Fall Bulbs 101: What to Plant for Beautiful Spring Color wallacegardencenter

Fall Bulbs 101: What to Plant for Beautiful Spring Color

Before you wrap up your gardening duties for the season, plant these spring-blooming bulbs!

Picture this: Another snowy Iowa winter is just wrapping up, and you’re in need of some color in your life. Thankfully, you planted bulbs in the fall, and your long-awaited flowers are starting to peak out, bringing you joy at the very beginning of the season! Well, you can make this dream a reality by planting spring-blooming bulbs this fall! Here's how to grow bulbs for beautiful spring color.

When To Plant Bulbs in Fall

Bettendorf gardeners should start planting spring-blooming bulbs in early October. This gives the bulbs enough time to establish before the ground completely freezes. If you plant bulbs too early, the blooms may put too much energy into growing, as if it’s spring already, but the chilling period in the winter is essential for beautiful blooms in spring.

muscari and tulips

Design Ideas for Your Bulb Garden

To achieve a more natural-looking garden, it’s best to plant bulbs in groups in a random order rather than individually or in a straight line. Spring-blooming bulbs also bloom at different times, depending on which ones you’re growing. Some bloom in early spring, others right in the middle, and others later in the season. You can take advantage of this by planting bulbs in succession, so you always have something in bloom. You can even plant bulbs in a container. “Lasagna layering” makes the most out of the space you have by planting layers of bulbs in one container. Plant the latest blooming bulbs at the very bottom and the earliest blooming bulbs at the top, and in the spring, you’ll have a colorful container always in bloom, showing off the stunners of the season!

"To achieve a more natural-looking garden, it’s best to plant bulbs in groups in a random order rather than individually or in a straight line."

Best Bulbs to Plant in Fall

Alliums, also known as Ornamental Onions, have spheres of spiky blooms on stems that can grow just a few inches to up to two meters tall, depending on the variety. Alliums come in shades of blue, pink, purple, and white. Crocuses aren’t very big, but they sure are mighty, being one of the first—and most vibrant!—blooms to emerge in your garden. Rather than bulbs, they actually grow from corms, which are underground stems. Crocuses come in a range of colors, like purple, white, and yellow. Daffodils, or Narcissus, are a true spring classic, bringing a pop of sunshine to the sometimes-dreary spring landscape.

Whether you opt for a typical yellow, trumpet-shaped flower variety or go with one of the other various colors or shapes daffodils come in, this spring-blooming flower is sure to add beautiful charm to your garden. Tulips, another classic, come in nearly every shape and color. With their broad petals and cup-shaped flowers, tulips may just be the exact flower you picture in your mind when you think of the word “spring.”

fall planted bulbs

Where to Plant Spring-Blooming Bulbs

Generally, bulbs prefer a sunny spot. Keep in mind that when these flowers bloom in spring, the deciduous trees in your yard won’t have all their leaves yet, meaning some areas that are shady in the summer could still work for your spring-blooming bulbs.

How to Plant Bulbs in Fall

Mixing compost into the soil where you’ll plant your bulbs is a good idea to ensure the soil is well-draining and rich in nutrients. While the ideal depth varies between bulbs, a general rule is the hole should be three times the bulb’s height in depth, and four times the height for tulips. Check the label to make sure you get the depth right or ask someone at our Bettendorf garden center. When you place the bulb in the hole, the pointed end should face up. Give the bulbs a good watering after you plant them to eliminate the formation of air pockets that could cause the bulbs to dry out. Watering after planting also encourages growth.

squirrel digging in garden

Keep Critters Out

If you’re worried about squirrels or other critters digging up your bulbs, you can place chicken wire on top of where you planted the bulbs or plant in protective bulb cages. When the bulbs start to emerge in the springtime, some animals like rabbits and deer may nibble at the buds, flowers, and foliage. Luckily, these animals tend to stay away from bulbs like Muscari (Grape Hyacinths), Scilla, and Snowdrops. You can either plant strictly critter-resistant plants or interplant them among animal favorites like tulips. Just like a kid finding candy from an Easter egg hunt the year before, fall-planted bulbs will bring so much delight to your springtime garden—you can plant them now then basically forget about them until you see their beautiful colors emerge next year!

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