Planting Fall Bulbs

As difficult as it is to think about, autumn is creeping up to us.  The cooling weather of September & October is a perfect time to plant fall bulbs for an early spring flower show.  It’s best to plant spring bulbs about 6-8weeks before regular hard frosts settle in. The reason these bulbs need to be planted in the fall is because they need a period of vernalization, or dormancy in very cold temperatures for 16 – 18 weeks to develop their roots properly.  Oh lucky us – our winter is more than happy to cooperate!

The types of flowers that grow well from bulbs in the Edmonton area are:

  • Allium – round purple, pink, or white firework looking displays atop a stem anywhere from 10” – 36” tall.  Depending on the variety, alliums are long lived and don’t require frequent replanting.
  • Crocus (Chysanthus) – these short 2-4” colorful flowers often show up while there is still snow on the ground.  They naturalize easily and don’t need to be replanted very often.  Remember, these flowers close up at night.
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus) – early blooming white drop-like looking flowers on short plants go dormant in the heat of summer, plant in groups of 10-25.
  • Daffodils – have a longer life span, likely needing replanting every 4 or more years.  If they get too thick they will need to be divided as foliage turns yellow.  Deer don’t like daffodils. Yay!
  • Tulips – come in a huge array of colors and in some unique styles.  Most tulips need to be replanted every 1-2 years, remember that tulips also close up at night.

Fall bulbs tend bloom in the following order, so, to have a succession of bloom, plant some of each.  The dates relate to our central Alberta climate.

  • Crocus & Snowdrops  – as the snow is melting
  • Daffodils – in early to mid-May
  • Tulips – mid to late May
  • Alliums – bloom in late May and into June

Plant bulbs in soil that drains well, all of the above bulbs love a sandy loam where the plants will receive at least 6 hours of sunshine a day in the spring.  The well draining part is very important – bulbs hate to be soggy wet, they will rot if they remain wet for too long.  Note the instructions on bulb packages, different cultivars require different depths, but a rule of thumb is to plant them 3 times their largest diameter. Some people recommend putting a bit of sand or gravel at the base of the hole, but assess the drainage of your soil before you do this.  Cover the bulbs up well with soil.  There is no need to water but remember to give them a good drink in the spring.

Remember to plant the bulbs with the pointed end up and plant in groups to keep the plantings looking natural. As the blossoms fade, remember to deadhead them so they don’t go to seed.  Keep the leaves on, so the energy produced can be directed to growing and maturing the bulbs further.

Have fun planning for an amazing color display in Spring!