Easy Guide to Planting Bulbs

For spring color, bulbs must be planted in the fall. Check out the tips below for purchasing, storage, and planting bulbs that will offer a surprise show of colorful blooms in the springtime! For more information about growing bulbs, please visit our experts at Warren’s Southern Gardens.


  1. Purchase bulbs in late September and October when the selection is best.
  2. Plant bright colors (yellows, oranges, whites) toward the outside to enlarge the overall appearance of your beds.
  3. Tulips, Hyacinth, and Daffodils should be planted in groups of 15 to 25 bulbs to provide support from the wind and offer better curb appeal.
  4. To extend bloom times, plant early, mid, and late blooming varieties together. Look on the packages or box pictures for bloom times.
  5. When purchasing, make note of bloom heights so you can plant shorter varieties in front.
  6. Fragrant varieties can be planted by your front entrance to provide a nice aroma for family and friends.


  1. Tulips and Hyacinth need 6-7 weeks of cooling prior to planting. After purchasing, place bulbs in well-ventilated bags and place in your refrigerator away from any ripening fruit. You should plant around mid-December, so bulbs should be in your refrigerator mid-October to the first of November.
  2. Place in a cool dry place before pre-cooling; avoid storing bulbs in full sun. Heat is a bulb’s worst enemy.
  3. Irregular scars won’t damage bulbs. Only plant firm bulbs.
  4. Daffodils and other smaller bulbs don’t require cooling to bloom, but 3-4 weeks will enhance the overall planting and won’t hurt them.
  5. Extended cooling won’t hurt bulbs. If you’re late planting, plant anyway! Although mid-December is optimum, some plantings in mid-January will still come up and bloom.


  1. The general rule is to plant bulbs at a depth equal to 2.5 times their width. For example, the hole for 2-inch wide bulbs should be 5 inches deep.
  2. Plant in well-drained areas; raised beds are optimum.
  3. To ensure the success of your bulbs, plant in well-draining soil that is rich with organic matter. Amend clay soil with compost and expanded shale. Expanded shale aerates the clay soil, makes it easier to work, and improves drainage. Add these amendments separately, or use a premixed soil such as Fox Farm Strawberry Fields.
  4. Space Tulips, Daffodils, and Hyacinths on approximately 5-inch centers and smaller bulbs on 1 to 2-inch centers.
  5. If you’re trying to naturalize bulbs, it’s best not to plant in full sun.
  6. Heat and wind have a direct impact on bloom length, so try to select an area that is protected from afternoon sun with some wind protection to get optimum bloom length. If that is impossible, don’t let it deter you because you can still have a great show.
  7. Dig up the entire area you are planting a couple of inches deeper than required, fill in to the required planting depth, apply bone meal or bone and blood meal to the soil, then lightly scratch fertilizer into the soil. Place the bulbs in the area, then back-fill with soil to ground level. Lightly mulch beds to keep out weeds and preserve moisture.  You can also use a bulb planter to plant your bulbs if the soil has already been amended.
  8. After planting, water in, and wait for your spring show. If the winter is dry, water occasionally, but beware of over-watering.

Traditional Bloom Times

Tulips Early Bloomers: Single Early, Double Early, Fosteriana, Kaufmannian

Tulips Mid Bloomers: Darwin Hybrids, Triumphs, Gregii, Species

Tulips Late Bloomers: Single late, Parrot type, Bouquet, Double Late, Lily

Daffodils/Narcissus/Paperwhites: Read the package, they vary greatly

Hyacinths: Early

Other Bulbs for Planting Houston

Anemones, Dutch Iris, Bearded Iris, Ranunculus, Calla Lilies, Ipheon, Scilla, Lycoris Radiata/Spider lily, and Species Tulips (Tulip Chrysantha and Tulip Clusiana).

Species Tulips are suited to Houston’s heat and alkaline soils and do not require refrigeration. Tulipa clusiana and Tulipa chrysantha are the best choices for the Houston area. Species tulips will naturalize if planted in well-drained, organically enriched soil. When fully open, they look more like rain lilies than tulips. Do not put them in a spot that gets a lot of water during the summer, when they are dormant, or they will rot.