Time to plant spring flowering bulbs during fall season

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Fall is the time to think about all those flowers we associate with spring: daffodils, crocus, and other easy-to-grow flowering bulbs. If you aren’t growing spring-flowering bulbs in your landscape, you are missing out on some easy-to-grow plants that provide early color to your garden, according to Rick Durham, UK Extension Specialist in Consumer Horticulture.

These bulbs are planted in fall because it corresponds to the end of their natural dormancy.  Most of these plants begin root growth in fall, followed by a cool stratification period necessary for proper flower development and then shoot growth in late winter and early spring.   

No matter which bulbs you select, remember that the largest bulbs will produce the greatest show next spring.  However, smaller bulbs will still produce some flowers, and these may be the best choice for mass planting or naturalizing.  Avoid any bulbs that feel lightweight as these may have severely dried during storage.

It’s important to plant flowering bulbs at the proper depth, so follow the label directions. You can also request UK Extension publication HO-80: Spring, Summer and Fall Bulbs. This publication should provide all the information you will need. 

A light application of bone meal fertilizer at planting is often recommended, though probably not necessary. Most bulbs do not need fertilization until growth emerges in the spring. When you see plants emerging, apply 1 to 2 pounds per 100 square feet of a complete fertilizer (like 10-10-10).

Once flowering occurs, remove the faded blooms, but don’t remove the foliage. The leaves produce sugars and other compounds necessary for the bulb to overwinter and bloom again the next spring.  Most bulbs will enter dormancy in late spring or early summer and will renew growth, starting with the root system in the fall.

For more information on planting spring-flowering bulbs this fall, call the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Service at 502-255-7188.

Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.