It’s easy to forget about planting fall bulbs. With the fall harvest at hand, who is thinking about planting and springtime? Yet our forgetting of fall bulbs is precisely what makes them so precious. Every year, just as the final days of winter make us give up on spring, they suddenly emerge with full scent and color, the first flowers of the season. Yet these beauties can’t surprise us unless we remember to plant them now. Here’s our guide to help you make the most beautiful choices, along with some tips for successful planting!


The Bulb Planting Chart


Early Spring Bloomers 




Crocus: usually have a yellow center and lavender petals rising 5 inches in height.  

Early Tulips: range in a variety of pastel and warm colors between 8-30 inches tall.     

Jonquils: a type of early daffodil with multiple yellow flowers at 6-12 inches.   

Snowdrops: white bell-shaped flowers that open toward the ground at 6-12 inches.     


Mid-Spring Bloomers




Daffodils: classic yellow and white trumpet-like blooms standing 14-24 inches tall.  

Mid-Spring Tulips: many beauties including the Darwin Hybrid and Triumph Tulip.  

Fritillaria: dramatic down-facing orange or yellow flowers between 6 inches and 3 feet.   

Grape Hyacinths: clusters of round, indigo blooms at 6-12 inches in height.  

Hyacinths: columns of pastel-colored flowers at 6-12 inches. 


Late-Spring Bloomers




Alliums: spheres of blue, purple, or white flowers from 3 inches to 2 feet tall.    

Late Tulips: Viridiflora Tulips, Double Late, and Single Late, among others.  

Irises: some varieties of this classic flower bloom in late spring, and others in summer. 

Wood Hyacinths: clusters of blue, pink, or white bell-shaped flowers at 6-12 inches. 


Tips for Planting Fall Bulbs


Where Do I Plant My Bulbs? 

Most, with a few exceptions, require part-shade or full sun and well-draining soil. Check the label or ask our garden center experts when you come in for your zone 5 fall bulbs. Keep in mind that your deciduous trees won’t be leafed out yet in the early spring, which means you’ll have extra sunlight to work with. Plan for different bloom times and color combinations. They look the best in groups and in random order for a more natural look, but the creativity of your design is up to you! 




How Do I Plant My Bulbs? 

It’s good to work some compost or organic matter into the soil for drainage and nutrients. As a general rule, the proper depth for planting is three times the width of the bulb. The pointy part should be facing up. Remember to water and chart their location in your handy garden journal, if you have one. A layer of mulch over the top helps keep in the moisture, nourish the soil, and protect plants from the freeze and thaw cycles of winter.        



When Do I Plant Fall Bulbs for Spring Color?

Late September and early October are the best times for planting in Chicagoland. It gives them a short window to settle in before the winter. If you wait until the spring, it’s already too late as they need a good, long cold, and subsequent thaw in order to blossom. 

With all our charts and landscape planning, we still won’t know exactly when these first bloomers will emerge. That is the beauty of bulbs. They are presents that surprise us only when they’re ready. But if we bury a few zone 5 treasures now, we can enjoy a wealth of blooms next spring! 


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