait until the crocuses and daffodils are coming up outdoors.

That’s when it’s safe to plant potted bulbs as bedding plants.

One of the good things about planting daffodils, tulips, and smaller bulbs, like grape hyacinth, crocus and scilla, in spring is that it’s easy to see where you need more spots of color.

What about bulbs you forgot to plant last fall?

If you left a few bulbs you bought last fall lying around unplanted all winter, they’re generally not worth planting now. You could try it, of course, but chances are that they’re not going to grow successfully.

How-to: Planting bulbs in spring

Windflower (Anemone blanda)
Photo: ©Y.Cunnington

The key to success is to choose potted bulbs that are still green – in bud, but not in bloom.

Good candidates include tulips,hyacinths and daffodils, plus little bulbs like Dutch iris (Iris reticulata), daffodils, windflowers (Anemone blanda), crocusesand grape hyacinths (Muscari).

When you bring them home, water the pots well, then place them in a cold but protected area that’s above freezing for a day or so to let them get used to colder temperatures before you plant them outside.

When planting bulbs in spring, slip off the plastic pot and plant the works ‘as is’ into your garden beds or into a large-sized container, just as you would with store-bought petunias or impatiens in early summer.

Once the bulbs are in the ground (or in a pot on your porch or deck), they won’t mind the cold and they can weather even the odd snow shower.

Their blooms will also last a lot longer than they would indoors. A pot of hyacinths indoors at normal room temperature will grow and bloom over a period of about two weeks. However, the same bulbs planted in the garden can last a month or more because of cooler outdoor temperatures.

Sharing is caring!

Five bulbs for March flowers

With winter at an end and temperatures just beginning to rise, March sees bulbs flowering in their droves – daffodils in particular.


Spring-flowering bulbs work equally well within border displays or container planting schemes. They’re well suited to the good drainage that pots and containers provide, which is perfect if you have a smaller garden, balcony or windowsill. Try creating a narcissus window box or a primula and anemone container display.

Discover five beautiful bulbs for March flowers, below.



The dainty, star-shaped flowers of chionodoxa bulbs, like ‘Pink Giant’, look the most impactful when planted in large drifts as you’d see with other spring-flowering bulbs like bluebells and scillas (below).



Hyacinths planted outside in autumn will be coming into bloom towards the end of March. They look especially attractive combined with other similarly coloured pulmonarias and primulas. The demure ‘Carnegie’ has snowy white blooms, while those of ‘Woodstock’ are a deep maroon-purple.



Whereas in February it’s mostly just early dwarf daffodils in flower, larger varieties like ‘Spellbinder’ and ‘Ice Follies’ will now be in bloom too. Don’t forget to enjoy them inside as well as out, by using some as scented cut flowers in a vase. Here are 10 of our favourites.



Most species and varieties of crocus will be in flower now, bringing splashes of violet and orange to the garden. For many, this’ll be their last month in flower, but keep in mind that you can lift and divide them a few weeks after flowering.


Scilla siberica

Also known as the Siberian squill, Scilla siberica look particularly magnificent when planted in large drifts below trees and shrubs, creating a sea of nodding blue flowers. You could also naturalise them in lawns and combine with the likes of crocus and daffodils.

How to extend flowering season in your garden by staggering bulb planting

Planting bulbs at different times will extend the flowering season in your garden, writes Peter Dowdall.

As the earliest of the spring flowering bulbs are beginning to emerge from the soil, don’t despair when you see packets of bulbs laying unplanted and untouched on the floor of your shed or shelf in the kitchen.

Purple allium in bloom in a lavish garden. By mid-May, alliums planted during January will steal centre stage and ensuring the colourful bulb display continues well into the summer.

Purchased with the best of intentions during last autumn, it is a bit late for planting but nothing ventured, then in this case, surely nothing gained.

Plant them now, provided the bulbs are firm to the touch. If they are in any way soft or showing signs of rot then discard them for you will only be adding fungal infections to the soil or pots in which you are planting.

Snowdrops, if they have been left in the packet until now, will most likely have dried out and will probably not be worth planting but others, like crocus and narcissus, will be sprouting in the packet, begging to be planted out. Once introduced to the soil they will come on in no time at all and though your flowers may appear later than normal, they should still produce plenty of blooms.

Then there are some bulbs, in particular tulips, which will perform better if planting them is left until late December/January.

Alliums too, can be left until now and even later. The well organised among us will have started the bulb planting last August and continued through the autumn right through this month and into February. Planting in this way, will lengthen the flowering period on the other side.

Using different varieties will certainly prolong the flowering period but so too, staggering the planting of the same varieties.

In other words, planting some of the same variety of bulb such as a daffodil over a number of weeks in the autumn will lead to them flowering over a longer period of time in the spring.

The earliest of the bulbs are in flower already and by March, the season will be in full swing with daffodils galore, followed by tulips and bluebells and once these come to an end, by mid-May, alliums planted during January will steal centre stage bringing their beautifully, perfect globe shaped blooms atop erect slender stems into your garden and ensuring that the colourful bulb display continues well into the summer.

So, you see, leaving your bulbs until now wasn’t a mistake at all, it was an inspired move to extend the flowering season in your garden.

Alliums need careful positioning to get the best effect. What I mean they need to be planted among other plants in the garden.

Where a planting of tulips or daffodils can be stunning all on their own, I feel alliums need to have an understorey. One of the main reasons for that is because their foliage, which starts off lovely and fresh as it breaks through the soil will start to wither and die before too long and if you’re not used to growing them, you may think that they are dying off due to some illness or infection.


That’s not the case, it’s natural for them to do this as the flower buds emerge. The visual effect of this can take from the beauty of the bloom, particularly if they are planted in isolation so get out there with the scissors to remove untidy brown leaves.

By planting them among other plants, a lot of this foliage is left unseen and you only get to see and enjoy the flower, standing proud above what is planted beneath.

Plant them in and around some clipped Buxus balls for a fabulous effect as the shape of the Buxus and the spherical flower of the allium compliment each other perfectly.

I plant mine, allium ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Ambassador’ with the white tulip ‘Purissima’.

The tulips are just fading when the alliums come into their own so I get to enjoy the colour combination for a short while before the alliums are all alone and it means that all I have to do during April and May is sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labour in December and January.

And while I find that I do have to replace or at least add to the tulips each year, the alliums go from strength to strength each season, needing to be divided every few years. Plant them along with the tulips in full sun with a good layer of horticultural grit beneath to ensure that moisture doesn’t collect around the base of the bulb and the roots grow nice and deep.

All this happens before I even think about the summer flowering bulbs proper, such as gladiolus, begonia, lilium etc which will all need to be planted as soon as February starts and will provide colour on into the autumn once more.

Blooming hyacinths

If you were growing hyacinths indoors for blooming over Christmas then they have most likely finished flowering by now and the flower stem and foliage will be dying back. Don’t throw them out as they will be perfect to plant outdoors for flowering in future years.

The bulbs will have been prepared before you purchased them this year for blooming in December, they will have gone through a process of cold stratification to trick the bulbs into thinking that spring is coming sooner than it is.

The bulb won’t flower next December, so store it somewhere dry and cool when all the greenery has withered and plant out in theautumn for flowering in spring 2020.

I would imagine there has been a frenzy of excitement down at Observer Towers with the new format, new year, new mood of energy and hope, but these things have quite passed me by here in the sticks. But things are stirring in the undergrowth, alas, in exactly the same format that they have boringly persisted with for the past millennium or so. The snowdrops are still green bullets piercing frozen soil, but it won’t be long before they flower, with aconites close behind them. Over the next three weeks I shall be focusing on growing bulbs for every season, and now is a good point to start, when the early spring bulbs seem a possibility rather than a promise.

Bulbs are packed with flowers. That is their magic, especially in spring when flowers are scarce. In fact, it takes well into June before flowers start to dominate over foliage, so a bulb, however small, can provide pure colour, be it the blue of scillas, the gold of daffodils or the whole rich palette of tulips. Planting bulbs is all about setting a detonator for colour, and anyone can put that explosion where they want it, and with a little experience, research and selection you can also time it for pretty much when you want it.

Let’s start at the beginning. ‘Bulb’ is a generic word to cover those plants that store their next season’s flower and the nourishment to grow it within a self-contained capsule that can survive until the following growing season without nutriment or roots. The true bulbs – such as tulips, alliums, Iris reticulata I unguicularis and daffodils – are essentially a very reduced stem made from concentric layers of fleshy scales with a dry, protective outer layer. Each scale is either the base of a leaf or the thick-scale leaves that never appear above ground. The paper outer layer is the remains of last year’s scales. Bulbs tend to be smooth and, er, bulb-like. However, some bulbs, such as lilies and fritillaries, have no protective skin and the scales are separate. There are three distinct forms of bulb. In the most common – such as tulips or alliums – the bulb shrivels and dies after flowering and is renewed from buds formed at the base of the scales at the point where they join the basal plate. Narcissi, on the other hand, do continue year on year, producing offsets rather than wholly renewing themselves. This is why you get ever-increasing drifts of vigorous daffodils, but tulips tend to increase more reluctantly and with a marked loss of vigour as it takes two or three years for most tulip bulbs to flower. The final type of bulb, such as Hippeastrum (amaryllis), has embryonic bulbs for three years ahead within each ‘parent’ bulb – so it is genuinely perennial.

Then there are corms, like the iridaceae family – which includes iris, gladioli, crocus, crocosmia, freesia and dierama – which form themselves anew each year on top of the old one, looking like an unwrapped packet of fruit pastilles, as corms are all distinctly flattened on the top and bottom. They are also wrapped in a dry, protective layer of old leaves. They make cormels – mini corms – as offsets during the growing season; these can be separated and planted out without damaging the parent corm and are a very good way of propagating the plant. Corms, such as erythroniums, develop as offsets so the colony can spread while the parent grows larger each year.

Tubers differ from bulbs and corms inasmuch that they are not the base of the stem but the swollen roots that are used for food storage – unlike most roots, which are solely a medium for conveying food to the plant. The old tubers die after flowering and new ones are formed throughout the growing season, which is why you should never lift or cut back a tuberous plant, such as a dahlia, until all growth has finished for the year. Tubers are found in some orchids, in dahlias, anemones, corydalis and in cyclamen species, as well as, of course, the potato.

Finally there are rhizomes, which are swollen underground stems, usually horizontal, always very shallow (sometimes on the surface of the soil). The best-known examples are bearded irises, Anemone nemorosa and lily of the valley, as well as ginger and couch grass.

In an ideal world, the best time to plant bulbs is when they are dormant between accumulating energy for next year and starting growth. But ideal times tend to either take us unprepared or ringed round with smugness. I have been doing this sort of thing for well over 30 years and have not mastered the ideal timing yet. The truth is that it is not too late to plant spring bulbs – but get on with it. Tulips are very comfortable with a January planting, but crocus and narcissi are likely to do better in their second season than first if planted later than November. Snowdrops and aconites are much better planted ‘in the green’, by lifting and dividing existing plants just after they have finished flowering – which in most cases will be early March. If you plant them as dry bulbs the failure rate can be horrendous.

The general rule for planting all bulbs is to go rather deeper than the obvious. Two or three times the depth of the bulb itself is the usual guide, although that means too much measuring for me. The guiding rule is that you will do less harm by being too deep than too shallow. However, do not agonise over this. Plants are always tougher than you think.

The other general rule is that bulbs need good drainage and this is vital for ones like tulips, alliums and Iris reticulata. The best way to ensure this is to mix loads of grit into the general area or container (50:50 grit to potting compost is none too gritty) they are to be planted in, or to add a good dollop of grit in every planting hole. Tedious but worth it. Some spring bulbs, such as snowdrops, fritillaries, eranthis and, in my own garden, muscari seem to thrive in quite damp conditions. But all these like a humus-rich, fairly free-draining soil.

All bulbs look good in a container, particularly terracotta pots. These can be moved into sunshine or shade as required and can also be guaranteed to provide the right kind of drainage. Pack smaller bulbs in tightly and try and find shallow alpine pans, which are the perfect container for crocus, snowdrops, fritillaries, iris, muscari and other small bulbs. Remember that most will need a summer baking so make sure they have some sunshine when dormant.

Ideal soil conditions


Daffodil well-drained

Fritillaria meleagris damp

Hyacinth well-drained

Iris reticulata/unguicularis well-drained

Muscari well-drained

Snowdrop moist shade

Tulip well-drained


Corydalis solida any good soil

Erythronium well-drained


Colchicum hungaricum well-drained

Crocus well-drained


Anemone nemorosa well-drained

What can you do with the fall bulbs you forgot to plant?

So, you bought a few packs of spring-flowering bulbs (tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, etc.) last fall, intending to plant them right away. Except it’s now winter and it’s apparently too late to plant them, what with the ground is frozen or covered with snow. It looks like you missed the boat. So, can you keep bulbs over the winter and plant them in the garden next spring?

In general, that’s not a good idea. Most of these bulbs will not bloom unless they undergo a long, cold winter. But there are several other options:

Extra-Late Planting

The most logical thing to do with fall bulbs is still to plant them outdoors, even though it’s later than normal.

If the soil is not yet frozen (that will depend on your local climate), there is no problem in planting tulip bulbs, narcissus, crocus, etc. as late as December or even January.

So what if the ground is covered with snow? Just brush the snow aside and dig a hole.

If there is snow on the ground, sometimes you can just brush it away before planting and still dig.

If the ground is frozen, but only on the surface, it’s easy enough to break through the frozen crust thus formed. Then just plant as you usually would, digging a hole three times deeper than the bulb is high (for tulips, a depth of 1 foot/30 cm is preferable) in rich, well-drained soil somewhere that receives spring sun. There is even an advantage to planting a bit late: often the surface soil refreezes quickly after planting, keeping the bulbs safe from squirrels.

No-Dig Planting

With no-dig planting, just dump packaged soil over the bulbs and let Mother Nature do the rest!

If crunching through a crust of frozen soil is not your idea of easy gardening, here’s an equally effective, but faster method.

First remove the snow, if there is any, then set the bulbs on the ground. Now, here’s the neat part: you don’t really have to dig a hole at all. Just cover them with a bag or two of garden soil or potting soil. Again, strive for a depth three times the height of the bulb. The warmth of the fresh soil will thaw the ground below, allowing the bulbs to root well… and they’ll be buried deeply enough that they won’t freeze until they’ve rooted in, which is what you want.

I’ve used the “no-dig planting” method during a January thaw and had great success.

This is the ideal method for planting bulbs where there is root competition too, such as in a wooded spot, even when the soil isn’t frozen.

Too Late, the Soil is Frozen Solid

The two previous methods only succeed when the soil is not frozen or only frozen on the surface. If the ground is frozen so deeply that a shovel can’t penetrate it, then it really is too late to plant your bulbs outside this season. But there are still other possibilities.

Forcing to the Rescue

Forcing bulbs is easy: just pot up your bulbs and keep them moist and cool.

You can also force bulbs indoors for spring bloom in pots and in fact, this is the most logical solution to apply when the ground is thoroughly frozen.

Just pot them up and water well. Seal the pot inside a plastic bag (to prevent evaporation, as you’ll want the roots to remain moist at all times) and place it in a refrigerator, a heated garage or a cold room. It takes about 13 to 14 weeks (three and a half months) of cold for the bulbs to get ready to bloom (a bit less for hyacinths), then in late March or early April, set the potted bulbs on a bright windowsill… and fill your home with blooms!

Forced bulbs just starting to bloom on a windowsill.

You will find more information about forcing in the article Forcing Bulbs without Twisting Arms.


It is also possible to store the bulbs dry in a cold spot over the winter, thus giving them the cold period they require for blooming… before you plant them. This technique is called “pre-chilling” and is commonly used to make tulips, hyacinths, narcissus, crocus, etc. flower in regions where they normally wouldn’t bloom because the winter isn’t cold enough for them (spring bulbs are cold climate plants: without a cold winter, they won’t flower). If you see tulips or hyacinths blooming at Disneyworld, on the French Riviera or in Australia, their bulbs were probably pre-chilled.

Store your bulbs cool but well-aerated.

For pre-chilling, store your bulbs bare (i.e. unplanted) in the refrigerator, a barely heated garage or in a cold room over the winter. The temperature should remain between 34˚ and 40˚F (1˚ and 5˚C) at all times. They can be stored loose in an open box or container or placed in a mesh bag, a paper bag or a nylon stocking, but never inside a plastic bag (under plastic, there is too much risk of condensation and during pre-chilling the bulbs must remain dry).

Now, where spring comes around, plant the pre-chilled bulbs outdoors as soon as possible, while the soil is still cool too cold. There is then a very good chance that not only will they bloom beautifully this first spring, but that’ll they adapt and come back to flower again and again for many springs to come… that is, if you live in a cool to cold winter area. (In warm-winter climates, such bulbs will not come back and are best treated as annuals.)

So, to resume the situation: the very best way to ensure that spring-flowering bulbs bloom beautifully not only the following spring but also perennialize well still remains planting them outdoors in the autumn according to the traditional method. But at least you now know what to do if you miss that opportunity!

It’s not too late to plant flower bulbs in your garden


Q. Is it too late to plant bulbs? I want to add some to my yard, but I have never planted them so I am not sure where they will do best.

A. No, it is not too late to plant fall bulbs as long as you plant them in the next couple of weeks. If you miss that window of opportunity, you can wait and plant spring-planted bulbs such as dahlias and gladiolas.

Bulbs are easy to grow and a fast way to add color to your yard without a lot of maintenance. I have iris and daffodil bulbs in my yard and do very little to maintain them, and they always brighten up the yard every spring with showy blooms.

When choosing bulbs, smell the box or bag and avoid any that smell sour or moldy. If choosing from a bin, look for big, firm clean bulbs that don’t show any evidence of browning or rotting (soft spots). The larger more-mature bulbs usually produce more flowers than small ones. Some of the easiest bulbs to find and plant now include anemone, allium, freesia, hyacinth, tulip and narcissus. When choosing bulbs pay attention to bloom time listed on the package so that you can create a continuous display over a longer time in the spring and early summer.

Once you have decided which bulbs you are going to plant, spend some time preparing the site. Soil preparation matters; like most plants, bulbs prefer well-drained soil. Plant in raised beds, containers or on a slope if you have dense clay or compacted soil. Amend the planting area with good compost or other organic material before planting.

Don’t just amend the hole you are planting into. University of California studies have shown that amending soil in just the hole you dig for the bulb doesn’t do much good in the long run. If you’re going to amend, do it in a larger area, like an entire garden bed.

And don’t forget the fertilizer. Bulbs need an adequate supply of phosphorus, so adding bone meal, super phosphate or fish meal at planting is important to getting healthy plants in the spring.

Another thing to consider is protection from gophers. Some bulbs, such as narcissus and daffodils, the gophers leave alone. To keep gophers from snacking on your other types of bulbs, you may need to plant them in cages made from hardwire cloth.

Planting depth and the direction the bulb is planted will determine the success of your bulb garden in the spring. If you plant them too deep or upside down, they may not come up. While all types of bulbs need to be planted with the growth points up and the roots down, it’s not always easy to tell which end is which, so rely on the package instructions for correct positioning. Planting depth varies among different types of bulbs, but the general rule is two to three times the height of the bulb.

Lastly, after planting, mostly forget about your bulbs. Moisten the soil when you plant the bulb, then let the fall and winter rains take over. If we experience dry spells in the colder months, water sparingly. Too much watering will cause bulbs to rot.

After the bulbs are done blooming, fight the urge to snip off unsightly foliage. Bulbs use this time to continue photosynthesis in order to replenish nutrients for next year’s bloom. If you can’t stand the sight of fading leaves, plant the bulbs among other perennials or annuals that will hide the foliage.

The Shasta Master Gardeners Program can be reached by phone at 242-2219 or email [email protected] The gardener office is staffed by volunteers trained by the University of California to answer gardeners’ questions using information based on scientific research.

Gardening in Jersey: Planting Fall Bulbs for Spring

There’s nothing quite like the joy of watching daffodils and tulips peek up through the soil after a long cold winter. These colorful garden staples are easy to plant and grow, but you can’t wait until spring to do it. Plan ahead to order your bulbs in September and plant them in October, and you’ll enjoy a bevy of blooms next spring.

More From Best of NJ

Choosing the Right Location

New Jersey has the perfect climate for a bulb garden. All of the Garden State lies within USDA zones 6 to 7, which provides the right combination of cold winters and warm springs to encourage bulbs to bloom year after year. Choose a spot that receives at least five to six hours of sunlight each day. If you’re not sure about this, watch the area closely for a full day to time how long your garden patch is in the sun.

Many early-bloomers even do well when planted under deciduous trees. They won’t leaf out until April, leaving them to bask in full sunlight until then. Gardeners in Cape May and the suburbs south of Philadelphia and Wilmington can also choose a spot that receives afternoon shade to keep bulbs cool.

Bulbs aren’t picky about soil fertility, but the planting area should be well drained to prevent rot. Planting on a gentle slope or under a large tree can help with drainage, and slightly sandy soils are ideal. The only no-no is planting them in a ditch or boggy area where puddles form during spring rains.

Finally, bulbs look best when they are in bloom, but once the flowers die, you are stuck with the leaves until they turn brown and die back. This process can take a couple of months, so consider planting them behind other perennials or amid a groundcover that will fill in and hide the unsightly leaves as summer progresses.

Choosing the Right Bulbs

There are no rules for designing a bulb garden, and you should feel free to follow your fancy to choose shapes and colors that you love. For a long-lasting display of color, try planting varieties that bloom at different times. A mix of early crocuses, mid-season daffodils and late-blooming tulips and alliums will provide interest from March through June. For maximum impact, you can also plant several varieties of bulbs that will all bloom at the same time. To make this work, pay close attention to the bloom time of each bulb. Many nurseries also offer tried-and-true bulb mixes. These takes the guesswork out of designing the perfect bulb garden.

Planting Fall Bulbs Step by Step

  1. Plant bulbs once the soil has cooled to about 60 degrees but before the first frost. In New Jersey, Columbus Day weekend should be about right.
  2. Determine placement by setting your bulbs out on the ground first. In general, they can be planted four to six inches apart, and they look better in groups of at least three. Try to make natural-looking drifts and curves instead of straight rows.
  3. Use a garden spade to dig a hole about twice as deep as your bulb is tall.
  4. Sprinkle some bone meal in the hole to encourage root growth, and then place your bulb root-side down in the hole. The roots are generally on the flat part of the bulb, which will leave the point facing up.
  5. Cover the bulb with soil and press firmly in place.
  6. Once you’ve planted all of your bulbs, water generously.
  7. That’s it! Your garden will emerge in the spring to put on a beautiful show.

By Jillian Risberg/For The Star-Ledger

When temperatures drop and a noticeable chill permeates the air, it’s time to

plant spring bulbs



’s fertile soil.

Plant with a little thought or creative abandon, and there’s sure to be an explosion of color come spring.

Most garden centers are full of bulb varieties right now, so you can get the best selection.

“Before frost or freeze” is generally a good rule of thumb for fall planting, says Nick Polanin, Somerset County agricultural agent for Rutgers Cooperative Extension.

Fall’s favorable conditions and warmer soil temperatures allow bulbs to establish solid root growth without the demand for water or humidity to stress out the plants, Polanin explains.

With several growing regions in the state, what does well in North Jersey may not necessarily do well further south because of prevailing winds, salt spray and the amount of clay or sand in the soil. “Look at those conditions first, (then) see what native and naturalized plants thrive, and try to mimic that in the garden so it not only looks good but it’s sustainable over the long term,” he notes.

The fall planting season is also a little longer in South Jersey, because it doesn’t get as cold.

Containers also can be planted now with spring-blooming bulbs. Plant bulbs as close together as possible in pots or in the ground, Polanin advises. Layer one deeper than the next (for a container), which will result in a full pot of flowering bulbs in the spring.

“You need a mass of bulbs to make a real statement in the spring if you’re doing it outdoors. Don’t just plant them in a line or plant 30 or 40. You may have to plant 100 to get that real eye-catching splash of color in your landscape, instead of just single tulips in a row.”

Generally, bulbs should be planted at a depth about three times the height of the bulb.

Allot 6 inches for large bulbs like tulips or daffodils and 3 inches for smaller bulbs like crocuses. Follow package directions for the correct measurements.

Keep in mind that bulbs must have sufficient drainage. If the ground is compacted, work the planting area thoroughly, not just the bulb cavity.

Use a bit of bone meal and dried blood — a fertilizer available in most garden centers — if squirrels, skunks or other animals are problematic, suggests Sue Fritsch, store manager of Metropolitan Plant Exchange in Fort Lee.

“To spruce up your beds for next year, you could put some top soil, peat moss, lime and, depending on what your soil acidities are, compost, because they’re going to make the soil richer when spring comes, especially if it’s been depleted,” she says.

Louis Bauer, director of horticulture at Greenwood Gardens in Short Hills, recommends adding a little mulch, like straw or pine needles — to keep the ground warm and delay freezing.

For variety and brilliance, Bauer suggests small bulbs such as snowdrops, scilla and daffodils.

Gardeners are also rediscovering old-fashioned bulbs, he says, including three species of gladiolas hardy enough to survive in Central Jersey: the rare heirloom ‘Carolina primrose,’ a delicate yellow, hybrid ‘Boone,’ a vivid peach and ‘Byzantia,’ a deep magenta.

The weather may have turned colder, but that doesn’t mean disregarding your other garden-dwelling plants; certain ones can be acclimated to the indoors.

“The kinds of plants that people put out in containers have broadened a great deal,”
Bauer says. “It’s not just impatiens and geraniums and petunias anymore — the nurseries are selling dracaenas and philodendron that can be houseplants in the winter and container plants in the summer. Those should come in.”

So prepare your garden for winter and immerse yourself in fall planting — dress a garden patch or decorate a meadow in lush color and trust that the sweet scented flowers will be worth it all later.

Bulb sources

Home Depot and Lowe’s stores or 800-213-0076 or 800-503-9624 or (800)689-2852

Seasonal Planting Guide for NJ Homeowners

When selecting plants and flowers for your Bergen County landscape, it’s important to check seasonal planting guide requirements before you purchase plants.

For plants to thrive, they need the right type of soil, the right location, sufficient light and water and proper care and maintenance.

Planting Zones

The USDA divides the United States into hardiness planting zones. The latest USDA plant hardiness map considers climate and weather conditions, average daily temperatures, and average days of sunlight, rainfall and snow and ice. It also takes into consideration the closeness to a large body of water, elevation and the urban heat effect.

The Northwest corner of Bergen County falls in hardiness Zone 6a, while the Eastern part of the county falls in Zone 6b. Planting and growing in these zones usually runs from mid-March (after the last frost) through mid-November.

When selecting landscape and garden plants, look for plants that are zoned in the seasonal planting guide for Zone 6.

How Are Annuals and Perennials Different?


For many gardeners, annuals are a mainstay for any garden. Early-blooming spring annuals are a quick way to fill empty spots in flower beds, container gardens and decorative pots.

A mix of annual plants can offer a stunning array of vibrant colors in your landscape during spring, summer and fall. Although you will have to replant them each season, annuals will create a beautiful landscape when they bloom.


Perennials are plants and flowers that come back year after year. Since you don’t have to replant them, they are perfect for garden beds, as accents to shrubs and trees, combined with annuals and bulbs and in containers and window boxes.

Perennials often increase in size each year, so they can be divided and added to other seasonal plants and landscape areas.

Planting Guide for Various Seasons

In early spring, everything in your landscape begins to grow at a faster rate. Spring sunshine and warm weather bring new buds to flowers and new leaves to plants and trees.

Spring is a major growth season and the perfect time to fill your garden beds with bulbs, annuals, and perennials that will bloom during the summer, fall, and even winter seasons.

Here are some seasonal planting guide tips for the spring season.


  • African Marigolds – African marigolds produce 3-inch puffball blooms in orange, yellow and cream. Regular varieties grow up to three feet tall, but dwarf varieties only grow to one foot tall. The mounded dark green foliage beneath the blooms is always clean, fresh, and tidy.
  • Begonias – Begonias are easy to grow spring seasonal plants and do well in a variety of landscape conditions. To keep the blooms colorful, give begonias light shade, rich, well-drained soil, ample water and plenty of fertilizer.

  • Bush Morning Glory – Bush morning glory is the perfect plant for flower beds and window boxes. This plant produces trumpet-shaped flowers in jewel-tone shades of blue, pink and white. It grows close to the ground, about two feet tall, so it’s a good border plant.
  • Pansy – Pansies are one of the best annuals to plant in spring for early-season containers and window boxes. They come in a variety of vibrant colors that will add instant eye-catching appeal to your landscape.

Cool-Season Annuals

Cool-season annuals, like begonias, primrose, pansies and calendula, grow best in the mild temperatures and cool soils of spring and fall.

When the weather turns hot, cool-season annuals set seed and deteriorate, but most will survive fairly heavy frost. In Bergen County, cool-season annuals should be planted in early spring.

To develop vigorous blooms, roots and foliage must develop during cool weather.

Warm-Season Annuals

Warm-season annuals, like impatiens, marigolds and zinnias, grow and flower best in the warm months of late spring, summer and early fall.

If warm-season annuals are planted too early in the spring, they can die in a late frost. In cold-winter climates like Northern New Jersey, warm-season annuals should be planted after the danger of all frost has passed.

Summer-Flowering Bulbs

Summer-blooming bulbs, like callas, dahlias, gladiolas, liatris and lilies, should be planted in early spring for vibrant summer flowers.

All of these summer-blooming bulbs will provide a brilliant array of colors in your landscape like vivid shades of yellow, orange, red, pink, lavender and purple.

Most of these flower varieties grow from 1-foot to 7-feet tall, so they provide wonderful height against shorter plants.

Summer-Blooming Vines

For a great splash of summer color in your Bergen County landscape, plant summer-blooming vines against retainer walls, fences and trellises.

Trumpet vines will add a burst of vivid red, orange or yellow trumpet-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds.

Hydrangea vines will provide a softer look with flowers that range from white to pink.

For more options for summer-blooming vines, check your seasonal planting guide for planting zone 6 in Bergen County.

Bare-Root and Container Roses

In Northern NJ, bare-root roses should be planted in the spring, as soon as it’s warm enough to work the soil.

Before planting, soak the roots in a bucket of water for 8 to 12 hours to re-hydrate them, then immerse the entire plant to re-hydrate the canes.

After soaking, trim off any damaged or diseased roots before planting. Potted roses are the easiest to plant because you have a plant that is already growing. Potted roses can be planted in the spring, right after you buy them.

Needle-Leafed Evergreens

If you want to add needle-leafed evergreens to your landscape, plant them in late spring.

Needle-leafed evergreens, like pines, firs, cypress and spruce, will add wonderful texture to your landscape, especially during fall and winter seasons when your landscape can look a little barren.

Talk to your landscape professional about seasonal planting guide tips for adding needle-leafed evergreen to your yard.

Summer Season (June – August)

Fall-Blooming Perennials

For color in the fall, you need to plant fall-blooming perennials, like asters, coneflowers, chrysanthemums and sedums in the summer.

Fall-blooming perennials offer brilliant jewel tone colors like gold, orange, red and deep purple. They make great plants for garden beds, containers and walkway, driveway and patio borders.

Ornamental Grasses

If you’re looking for exotic textures and beautiful, green foliage, ornamental grasses can add them to your landscape year-round.

Summer is a good time to plant most varieties, so they will provide fall and winter greenery when many colorful annuals and perennials die back.

Baby bamboo, cattails, golden pheasant’s tail and mondo grass are great for Bergen County landscapes.

Ground Covers

Groundcovers are dependable,strong plants that carpet the ground with minimal fuss. They provide quick-fix solutions for many landscape problems.

Groundcovers come with interesting textures and flowers that thrive in shade or sun. Brass buttons have feathery, bronze foliage and button-like yellow-green blooms in early summer.

Hens-and-chicks, an old-fashioned favorite, grows well in tight spaces and sunny areas, and it’s easy to grow with little maintenance.

Drought-Tolerant Plants

Although Northern New Jersey gets ample rainfall most of the year, many homeowners are interested in native and drought-tolerant plants for their landscapes.

Butterfly milkweed, crimson-eyed rose mallow, lance-leaved coreopsis, New England aster and New York ironweed are all drought-tolerant plant varieties that thrive in Bergen County landscapes.

The seasonal planting guide for Zone 6 lists these native varieties, as well as others, for the area.

Fall Season (September – November)

Fall Perennials

The seasonal planting guide for Northern NJ offers a wide variety of colorful plants that bloom in the fall and thrive in Bergen County landscapes.

Asters, sun-loving fall flowers, come in brilliant shades of white, purple, pink and blue and are frequently visited by beautiful Monarch butterflies.

Black-eyed-Susans and blanket flowers are easy to grow and bloom throughout the fall season. Russian Sage provides a soft, colorful contrast to warm autumn colors with airy blue flowers and silvery foliage.

Fall-Blooming Bulbs

There are many fall-blooming bulbs that you can plant either in the spring or early fall. Crocus blooms in autumn with large lavender-pink crocus-like flowers, and the leaves appear later in the spring.

Emberglow has fiery reddish-orange funnel-shaped flowers with a golden throat that’s a favorite for hummingbirds. Star-of-Bethlehem produces lovely clusters of starry white flowers. On cloudy days and at night, the blooms close, then open again the next morning in the sun.

Winter and Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Winter and spring-flowering bulbs like alliums, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips should be planted in the fall before the weather gets too cold.

These varieties provide brilliant colors like yellow, orange, red, pink, blue and purple that will liven up any winter or spring landscape.

They are also rabbit and deer resistant, a seasonal planting guide benefit for many Bergen County homeowners.

Deer Resistant Plants

As a Bergen County homeowner, your landscape may be vulnerable to deer grazing on tender plants.

Pieris, a shade-loving evergreen, has broad green leaves and clusters of drooping blooms in white, pink or rose in the spring. Toad lilies bloom in late summer and early fall with small lavender blooms.

Astilbe, columbine and lungwart come in an array of vivid colors. All of these varieties are plants that deer avoid.

Winter Season (December – February)

Cold Northern New Jersey winters make it difficult to do much planting, but there are some hardy winter plants that bloom throughout the winter season when planted in the fall.

During the winter, your landscape will show less color and more interesting textures displayed by tree bark, evergreen leaves, brightly colored berries and subtle blooms.

The seasonal planting guide for winter is limited, but here are some winter-blooming beauties:

  • Christmas Rose – If you’re looking for a special plant that will add winter beauty, plant Christmas rose in shady spots along your front walkway to welcome holiday guests. This winter plant blooms from December through March with sturdy stems gracefully rise above snowfalls. Plant this perennial in the spring for winter blooms.
  • Evergreen Camellias – Like an unexpected gift, some varieties of evergreen camellias will surprise you with a showy display of rose-like blossoms in the middle of January. Plants can grow up to 10 feet tall and many live from 50 to 100 years. Talk to a Bergen County landscape company, like Borst Landscape & Design, about varieties of winter-blooming camellias.
  • Flowering Quince – Flowering quince is a great winter plant that produces a show of reddish colored blossoms during the winter. Plants are virtually indestructible and tolerate extreme winter temperatures and neglect. This deciduous thorny shrub grows up to eight feet wide, so it creates a great natural fencing or landscape barrier. Flowering Quince should be planted in the spring or fall for winter blooms.
  • Snowdrop – When most other plants go dormant or hide from winter’s chill, snowdrop produces elegant white blooms in late winter. Snowdrop is lovely in garden beds, window boxes, containers or under taller shrubs. Bulbs should be planted in the fall for winter blooms.
  • Winterberry – Winterberry is a deciduous version of holly. These winter plants lose their leaves in late fall, then display sprays of bright red berries against bare stalks. Winterberry should be planted in the spring or fall for winter blooms.

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