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The Best Spring Bulbs to Plant in Fall (And How to Pick Them)

Rachel is a passionate plantsperson, YouTuber and author living in Ireland. She grows a wide range of hardy subtropical and tropical plants.

Scilla luciliae (glory-of-the-snow) is one of my favorite perennials to plant out in fall. It's carpet of blue blooms in spring is a joy!

Scilla luciliae (glory-of-the-snow) is one of my favorite perennials to plant out in fall. It's carpet of blue blooms in spring is a joy!

What Does a Healthy Flower Bulb Look Like?

In garden centers in autumn there's a lot of choice, but before purchasing, check your dry bulbs carefully. If in packets, look through the transparent section at the actual bulbs. (See the video above for examples of healthy and unhealthy bulbs.)

  • Check the bulbs in their packets for firmness. Soft or squishy bulbs should be avoided at all costs.
  • Look out for disease or damage too. This will be evident by brown patches on the bulb surface or outer scales.
  • Ensure your bulb has a strong, undamaged growing point, although this is sometimes hard to see through the packet.

It's best to avoid dry bulbs of snowdrops, erythroniums, trilliums, wood anemones or cyclamen, as they can often fail to establish. Instead, why not choose some from my top 10 bulbs for this time of year?

10 Best Fall-Planted, Spring-Blooming Bulbs

The plants on this list are reliably hardy and reliably perennial. As long as you follow the above tips for choosing healthy bulbs that have the best chance of getting established, these fall-planted bulbs should reward you with spring flowers for years to come.

  1. Daffodils: Daffodils have got to be top of everybody's list. These beauties flower from February onwards with swathes of yellow or white flowers, and most can be planted in grass or a border. (As a bonus, they're also deer- and rodent-resistant.)
  2. Scented Hyacinth: In April, your garden will thank you for the addition of fragrant hyacinth. These are always striking and come in shades of pink, white, blue and even orange.
  3. Netted Iris: The netted iris or reticulate iris will provide intricate miniature orchid-like flowers in February. These are adorable and you'll want lots.
  4. Glory-of-the-Snow: Another even smaller bulb is glory-of-the-snow. This scilla is usually blue, and if planted en masse, will make the most vibrant carpet of flowers at the front of your border in March.
  5. Lilies: Why not give your garden a splash of late color and scent with some lilies? These can be planted out now and will flower in summer.
  6. Camassia: Camassia is another favorite, flowering in early summer or late spring in shades of white or blue.
  7. Alliums: Alliums make superb additions to your late spring garden with their globe-like, purple balls and architectural impact.
  8. Snake's Head Fritillarias: Why not plant some snake's head fritillarias? These are unusually patterned, nodding flowers that do well in any shady position and should spread over time. Other common names for this plant include chess flower, frog-cup, chequered lily, and drooping tulip.
  9. Crocuses: From January, crocuses will begin to flower. They can be planted in a lawn or the border, and these beautiful little jewels are often the first harbingers of spring in many gardens.
  10. Early Tulips: Finally, why not try some early tulips? The Kaufmanniana group has short, very early flowering tulips. They start flowering from January, come in a range of colors and are reliably perennial.

Happy growing!

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© 2021 Rachel Darlington

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