Brilliant Design - Elegant Solutions

Spring Blooming Bulbs - Contribute Excess Produce - Water Everything - Houseplants Back Inside

Autumn has its own charms

Beautiful fall colors. No mosquitos. Cool air / warm sun. Less humidity. And a sense that something was accomplished as we close up the summer. Take that walk and enjoy the changing colors.

Spring is always better with blooming bulbs

Fall bulbs are loved by both beginner and master gardeners, there are so few issues to consider. Gardeners can put all their effort into the fun part of gardening — design.

Planting flower bulbs is fast, easy, and nearly foolproof.

spring display photo Fall bulbs are loved by both beginner and master gardeners, there are so few issues to consider. Gardeners can put all their effort into the fun part of gardening — design.

Fall allows a “second season” of planting for spring blooming bulbs. Planting in the fall allows a jumpstart to spring growth. The cool weather helps to make a more enjoyable experience for working outside in the garden and requires less watering. The cooler weather allows spring blooming bulbs to winter over, this is important in order for bulbs to provide beautiful spring cheerful blooms.

  • When bulbs arrive. Bulbs should be planted as soon as the ground is cool, when evening temperatures average between  40° to 50 deg; F. You should plant at least six weeks before the ground freezes. This is most common in cold climates (zones 1-7). You can, if necessary, store bulbs for a month or longer, if you keep them in a cool dry place. Planting fall bulbs in warm climates (zones 8-11) such as Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths, Scilla, and Snowdrops,require pre-chilling in order to bloom. To pre-chill, leave bulbs in their bags and place in a refrigerator for 6-10 weeks. Be careful not to store bulbs near fruit, especially apples, all ripening fruit give off ethylene gas. Ethylene gas can damage and or kill the flower inside the bulb. Once bulbs are chilled plant them at the coolest time of the year. Most importantly bulbs won't last till next season, so make sure to plant them.
  • Read the label. Try to keep the label together with the bulbs until planting. Without the label, you can't tell the red tulips from the white ones just by looking at the bulbs.
  • Where to plant. You can plant bulbs just about anywhere in your garden as long as the soil drains well. The Dutch say, "bulbs don't like wet feet." So, avoid areas where water collects, such as the bottom of hills. Bulbs like sun and in many areas the spring garden can be very sunny, since the leaves on the trees are not out yet. So keep in mind when planting in the fall that you can plant in many places for spring blooms.
  • Prepare the planting bed. Dig soil so it's loose and workable. If it's not an established garden bed, chances are the soil could use the addition of some organic matter such as compost or peat moss. These are available at most local garden retailers.

How to Plant Bulbs – Step by Step Instructions

    Planting bulbsStep 1: Loosen soil in the planting bed to a depth of at least 8”. Remove any weeds, rocks or other debris. You can mix in compost, other organic matter or slow releasing fertilizer if your soil lacks nutrients.

    Step 2: Depending on the bulb, follow the recommendation on the label for planting depth. As a general rule, plant big bulbs about 8" deep and small bulbs about 5" deep. Set the bulb in the hole pointy side up or the roots down. It's easy to spot the pointy end of a tulip; tougher with a crocus. If you can't figure out the top from the bottom, plant the bulb on its side, in most cases, even if you don't get it right, the flower bulb will still find its way topside.

    Step 3: Now that the bulbs are planted, back fill with soil over the hole, lightly compress the soil but do not pack it. Water to stimulate root growth. There is no need to water continuously unless you live in an area with low precipitation in the winter months.

    Planting depth chart

    Aftercare in the Spring

    spring display photo Fertilizing: For bulbs that are intended to naturalize (return for several years) or for bulbs that are coming into their second year, spread an organic fertilizer such as compost, or a slow release bulb food on top of the soil.

    Pruning: When the flowers have completed blooming, cut the flower head off but do not cut the foliage. Bulbs will use the foliage to gather nutrients from the sun and store for the following seasons. Once the foliage have turned yellow or brown you can cut them to ground level.

    Design Ideas

  • Plant bulbs in clusters. If you plant one bulb alone, or make a long thin line along the walk, the impact is less desirable. Clusters give a concentration of color for greatest impact. Even if you don't have enough bulbs for a big bed, small clusters can make a super spring show.
  • Plant low bulbs in front of high. This is a good general rule for bulbs that bloom at the same time. Of course there are times to break this rule. For example if the low growing bulbs bloom early and the tall bulbs bloom late, plant the tall in front. Their display will camouflage the dying foliage of the smaller bulbs!
  • Try a double-decker effect. You can plant small bulbs in a layer right on top of large bulbs. If you plant bulbs that flower in the same period you can create an interesting double-decker effect. Or you can stagger the bloom time by planting mid- and late-season bloomers together, creating a spring display that blooms in succession, for a whole season of color!

In the end, what you do with fall bulbs is limited only by your imagination. A few hours one brisk autumn afternoon can yield months of colorful excitement in your yard or garden next spring.
For more information on planting bulbs in the fall visitFlower Bulbs Planting Guides. We want you to be successful in your garden.

Go to top of page

Call Catholic Charities' Food Shelf to make your contribution of excess produce

Share your garden produce with a family in need

About this time every year, we find that our gardens have produced more than we can use or give away. Take heart, there is a valuable community resource that is a win-win for both you and a family in need. Contact Catholic Charities Food Shelf here.

Go to top of page

Water everything, then water some more

There's a chill creeping into the air. The leaves are changing colors. Winter is just around the corner. Now is the time to think about properly watering your trees in autumn to help ensure against damage in the winter.

spring display photo In the middle of winter, the ground is frozen. Trees are not able to access water, so it is important that you are watering your trees in autumn as necessary. Watering your trees in early autumn is different than late autumn, so water accordingly.

Early Autumn

In early autumn, you should stop watering your deciduous and evergreen trees. Do not worry about watering until the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees. The trees are still growing in early autumn and watering will encourage new growth. If a frost comes when there is new growth on the tree, it will be damaged.

Late Autumn

Once the deciduous trees have lost their leaves in late autumn, it is time to start watering again. Evergreen trees will definitely need to be watered before winter - since they never lose their foliage and go into full dormancy, they will constantly be losing water throughout the winter.

By late autumn, the tops of the trees have gone dormant, so they will not produce new growth. The tree is busy moving nutrients around in preparation for dormancy.

Water deeply (at least 1-2 feet deep at a time) until the ground is frozen. Deep watering encourages proper root growth so that the trees will be able to access water farther down in the soil.

Young trees, especially, need lots of water to establish roots in preparation for winter. Newly planted trees should be watered at the base, while more mature trees should be watered at the dripline.

You can keep watering trees in late autumn as long as there is no snow cover and the air temperature is above 45 degrees. Trees in milder climates should be watered throughout the winter as needed, though usually the rains will suffice.

Go to top of page

Successful strategies for bringing your houseplants back inside

Give houseplants special attention before bringing them indoors. Check for insects, remove debris, clean leaves and re-pot. Try to match light conditions. And there's more …

photo turn leaf over to backside to check for insectsphoto turn leaf over to backside to check for insects
  1. Give houseplants special attention before bringing them indoors.
    • Examine houseplants well for insect pests. Look on the undersides of leaves, leaf nodes and in the crotches of branches.
    • Remove plant debris from the soil surface. 
    • Wipe off leaves with a damp soft cloth. Spray off smaller plants in a sink and larger plants in a shower. 
    • Re-pot with fresh soil to reduce / eliminate pest issues.
    • Wash pots with 10% bleach solution. Scrub off algae, fertilizer salt stains, insect egg masses and nests. Provide a large enough saucer for plants to drain adequately.
    • Many plants will experience leaf drop when brought indoors and into a different set  of growing conditions (lower light, drier air, warmer temps). Prune houseplants for better form and to reduce the amount of foliage the plant is required to support. 

Read more on the subject: Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension Educator - Horticulture

Go to top of page


master designers • master gardeners • master craftsmen