When to plant bulbs – Wait until fall turns cool

When to plant bulbs for spring? Bulbs show up in stores while summer is still in full swing, so should you plant them as soon as they’re available?

Answer: No, it’s best to wait. According to the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center, a little procrastination is a good thing. About six weeks before the soil freezes hard in your area is the best time to get your bulbs into the ground.

Order or buy bulbs early for best choice

when to plant bulbs

Planting hyacinths
Photo: Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

It’s a good idea shop for your bulbs or order them from catalogues or online as soon as they’re available, or you may not find the varieties you want.

It can be warm in early fall, and bulbs need to be stored in cool conditions.

That means bulbs sitting in stores may be kept too warm for too long, which causes them to deteriorate. Mail order sellers usually keep bulbs cool until shipping in good time for planting.

So get your bulbs early, and store them in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight if necessary.

When to plant bulbs – soil needs to cool down first

If the weather is still warm, wait to plant bulbs until soil temperatures drop to 55°F (12°C) or cooler. This happens when average night-time temperatures drop to around 50°F (10°C) or cooler for about two weeks.

If you plant bulbs before the soil cools down, you can have problems, especially in a wet fall. Since most flower bulbs are native to regions with cold winters and dry and hot summers, bulbs planted in warm, wet soil could succumb to rot or mildew.

If it’s still warm when you plant bulbs, they might also begin to make top growth, which you don’t want until spring.

Water your bulbs thoroughly when planting. After that, normal autumn rainfall should provide enough moisture for bulbs to grow strong roots.

For more planting information, see step-by-step bulb-planting tips.