After a long, dreary winter, the first signs of spring bring a smile to my face. Just as new leaves form on tree branches, color emerges below. To enjoy this beautiful scene in your own yard, you must do a bit of planning- these gorgeous spring bulbs require fall planting. But don’t worry, whether you’re reading this in September or May, it’s never the wrong time to dream up a spring bulb garden! I put together a quick list of some of my favorite bulbs to plant this fall so you can get inspired any time.
Look through this list of favorites, order some bulbs, and don’t stress too much about designing the perfect flower bed. They’ll be beautiful no matter what, I promise. Consider adding them to your cut flower garden to simply use them in beautiful bouquets. Either way, just enjoy the peaceful time planting bulbs this fall and pat yourself on the back when they pop up in the spring, filling your view with the joys of colorful blooms after winter has passed.
Planting bulbs in the fall
Planting bulbs in the fall is quite easy and most definitely worth the effort for the joyous, colorful flowers come spring. It’s just so rewarding to get something in the ground after all that fall garden cleanup, as much as we love those fall planters. Plant your spring bulbs any time in the fall until the ground freezes. Just be sure to keep an eye on your forecast for frost.
If planting bulbs this fall seems daunting, check out our post all about how to plant spring bulbs for guidance. You can also look to your local plant nursery for more information specific to your growing zone. I’ll leave you with one good rule of thumb before we get into the list- plant bulbs about twice as deep as the size of the bulb itself. Now on to our list of favorite bulbs to plant in fall!
Tulip bulbs to plant in fall
Of course we had to start with tulips! Fields of tulips are simply breathtaking to see. This beautiful flower will exude elegance in your garden or flower bed. They grow best in zones three through eight in full sun or partial shade. Tulips must be stored in a dry place with the temperature between 40 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit until it’s time to plant them. While you may have a picture in your head of what a typical tulip looks like, there is so much variety to be discovered.
On that note, here area a few of my favorite unique tulip varieties. These are an excellent choice of bulbs to plant this fall to experience their beauty in person next spring.
La Belle Epoque tulips
I had to include these for their wild, though well earned popularity. Belle Epoque tulips have a unique color that’s honestly hard to describe, and photos just can’t seem to do them justice. Their color gradually morphs from vibrant peachy-pink hues to more antique shades of apricot and pale pink as they bloom. This is one you simply have to see in person. They sell out very fast, so plan to purchases these as early as you can. Personally, I bought mine from Eden Brothers and they were very high quality.
Verona Sunrise Tulips
Another Peony-like tulip, these “Verona Sunrise” tulips are a sight to behold. The product description is not exaggerating when it states that their blooms “radiate warmth.” I grew these last year, and there is no better way to describe their color. Another great quality of these tulips is that the color can vary greatly between each individual flower, ranging from pale yellow to deep peachy pink tones, all the way to a gorgeous magenta. This creates beautiful depth in bouquets and means that you can plant an entire flower bed with these without it looking like one tulip variety. They are also great at naturalizing, so you can enjoy them year after year!
Delightful daffodils require full sun to partial shade and happen to be deer resistant. They bloom in the early spring and grow best in zones three through 10. These bright yellow, trumpet-shaped flowers also can be found in yellow and white colors. The American Daffodil Society classifies daffodils by their flower shape and there are officially 13 different classifications.
Above is a picture of what you might picture when you think of daffodils, the classic yellow trumpet daffodil. Me too, however there are so many more options out there. See below for a few of my favorites.
Daffodils with multiple flowers per stem
Though most daffodils produce one individual flower per stem, there are varieties that break this mold. Some have a couple big flowers per stem or even up to five little flowers on a single stem. One such variety is the “Sir Winston Churchill,” one of my favorite daffodils out there, pictured below. There’s something about the delicate, dense layers of tiny petals that I find so much more striking than a singular, bright yellow flower. There’s stunning subtlety and softness to them that makes them perfect for a countertop flower arrangement on their own or with other more colorful flowers.
Peach and white daffodils
Yellow and white are the most common colors that come to mind when thinking about daffodils, but there’s one more color that gets included in daffodil petals. Though often overlooked, varieties with peach accents within their inner petals exist and are quite stunning. The ones pictured below are called “replete” sold by Eden Brothers, but there’s a surprising level of diversity with many more varieties featuring peachy pink centers sold online.
With their ruffled petals and bold colors, ranunculus need full sun and thrive in zones eight through ten as perennials. They should be planted at least four inches apart and around two inches deep. The colors are stunning, from pure white to dreamy cream to pale yellow, golden yellow, apricot, orange, red, pink, and burgundy. For more information on how to plant these spring beauties, and some of my favorite varieties, check out our post all about ranunculus.
Hyacinths blossom in tiny clusters of spiky flowers. The flower stalk of a hyacinth can reach up to a foot tall and bloom in early to mid spring. They give off a lovely fragrance and do best in sunny spots. There are three types of hyacinths: single, double, and multiflora. Look for hyacinths in blue, pink, purple, yellow, apricot, red, and white.
Note: Hyacinths do contain oxalic acid, which makes them deer and rodent resistant, but also makes them toxic to dogs, cats, and horses, so keep that in mind!
Muscari (grape hyacinth)
Muscari, also known as grape hyacinth, is not a true hyacinth at all (deceiving name, I know). These cute, tiny flowers are a perfect bulb to plant in fall right at the front of your spring bulbs as they will not block your view of any of the blooms planted behind. Plant these to create a beautiful border in your flower beds come early spring.
There are more than 250 iris species and one of the neat features of this flower is that irises tend to attract butterflies. They can be grown in hardiness zones three through nine and come in an array of colors. Many varieties feature multiple colors on each flower, creating beautiful complexity and depth. They do best in full or partial sun and can tolerate soggy soil. The most popular irises are the tall bearded irises that can sprout up to two to three feet tall. Irises also can be crested and have hairs that form a comb or ridge. I think just about all irises have a special kind of beauty about them. Just take a look at the sunset hues featured on these, for example.
Leucojum (Summer Snowflake)
Leucojum, also known as summer snowflake, features flowers and foliage similar in appearance to snowdrops. It will bloom right after daffodils and can reach heights twice as tall of a daffodil. The bell-shaped flowers in pure white are accented with lime green leaves and hang in clusters in an arching system. These bulbs will grow and bloom in both sun and partial shade in growing zones 4 through 8.
Lovely lilies, a classic symbol of spring, come in a wide variety of colors. They require full sun to partial shade depending on the variety. Lilies bloom anywhere from early summer to fall and grow best in zones four to nine. Popular choices for lilies include Easter lilies, tiger lilies, and stargazer lilies. Here’s a helpful article if you want to do a deep dive into different lily varieties. I just love any lily that has these beautiful speckles on its petals, as this is a unique quality not seen in many other flowers.
Helpful tip: Many gardeners love daylilies, but this lily variety actually isn’t a true lily. One of the key differences here is that true lilies grow from bulbs while daylilies grow from tuberous roots.
A cottage garden classic, crocuses are adorable little cup-shaped flowers that are often the first flowers to emerge in early spring. They require full sun to partial shades and grow best in zones 3 through 8. Crocuses sprout up to four to six inches high and serve as a food source for early emerging pollinators.
Though most commonly yellow, white, or purple, there is also an orange crocus, and it is simply stunning. If any of you buy and plant these “orange monarch” crocuses, please send me pictures!
Crocus corms should be planted in the fall six to eight weeks before the first hard frost in your area. There’s one exception- the fall crocus. This unique variety actually blooms in the fall and should be planted late summer. This is actually the plant that produces saffron, the world’s most expensive spice. It sounds very special and elusive, right? But guess what- you can grow them at home too! Here’s a picture of mine that I grew in containers. I’ll work on a post for this soon.
Allium bulbs to plant in fall
Like little floral pom poms, alliums bring a splash of color and diversity to your garden bed. They require full sun to partial shade and are deer resistant. They bloom in the late spring into early summer and perform best in zones three to eight. They’re actually related to culinary onions and come in purples, blues, yellows, pinks, and white. Bees and other pollinators also love this particular flower. Looking for more information on how to grow these fun flowers? We have a post all about alliums, so check it out!
Anemones are sometimes referred to as “windflowers” for the way they dance about in the breeze. However, they are best known for their dark centers that create beautiful contrast in floral arrangements, making them a favorite for bridal bouquets. These flowers come in some very unique colors and grow best in zones three through eight depending upon the variety. Here are a couple of my favorite that show just how different their colors can be.
Dark red anemones
Looking for some drama in your spring garden? Plant these deep red, wine colored anemones and you’ll get just that. These flowers definitely make an impact with their bold color and velvety smooth petals.
On the other hand, maybe you’d prefer a classic, spring pastel color palette for you garden. I can’t recommend these “rarity mistral” anemones enough. Their petals are borderline white but with gentle hints of soft pinks and purples just present enough to create an almost iridescent look.
Star of Bethlehem
The Star of Bethlehem comes from the asparagacae family with pure white flowers clustered at the tips of stems stretching up to a foot tall. The petals of the Star of Bethlehem form the shape of a star with green lines on the underside. These bulbs are planted in the fall and bloom April through June.
Note: These are poisonous, so keep away from children and pets
Fritillaria (Crown Imperial)
With its gorgeous, brightly colored blooms that actually face downward when fully open, the Crown Imperial can be grown in USDA zones four through nine. This variety does need full sun to grow full-sized flowers. While they can be planted in partial shade, the blooms will not be as full and vivid. Crown Imperial bulbs can be planted around the same time as daffodils and tulips for mid-spring blooms. Bury the bulbs 10 to 11 inches deep and space the plants eight to 12 inches apart from each other and other plants.
Note: all parts of this plant are poisonous to pets and humans if ingested.
Glory of the Snow
Glory of the Snow, or chionodoxa luciliae, can be planted in full sun or partial shade in zones three to 10. These stunning blue flowers reach up to 6 to 8 inches in height and bloom in the early spring. Glory of the Snow have the most visual impact when planted in large swatches under trees and in front of early-flowering shrubs.
Bonus: vegetable bulbs to plant in fall
Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about the vegetable garden! While there are not many vegetables that can be grown over winter starting in the fall, these bulbs are meant for just that.
Homegrown garlic tastes amazing in salsa, pasta sauce, on bread and in other dishes. Each garlic clove is considered an individual seed. There are several types and each one should be planted with the skin intact. It’s also helpful to soak garlic bulbs overnight before planting. The bulbs can be planted in traditional rows, raised beds or raised rows spaced four inches apart within the rows and four inches between the rows.
If you love using onions in recipes, consider planting sets, which are mini onion bulbs planted half-an-inch deep. They need to be planted in full sun and half-an-inch deep. Planting onion bulbs in the fall typically yields a bounty of larger, sweeter, and more flavorful onions in the summer. Onions planted in the fall also tend to mature earlier and can be harvested at near-full size as early as June. It’s ideal to plant onion bulbs in a trend two inches deep, four to six inches apart.
For a flavor that’s somewhere between that of garlic and that of onions, try some shallots. Shallots make an excellent addition to the vegetable garden as they are incredibly useful in the kitchen. They are most often used in salad dressings and pastas, but they make an excellent topping when fried until crisp in some oil.
Enjoy your spring bulbs
I hope this list has you inspired to plant some beautiful spring bulbs this year (or something tasty in your vegetable garden!) Whether you design a big, elaborate spring bulb planting or just throw some tulip bulbs into a bare spot in the garden, it’ll be so exciting to see them arrive after winter has passed. If you enjoyed this post and want some more bulb planting ideas, check out our post on how to plant spring bulbs. Too late to plant? Try forcing spring bulbs instead. Need to protect less hardy varieties like ranunculus, check out our tutorial on how to set up raised bed frost covers!