LEAFLET NO: 611
Revised 9/93 -- Author Reviewed
HINTS FOR FALL-PLANTED SPRING AND EARLY SUMMER
M.A. (Kim) Powell
P.V. Nelson, Professor
Department of Horticultural
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
North Carolina State
I. Plan in the Spring
A. Photograph your spring garden to know where your bulbs need
to be planted in the fall.
B. Major Bulbs (Tulips, Hyacinths, and Daffodils)
1. Flowering season: mid February to mid May, depending on
local weather and climatic conditions, e.g. coastal
plain, piedmont, mountains.
2. Height range: 6 inches-3 feet
3. Colors and shapes: A wide selection is available.
C. Specialty bulbs (Allium, Crocus, Galanthus, Fritillaria,
1. Flowering season: mid February to early July, depending
on local weather conditions.
2. Height range: 3 inches-4 feet
3. Colors: A wide selection is available when all species
II. Purchasing - Fall
A. The best purchasing criteria for bulbs is that they be
firm. Buy early to get the best selections. The size
and/or number of flower(s) is directly related to the size
of the bulb.
B. Small nicks and loose skins (tunic) do not affect
development of the bulb. In fact, loose tunics aid in
inspecting for diseases and this condition encourages
C. Keep cool (50-65 F) before planting. Be certain, however,
to keep bulbs away from ripening fruit since they produce
III. Planting Techniques - Fall
A. Where to plant?
1. Bulb Soils
a. Good drainage is essential for spring-flowering
bulbs! If the soil is mostly clay, mix in an organic
amendment such as peatmoss, compost, aged bark, etc.,
up to 50% in volume, or plant in raised beds. If the
soil is mostly sand, add an organic amendment to
increase water and nutrient holding capacity.
b. Soil pH is critical! The pH of the planting area
should be in the 6-7 range. If you need assistance
in this area, contact your county extension office.
2. Spring flowering bulbs can be used in beds (annuals
or perennials), borders, ground covers, rock gardens,
and wooded areas. For perennialization, avoid
planting them near heated basements. These bulbs do
best in areas which do not receive direct sunlight
during midday, especially during hot summer months.
3. Some bulb types can be interplanted in the same area
based on time of flowering and plant heights, e.g.
Crocus, Muscari, and Allium.
B. When to plant?
Spring and early summer flowering bulbs must be planted in
the fall in order to develop a root system and satisfy the
cold requirement of the bulbs. Wait until soil
temperatures are below 60 F (16 C) before planting. In NC,
this is usually late October to November.
C. Excavate the area to be planted. The depths given below
are measured from the base of the bulbs to soil level.
1. Small sized (1 inch in height) bulbs - 5 inches deep
2. Large sized (2 or more inches in height) bulbs - 8
These depths of planting will help protect the bulbs
against frost, animals and physical damage due to hoeing,
etc. Be certain to thoroughly loosen the soil under the
D. Place bulbs in bed; space according to size. Large bulbs
should be 3-6 inches apart, small bulbs 1-2 inches.
Interplant, if desired.
E. Cover bulbs with soil using only one-half of the soil
removed. Water thoroughly! Finish covering bulbs with
F. Cover the bed with 2-3 inches of mulch.
G. If the fall is dry, water area as needed.
H. Bulb Fertilization
Fertilization improves bulb performance! Newly planted
bulbs will have improved quality. In addition,
fertilization encourages bulbs to perennialize; that is,
flower for several years without replacing or dividing the
There are 2 fertilizer systems available for spring-
flowering bulbs! The first system utilizes a single fall
application at planting. You can purchase a sulfur-coated,
slow-release complete fertilizer. This should be
incorporated into the rooting area at planting, at a rate
of 1 rounded tablespoon per square foot. The second system
uses bone meal incorporated in the rooting area at planting
time with an application of 8-8-8 (1 level tablespoon) or
10-10-10 (1 rounded teaspoon) in the fall, followed by a
repeat application of the same fertilizer as soon as you
see shoots breaking the ground in the spring.
A. If fertilization of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 was used in the fall,
repeat the treatment (see III H above).
B. After flower petals fade or fall off, remove flower organs
with scissors or a hand pruner.
C. Allow foliage to die naturally!
D. When desired, overplant area with summer annuals.
V. Diseases - If one starts with healthy bulbs, bulb diseases
are generally not a problem. However, if the soil becomes
diseased, use Terraclor (PCNB) in the bed before planting
the bulbs in the fall. The major foliar disease is
Botrytis (Fire). This is readily controlled by many
available fungicides. Check labels for recommendation.
VI. Insects - The insect that may become a problem is the
aphid. It can be readily controlled by available
insecticides. Check labels for recommendations.
VII. Splitting or Harvesting Bulbs - This is not generally
advised. If bulbs were satisfactory, do not disturb! If
unsatisfactory, remove the entire plant as soon as flowers
are finished and replant next fall with new bulbs.
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
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