Planting Guide for Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Our handy guide takes the guesswork out of planting bulbs.

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Tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths are a few of the most beautiful additions to a spring garden, and they have one thing in common: They originate from bulbs instead of seeds. The bulbs are planted in the fall, live underground all winter, and bloom in the spring for wonderful garden color. Integrate their beauty into your garden with our bulb-planting guide.

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Planting Depth for Spring-Flowering Bulbs

Planting bulbs can seem complicated, but you can simply the process by following this general rule of thumb: plant twice as deep as your bulb height. For instance, if your bulb is two inches large, dig a hole and plant the bulb four inches down. 

While the depth may be a simple formula, when to plant should be based on where you live, and not an exact date. If you're planting in the fall, you'll want to make sure that once planted, your bulbs don't start blooming. To ensure the proper timing, plant bulbs about six weeks before the first expected frost. This allows the bulbs time to take roots, but not enough time for the bulbs to start growing blooms. Before you start planting bulbs, refer to your Planting Zone to ensure most accurate, detailed information.

Daffodil

As beautiful as daffodils are, they must be planted correctly for an A+ result. As a general rule, you should plant bulbs at a depth twice the size as the height of the bulb. For example, if a daffodil's bulb is 3 inches tall, plant the bulb 6 inches under soil level. Plant these bulbs in early fall, as soon as bulbs become available in stores.

Tulips

There are countless varieties of tulips spanning the colors of the rainbow. They're a staple if you want a garden of spring color, but you need to plan ahead. Similiar to other bulbs, plant tulip bulbs about 6 weeks before the first expected frost in your region. Place bulb in the ground, pointy end up, about 8 inches below soil level.

See how to divide hardy bulbs like tulips.

Striped Squill

Striped squill (Puschkinia scilloides) is a great addition to any rock or woodland garden and is deer- and rodent-resistant. Striped squill is also a naturalizing plant, meaning it has the ability to reproduce without any help. It does so by releasing small bulb offsets (called bulbils) and self-sowing seeds in some cases. Plant these bulbs 4 inches deep and keep them at least 4 inches apart in case of new growth.

Crocus

Many claim the cup-shape blooms of Crocus announce spring's arrival as it is one of the first-blooming spring bulbs. It is part of the iris family and looks wonderful when planted in bunches. Like other bulbs, plant crocus in the fall 3-4 inches deep and pointy side up.

Hyacinths

A late-spring garden delight, hyacinths (Hyacinthus) not only add a pop of color to your garden but also fill it with heavenly smellsl. Blooms come in a range of colors, from white to blue to orange to red. Hyacinths tend to have rather large bulbs, so plant them 6 inches below the soil surface in the fall. Another hyacinth variety to try is grape hyacinth (Muscari), which actually gives off a grapey bubblegum smell when fully bloomed in the spring.

Star of Bethlehem

Another self-naturalizing plant, Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum) is a European native but thrives in United States in Zones 4-9. Because of its reproduction properties, Star-of-Bethlehem acts as a great groundcover in woodland areas. If you choose to grow this bulb in a garden, be sure to section it off so the plant doesn't become invasive. In the fall, plant this bulb around 4 inches deep.

Allium

Allium may be a member of the onion family, but nothing about these bushy flowers is vegetablelike. Alliums add a distinct look to a bulb garden, which is why we love them. Some allium varieties can grow heads to the size of a volleyball! Plant allium bulbs in the fall—bulb depth will depend on the height of the bulb. You'll have to wait a little longer to see these whimsical beauties because they bloom in late spring.

Summer Snowflake

Despite its name, summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) blooms in mid- to late-spring. This bulb sets beautiful bell-shape flowers with green dots on each petal and gives off a slightly sweet fragrance. Plant these bulbs 3-4 inches deep in the fall.

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