It may seem strange but fall is the time to plant your spring flowering bulbs. Bulbs, corms and rhizomes are all often referred to as “bulbs” at the garden center. They are similar in that they all contain a living sprout and a storage of carbohydrates that will feed the sprout when it breaks ground in the spring. This would include flowers such as daffodils, tulips, hyacinths and crocus.
Spring blooming bulbs need a chilling period of 8 to 12 weeks depending on the variety. In the Baltimore area, that means planting anywhere from early October up through mid November. This allows the bulbs to develop some roots before the ground freezes and allows for the appropriate amount of chill time.
Once the soil warms in the spring, the food stored in the bulb allows the sprout to grow rapidly and produce stems and flowers above the ground. Some bulbs will flower very early, even when the snow is still on the ground.
When shopping for bulbs, make sure to inspect them for quality. They should not feel light and dried out. Nor should they show any signs of mold or disease. Smaller bulbs do not indicate a lesser quality, but they will produce fewer and smaller flowers than large bulbs. Read the labels provided on the bag, box or sign. They should provide you with the bloom time, color of the bloom and the height of the plant, as well as the depth at which the bulb should be planted.
While you are out raking leaves and doing your other fall gardening chores, consider planting some bulbs. With minimal effort, you will be rewarded with some of the earliest flowers of the spring.