Fall planted bulbs have arrived in Wisconsin garden centers, bringing dreams of spectacular spring color to gardeners across the state. Planting tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, allium and more in the cool autumn soil is a tradition for many Wisconsin gardeners, promising a stunning and breathtaking show of color once winter's snow have melted away.
What we labor to plant now in fall rewards us with many weeks of color beginning in March and lasting through June. With proper planning and selection, it's possible to extend the spring blooming season for several months.
Most fall planted bulbs are best planted in masses and swaths of color for a huge impact. Avoid planting in single rows unless you are seeking an intentional, formal and sparse look.
A fun way to plant fall bulbs is to layer them in a single large hole. Layering means planting bulbs of different varieties in the same hole, but at different depths. For example, plant large allium deeply, then cover with an inch or two of soil, followed by a layer of daffodil bulbs. Cover those with soil, then add a fringe of grape hyacinths or crocus to complete the layered planting. The result is an ongoing bouquet of bloom and complementing foliage that last for weeks during the spring season.
As a general rule, fall planted bulbs should be planted with the pointed side facing up. Planting depth should be about 2 to 3 times as deep as the bulb is in size. Generally, this means larger bulbs should be planted 6 to 8 inches deep, while smaller bulbs should be planted 2 to 4 inches into the soil.
Fall planted bulbs include many that come as a surprise to gardeners. Here are several of my favorites.
Many gardeners purchase potted allium from garden centers in spring and summer, unaware that these are actually inexpensive, fall planted bulbs during the autumn season. You'll get a much bigger bang for your buck waiting for bulbs to plant in masses, rather than single potted plants.
You will also find a much better selection during the fall bulb season. There are dozens of varieties of large allium offered for sale at most garden centers. These range from giant, basketball sized blooms to miniature varieties perfect for borders and rock gardens. There are also the incredible and unusual hair alliums that bloom in maroon and green with wild, hair like growths.
These garden giants that grow 3 to 4 feet in height feature a pineapple like crown of foliage at the tip of a thick stalk. Beneath the crown, masses of large, bell shaped flowers in red, yellow or orange are displayed. A spectacular specimen plant, its mild, skunk like odor is effective at deterring rabbits and deer from the spring garden.
The favorite of many gardeners, tulips come in an endless array of shapes, colors and sizes. Select a variety of tulips with different bloom seasons to extend the color from April into June. Tulips are divided into bloom seasons, normally indicated on the package. You will find early tulips, mid season tulips as well as late season bloomers.
There are many varieties to choose from. Some of my favorites are the double flowering, or peony flowering tulips, as well as the lily flowering tulips that resemble blooming lilies with their long, pointed petals.
Another traditional favorite, daffodils come in much more than classic yellow. Extend your daffodil dreams by including daffodils in pink, green, orange and bi-colored blooms that will become the centerpiece of the spring bloom season.
The old fashioned Dutch hyacinths are among the most fragrant plants in the garden, with spikes of densely packed blooms emitting a rich scent throughout their bloom season. Hyacinths come in many colors including pastels, as well as rich, deep blue, purple, pink, white, orange and more.
Unusual in that this fall planted bulb blooms just two weeks after planting, autumn crocus features massive blooms that may reach 4 to 6 inches across and come in mostly double flowering forms. Resembling spring blooming crocus, only much larger, the bulbs bloom quickly once planted in the soil.
Several types of irises are planted in the fall, including bulb form irises, as well as the traditional rhizomes of bearded iris, both miniature and tall. Bulb irises, often dwarf, are among the earliest blooming bulbs in the spring, emerging in March and April. Dwarf bearded iris and tall bearded iris are planted at the soil surface, blooming beginning in May and lasting into June.