Q&A: When Is It Too Late to Plant Bulbs?

If you miss the optimum planting time for spring-flowering bulbs, go ahead and plant them anyway.
0036934B3_gold-bloom_s4x3

0036934B3_gold-bloom_s4x3

Q: When is it too late to plant bulbs?

A: The best route to success with spring flower bulbs is to plant them at the optimum times. Ideally, bulbs should be planted at least six weeks before hard, ground-freezing frost can be expected in your area. The bulbs need time to root and establish themselves. On the other hand, planting bulbs too early can lead to fungus or disease problems. A good rule of thumb is to plant bulbs when the average nighttime temperatures in your area are in the 40- to 50-degree range. At that point the soil temperature should be just perfect for tucking bulbs in for their winter's rest underground. In colder northern climates, plant in September or October. In warmer climates you may need to plant bulbs in December (or even later).

If you miss planting your bulbs at the optimal time, don't wait for spring or next fall. Bulbs aren't like seeds. They won't survive out of the ground indefinitely. Even if you find an unplanted sack of tulips or daffodils in January or February, plant them and take your chances. No matter what, they're better off giving it a fighting chance in the ground or a chilled pot than wasting away in the garage or cupboard. Flower bulbs are survivors by nature's design. Every year stories abound of bulbs that bloom after being planted under the most improbable circumstances.

— The Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center

Next Up

How to Grow Bold and Beautiful Bulbs

To get your flower bulbs to bloom in the spring, start planting in the fall.

Grow Guide: Planting Bulbs

Gardening expert Felder Rushing offers tips on planting bulbs.

How to Save and Replant Forced Seasonal Bulbs

In general, the most resilient candidates worth saving are small bulbs that naturalize or reproduce readily in the garden.

Planting Bulbs

Planting spring-flowering bulbs is easy. The hardest part may be deciding which flowers and how many to plant in your garden.

Planting Freesia, Anemone and Hyacinth

Plant these bulbs and corms in the fall for dazzling spring color.

Planting Spring Bulbs in Fall

Whether you want masses of spring color or collect a few heirloom bulbs to share, all are easily planted in the fall.

Plant Hyacinth Bulbs This Winter

It's not too late to plant hyacinth bulbs for a burst of color come spring.

Planting Spring Bulbs in Pots

Pots brimming with spring bulbs lift the spirits after winter. Plan ahead and plant up pots in the fall, and for a truly dazzling display, combine a collection of different flowers in one large container.

Planting Bulbs in Pots

A planting of mixed spring bulbs will give quick, near-guaranteed results for kids and a colorful display that can be enjoyed by the rest of the family. 

Timing Spring Bulb Planting

Spring-flowering bulbs need to be planted in fall in order to bloom come show time. The bulbs need a certain amount of time to get established before winter's freezing weather sets in, and they need enough time exposed to cool soil temperatures to be properly chilled. 

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.