Perhaps you were at your local home store or garden center over the weekend, making your plans for the fall season and you noticed tulips, daffodils and other fall bulbs lining the store shelves. Maybe you started to wonder if you should have had your fall bulbs planted by now and if you were late for the fall bulb planting party. We are happy to put your worries to rest, the best time to plant fall bulbs hasn’t even started yet!

Fall planted bulbs which bloom in the spring months are native to cold areas of the world. Tulips are native to mountainous regions of Turkey and are built and intended for cold, snowy, and tough conditions. Fall planted bulbs are built for cold conditions, they are resilient jewels of the garden that don’t require much other than the proper planting time, cold temperatures and well-drained soil.

The ideal time to plant your fall bulbs such as tulips, daffodils, crocus, allium and hyacinths is when your daytime temperatures are in the 60’s during the day or lower on a consistent basis. This weather often occurs after your first light frost of the fall season. By planting once the consistently cool fall temperatures have officially arrived you will prevent the bulbs from putting on early top growth, rotting and other insect and disease problems. Planting at the proper time will allow the bulbs to form deep roots, which will help with large and robust spring blooms.

Another reason why fall planted bulbs are planted starting in mid-September at the earliest is because they aren’t available to online suppliers like Holland Bulb Farms until that time. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, and the other fall bulbs that Holland Bulb Farms sells are grown in Holland. The bulbs grow and produce flowers in spring. Several weeks after they are done blooming and starting their dormant season the farmers in Holland begin to harvest the bulbs. The bulbs have to be cleaned, and then are given a period of time to warm and ripen. Starting in mid-summer the bulbs will begin to be packaged by suppliers in Holland. Once they are all packed and ready to go, they will be shipped first by boat over the Atlantic Ocean. This process usually takes several weeks, and the boats with all of the bulbs arrive at the docks on the east coast of the United States in early September. Once they are in the United States they will be put on a train or truck to their final destination prior to planting. The timing of the harvesting, packaging and shipping of these bulbs typically means they are ready for retailers to start shipping your tulips and other fall bulbs around the middle to end of September. This time frame also works out, as it is the beginning of the best time to plant fall bulbs, which is when the temperatures start to cool in fall.

For some parts of the United States fall-like temperatures may arrive as early as mid-September and as late as late December. To help understand the best time to plant for your area here is a Fall Bulb Planting Chart:

Hardiness ZoneIdeal Planting Time
Zone 2-4Late September-October
Zone 5-6October-November
Zone 7Late November-December
Zone 8-9*November, December & early January

*Tulips, Hyacinths, Scilla, Muscari, will require an artificial 8-12 week cold period prior to planting in zone 8 and above for healthy blooms in Spring.