Plant Now Reap Later

Creating a colorful spring display by planting bulbs in fall is a task gardeners love. For one, it reminds us that spring will come again in the not-too-distant future. It’s also a simple and inexpensive way to give a lackluster yard instant personality.

A parade of cheery flowering bulbs along the path to the front door, for example, or beside the garage, where visitors spot them every time they come and go, will boost your home’s curb appeal.

Bulbs that can be planted in fall include tulips, crocuses, daffodils, and hyacinths. Tulips, everybody’s favorite, can last several years providing plenty of color. And cheery daffodils naturalize or multiply allowing us to transform even those larger trouble spots.

If you haven’t started yet, there’s still time: Bulbs can be planted right up until the ground freezes. A little soil preparation and a small bit of digging is all it takes. Here’s how to fashion your fabulous spring bed or border.

What You’ll Need

Bulbs (all one kind or an assortment)

Organic matter, such as compost or manure

Trowel, bulb-planting tool or shovel



1. Select a sunny, well-drained location (not one where water gathers).

2. If your location is not an already established garden site, prepare the soil by adding several inches of compost or organic matter. Look for natural organic soil enhancer or all-organic manure at your local hardware store.  

3. Dig a trench to plant a bed or dig individual holes. Check package labels to determine depth and spacing. In general, a hole should be about two to three times as deep as the width of the bulb. Figure about 8 inches deep for larger bulbs (e.g., tulips) and about 5 inches deep for smaller bulbs (e.g., hyacinths). As a rule of thumb, bigger bulbs are spaced farther apart.

4. Place the bulbs in the holes pointy side facing up. Refill the hole with soil and lightly tamp down. Water.

5. Cover your planted areas with 4 to 6 inches of mulched leaves, bark or straw to protect them from thawing and freezing cycles.

Design Considerations

  • Plant sizable groups of same-variety bulbs. Think 12 of the larger kind or 50 of a smaller kind. And think of it like a class photo: Plant tall-growing bulbs in back, low-growing bulbs in front.
  • Keep the color going by planting bulbs that bloom early, midseason and late. Make the colors pop by planting the bulbs in front of evergreen or foundation plantings. And mark spots in your yard that you look at from inside the house so you can fill them with color.
  • Think about the look you want. A more formal path will benefit from straight rows of flowers. A casual garden is the ideal place for irregular groupings.