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The Real Gardener | When to plant spring-blooming bulbs

Bulbs: a dose of reality

Nothing frustrates me more than the marketing machine pushing a product and product information that is either misleading or clearly not true.

 At this time of the year, it is all about spring-blooming bulbs! The marketing/merchandising of bulbs is a big business…but it has competition in the stores with Thanksgiving and Christmas merchandise. This pressure to sell has created a monster: pushing the sale of bulbs way before it is the right time to plant. 

Orange Tulips

But if you wait too long to get the bulbs you get bulbs that are picked over and/or damaged by the stores conditions. And if you plant your bulbs too early, the bulbs start to sprout.


The solution?

Buy the bulbs…store them in COOL dry place until it is time to plant them. Examples of a cool dry place include garages, basements and cold cellars.


When is the right time to plant spring-blooming bulbs?

The Bulb Society has rough estimates when you should plant in your bulbs in each USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:


Zone 1                                    by early September

Zone 2                                    by early September

Zone 3                                    September

Zone 4                                    by late September to early October

Zone 5                                    by late September to early October

Zone 6                                    by mid-October

Zone 7                                    by early November

Zone 8                                    by early November

Zone 9                                    by early December (some chilling required)

Zone 10                                  by early December (some chilling required)

Remember there are seasonal variations. I am in Zone 5…according to the chart I could plant bulbs now, but it has been a warm September this year.  It might be too warm still and the bulbs will start to sprout.


So, how do I know for sure, when it is the right time to plant spring-blooming bulbs?


The best solution is to measure the soil temperature

Plant the bulbs when the soil is consistently below 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). Measuring the soil temperature with an oven thermometer is easy. But again, I know that there are gardeners who either don’t like to measure or don’t have a thermometer. The next best way is to plant bulbs when the night temperatures are consistently in the range of 4 to 8 degrees Celsius (about 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit).

Soil temp Sept 29 2013

When I checked the soil temperature today (September 30), it was still 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit). Still too warm! Great, I still have time to buy my bulbs…

Written by Cristina da Silva
Tuesday, October 1, 2013 in Plants & Soils

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  1. kirkmckay says:

    Absolutely amazing photo!!!

  2. Abolivier says:

    Magnifique Blog, magnifique Photos.

  3. Lorraine Pigeon says:

    The problem is how the bulbs have been stored between August and October – by the time YOU’RE ready to buy, the bulbs may have been sitting in too-hot environments and have started growing even within their box. ALWAYS check the contents of the box or the state of all of your purchased bulbs.

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