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How to Know When It Is Time to Plant Bulbs

Content provided by Sally Ferguson. Image of Your Imminence Tulip Mix by Colorblends.

colorblends tulips

Good things still come to those who wait. This is especially true of those who love tulips, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs. To bloom in spring, bulbs must be planted in fall when cool soil temperatures offer the right rooting conditions. The beginning of planting season ranges from late September in cooler climates to late December in warmer areas. So how does a gardener know when it’s time to plant?

“The simple answer is that bulb planting season starts once your soil temperature reaches about 55 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Tim Schipper of Colorblends, a Connecticut-based flower bulb wholesaler that sells direct to landcare professionals and home gardeners across the country.

“The problem is, who knows what their soil temperature is?” he adds.

Schipper knows that nature provides other indicators that tell us when conditions are just right for bulb planting. To him, fall planting season begins when nighttime temperatures average between 40°F and 50°F.

He recently asked his customers to share their own “natural guidelines.” Here are a few of their tips for knowing when it's time to plant bulbs:

• Fall foliage has moved just past peak
• Crickets no longer chirp
• Squirrels are digging in acorns as fast as they can
• Birds start to group and depart
• You start turning on the heat in your car
• The air smells of wood smoke
• Grapes are ripening on the vine
• You blow out the irrigation system before the winter freeze
• The hostas start to lie down
• The air has that organic, decaying leaf smell
• The dog moves from a cool to a sunny spot in the yard
• The kids start putting on their jackets without being nagged by you

“Of course life doesn’t always go on schedule,” admits Schipper. “Though it’s not great to plant too early, you can usually get away with planting a bit late. Once soil temperature reaches the optimal level, you still have a six to eight week window to get bulbs in the ground before it freezes hard. So whether you forgot to order, or decide you want more, it’s generally not too late to buy and plant if you can still work the soil.”

Reputable flower bulb specialists, like Colorblends, ship bulbs when it’s time to plant in the recipient's area. If you can’t plant them right away, store the bulbs in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.


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