Let the cooler temperatures and football games remind you: Fall is the time to plant spring-flowering bulbs. They need a period of cold to develop strong roots and form beautiful spring flowers. (If you live where the winters are warm, try planting colorful fall annuals and shrubs instead.)
Autumn also means it’s time to dig up and store tender bulbs to protect them from a killing freeze.
Use our bulb planting guide for tips on how to plant, and check out our list below for the most popular autumn selections.
top Fall Bulbs for Northern and Southern Gardens
Planting daffodils is like burying treasure. These easy-to-grow, fragrant bulbs add bright gold and yellow to your garden, but you’ll also find them in white, salmon, pink, apricot and red-orange. Use early, mid-, and late-blooming varieties to keep the flower show going for weeks.
Look for hyacinths in shades of red, blue, pink, yellow, purple, orange and white. They have an intoxicating scent, so grow them along a walkway, near a window, or in containers for your porch or deck. You can also cut them to bring indoors. Hyacinths will thrive in full sun to light shade in hot climates.
Spectacular, nearly carefree tulips come in a rainbow of colors, including a deep purple that almost looks black. While these bulbs are perennials, they do best in regions with cold winters and dry summers, so many gardeners treat them as annuals and re-plant each fall. For the most colorful impact, plant them in masses.
Also called grape hyacinths, plant small, lightly fragrant muscari bulbs in drifts, under deciduous trees, or in front of lower-growing bulbs. They’re available in white and deep violet-blue to royal blue. Grow them in full sun to part shade and watch for the blooms to appear in early spring. They naturalize easily and seldom have problems with pests or diseases.
Botanically speaking, crocus are corms, not bulbs. Their blue, yellow, white, striped or violet blooms open so early, you may even catch them popping up through the snow. Mulch your crocus plantings to help keep moisture in the soil, and water if you have periods of dry weather in fall.
Now that you’ve tucked your bulbs into the ground, look around your garden for tender bulbs that need to be brought inside before the first freeze. Use our tips to store them until it’s warm enough to move them back into the garden.
How To Dig And Store Tender Bulbs:
- Using a garden fork or spade, dig up your bulbs when the foliage turns yellow (around the first light frost).
- Toss any diseased bulbs or those with soft or dark spots. Brush the dirt off the rest, and spread them out for a few days to cure in a warm, dry area out of direct sunlight.
- Cut back stems and leaves.
- Optional: Dust the bulbs with fungicide.
- Put the bulbs in a ventilated box filled with peat moss, sawdust or sand. You can layer them, up to three deep, using more moss or sand between them so they don’t touch. Put small bulbs in paper or mesh bags and hang them up. Label the boxes and bags so you don’t forget what’s what.
- Store the bulbs in a dry location with good air circulation that stays around 50 degrees, like a basement or garage.
- Check the bulbs regularly and discard any that show signs of rot or mold. Lightly mist dahlia bulbs, pineapple lilies (Eucomis), Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) and Lilies of the Nile (Agapanthus) if they start to look dehydrated or shriveled.