September through October is a great time to plant. Everything from deciduous trees and evergreens to shrubs and perennials get a head start on root growth when planted in the fall. While the hole is dug and the soil is loose, adding bulbs in with fall plantings is a guarantee of first signs of spring color popping up in the winter landscape.

Breaking Ground

Bulbs can be planted once nighttime temps drop into the low 50s and up until the ground freezes. These food storage units for flower buds seek sunshine in well-drained soil. They provide the best display when planted in clusters or groups. Choose from a large variety of bulbs that bloom from late winter to very late spring.

As a general rule, plant bulbs at a depth of three times the height of the bulb and 3” apart. Tulips are the exception, needing to be planted 10” deep. Instead of using a cylindrical tool for planting singular bulbs, our perennial guru Joannie recommends making a ditch or larger hole with a shovel to break up the soil, allowing space for the roots to grow. She even suggests putting bulbs in the same hole dug for the perennials being planted. “Do not plant in a block of clay. They may survive but they will not thrive.” Adding a mix of leaf mulch or Growing Place Garden Compost to the soil when planting bulbs will help amend more clay-like soil.

Bulbs and Their BFFs

Narcissus, or daffodils, have large yellow or white flowers on sturdy stems. Along with grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) and Allium, daffodils are resistant to pests. We recommend planting them all together for varied color, height and texture in the spring garden. Tulip bulbs can be planted near these companion bulbs as a deterrent to animals from digging them up.

You can plant a variety of bulbs together and you can intersperse bulbs with other perennials, giving color that lasts through the seasons. For example, a few of our fall favorite perennials are ornamental grasses and sedums. When planted near daylilies and perennial geraniums, the fall colors of the grasses and sedums illuminate after the blooms of the daylilies and geraniums are spent. Planting bulbs with these companion plants extends interest in the garden from spring through fall.

In addition, plant very early spring bulbs like Crocus and Galanthus with spring-flowering perennials. Why? Bulb foliage should not be cut back until it is limp and yellow when the plant’s energy has been restored to the bulb. Spring perennial foliage covers the spent bulb foliage during this time. Great spring perennial companion plants for bulbs are Brunnera, Bleeding Hearts, and Hellebores.

If you think of your yard as shaded, is it due to deciduous trees? Very early spring bulbs can be planted there because they will bloom before deciduous tree leaves bud out. Plant among Hosta and Astilbe to hide the bulb foliage after blooms are spent and energy is restored to the bulb for next year’s first signs of spring.