University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Plant Spring Bulbs This Fall

August 30, 2001

Spring flowering bulbs typically provide the first colorful blooms after the snow of winter. Most species are dependable and can flower season after season. Some also make excellent choices for naturalization of the backyard. Fall is the time for planting.

Since bulbs are expected to keep returning for several years, it is important to prepare planting sites properly. Good soil drainage is probably the single most important consideration. Add compost, peat, rotted manure, or other organic matter to improve heavy clay soils. Work it into the upper 8 inches of soil.

Adequate soil fertility is also important. Use a complete commercial fertilizer, such as 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 at a rate of about one pound per 100 square feet of surface area. Work this thoroughly into the upper 4 to 6 inches of soil. Bulbs actually have formed their flower buds prior to planting, but fertilization will help increase production starting the second season.

There are many ways to use bulbs in the landscape. Mass plantings in solid beds, groups clustered in perennial beds or rock gardens, borders along walks or patios, and foundation plantings are all good choices. Proper planning can provide color for most of the spring. Snowdrops (Galanthus) and winter aconites (Eranthis) start off the season in February or early March followed by crocuses, scillas, and grape hyacinth (muscari). Narcissus, daffodils, and tulips all have many cultivars that provide variation in bloom time over much of the spring.

Plant bulbs early in fall so roots have time to get started. As a general rule, the depth of soil above the bulb should be about twice the diameter of the bulb. Allow adequate space for bulbs to grow, especially in naturalizing plantings. Planting details usually come with bulbs. If conditions are dry, water the new plantings.

Garden centers have a good selection and fall is the time for planting!

For more information, visit our Bulbs & More website.


Click here for the full article index