How to Add Spring Flowering Bulbs to Your Landscape in the Fall

| Plant, Video

It’s fall, and that means it’s time to get spring flowering bulbs planted. So I can enjoy blooms and pops of color from early spring all the way up to the start of summer, I use a broad array of bulb species and varieties. In this video, I demonstrate several ways to plant bulbs and what to keep in mind as you do.




Among the many types of bulbs I am planting are snowdrops, which will be the first to come up in spring, and alliums, which are in the same family as onions and garlic and will put on a fantastic show to end the season with big spherical purple flowers on top of long stems. Of course, I also have narcissus, daffodils and all the other bulbs you’d expect. 


If you live in North America, fall is the general window of opportunity for planting spring-flowering bulbs. For those in the northern states down to the central states, the best time is between September and November. From the central states and further south, October to January is ideal. 

I live in the Atlanta area of Georgia, in zone 7b. November is the perfect bulb planting time for here. A cool day with slightly moist soil is what I watch for. 


Planting at the proper depth is especially important when it comes to bulbs. The general rule is to plant two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. So if a bulb is 2 inches tall, dig a hole that is between 4 and 6 inches deep. 

That same rule applies to the smallest of bulbs, including the tiny snowdrop bulbs that can be less than an inch tall. 


Flower bulbs

The size of bulbs dictates how deep they should be planted. The general rule is to plant two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall.



If bulbs sit in soggy soil they will rot, so it’s important to amend soil that has poor drainage. Adding organic matter to soil will help heavy clay soil drain better and will also help quick-draining sandy soil retain moisture. You really can’t go wrong by adding organic matter, particularly finished compost. 

My bulb planting bed has red clay soil, which is good for holding nutrients but slow to drain. The soil is in much better shape than it was before I started amending it because I continue to add organic matter each year. If you don’t have compost you can add shredded leaves — use whatever organic material that is readily available to you. 


Bulbs are pretty forgiving when it comes to spacing. The small bulbs will perform their best with about 2 to 4 inches of space between them, and the large bulbs like 4 to 6 inches. There are a few different spacing techniques you can try.

If you are going for a naturalistic look, you can just take your bulbs and toss them out onto your soil bed and plant them wherever they land. You can do this with a uniform batch of bulbs or a mix of different bulb varieties.  

For an organized look, you can arrange the bulbs exactly where you want them and at the recommended spacing, with one bulb per hole.

If you are going for a succession of blooms, you may want to try option three, which is to share the planting holes. Dig one hole and layer in bulbs, small and large. 

For a real burst of concentrated color, plant five to seven bulbs of the same variety closely together but in separate holes. 


You can group bulbs together for dense, striking patches of colorful blooms.

You can group bulbs together for dense, striking patches of colorful blooms.



The fastest and easiest way to make holes for planting bulbs is to use a bulb auger, which attaches to a power drill. You make sure your battery is fully charged — and it doesn’t hurt to have a backup battery.  

Use the auger to dig to the depth the bulbs prefer, and once the bulbs are in place — root end down and pointed tip up — backfill the holes using the soil you just dug up. 


Joe Lamp'l using a bulb auger

A bulb auger makes quick work of creating holes for planting bulbs.


Final Steps

Now that your bulbs are planted and the holes are backfilled, it’s time for the finishing touches. I like to go over the area with a rake to make sure everything is covered up nicely. I’ll also add a layer of organic mulch to protect the bulbs from rapid temperature changes and to feed the soil, and then water it all in. 

If you are worried about foraging critters — namely, squirrels — get a roll of chicken wire, lay it out over the planting area and pin it down. Squirrels love to dig around in freshly disturbed soil, but the chicken wire will stop them from reaching the bulbs. 

Leave the chicken wire barrier down until the bulbs have had time to settle in and establish roots. If you forget to remove the chicken wire before the foliage comes up in spring, don’t worry. The foliage will grow right through it, no problem.

And that’s it! You are good to go, and you have a lot to look forward to come springtime. 


Planting a bulb

After planting bulbs, tip side up, backfill the holes with the soil you just dug up.



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Links & Resources

Some product links in this guide are affiliate links. See full disclosure below.

Episode 224: Expert Advice on Planting Flowering Bulbs in Fall, with Brent Heath

Episode 248: Dahlia Growing & Breeding, with Kristine Albrecht

Episode 269: The Ultimate Guide to Flower Growing, With Jenny Rose Carey

Episode 274: Growing Cool-Season Annuals for Earlier Color and Hardier Plants

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About Joe Lamp'l

Joe Lamp’l is the creator and “joe” behind joe gardener®. His lifetime passion and devotion to all things horticulture has led him to a long-time career as one of the country’s most recognized and trusted personalities in organic gardening and sustainability. That is most evident in his role as host and creator of Emmy Award-winning Growing a Greener World®, a national green-living lifestyle series on PBS currently broadcasting in its tenth season. When he’s not working in his large, raised bed vegetable garden, he’s likely planting or digging something up, or spending time with his family on their organic farm just north of Atlanta, GA.

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