20 Bulbs to Plant in Fall for Gorgeous Spring Blooms

Some of the earliest spring flowers come from bulbs planted in the fall. Before you wrap up summer gardening, look at these 20 bulbous perennials that can go in the ground now for early spring blooms.

Short purple and white flowers with yellow centers sprout from bulbs planted in fall.


As fall approaches and gardening winds down for the long winter dormancy, there are a few things you can do to prepare for a colorful springtime. Fall is the perfect time to plant spring-blooming bulbs before the ground freezes.

Many bulbous perennials can and should be planted in autumn. Often, these plants need a period of cold weather to induce blooming, so planting them before the ground freezes is the most effective way to build yourself a booming bulb garden in the spring. 

The good news is the heat of the summer has passed, so gardening during this time of year is quite pleasant. Why not take advantage of the cooling temperatures to spend time in your garden now to prep for spring? While making space for your bulbs, work some organic compost or other amendments into the soil, giving it time to break down to feed plants in the spring.

Planting in the fall looks different depending on your region. Most bulbs must be in the ground for several weeks (up to 6) before the ground freezes. That means that in very cold climates, you may be looking at September as a good time to plant, while in warmer temperatures, you may be able to plant as late as December.

Aiming for planting while daytime temperatures are right around or just below 60° ensures that your bulbs have some time to set down roots before the ground freezes. Plant bulbs around 3x as deep as the bulb is large, remembering to plant them with the pointed up as this is where they will sprout from. Here are 20 bulbs to plant in the fall for a spectacular spring garden.


Close-up of a blooming Allium in a sunny garden, against a blurry background. Allium is a plant known for its distinctive globe-shaped flowers held atop tall stems. Its strap-like leaves emerge from the base of the plant, and the flower heads are composed of many tiny individual florets. The flowers are small, star-shaped, purple.
These bulbous perennials, hardy in zones 4-9, feature distinctive round flower heads that add texture to spring gardens.
botanical-name botanical name Allium
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

The Allium family includes such tasty members as garlic, leeks, and onions. Planting these bulbs in the fall for a spring harvest is great. However, we are going to talk about ornamental Alliums. Ornamental Alliums are bulbous perennials. Depending on the species, they are typically hardy in zones 4-9. 

Alliums are recognizable for their fun flowers. The large, round flower heads add an exciting and attractive texture to the spring garden. Allium foliage blends in well with other plants, and although they are toxic to animals, their oniony scent acts as a decent deterrent. Planting these bulbs in full sun will make strong stems to hold up the large flower heads. 

Bearded Iris

Close-up of blooming Bearded irises in a sunny garden. Bearded Iris 'High Roller' is a captivating cultivar of the bearded iris variety. It features tall, erect stems that emerge from a clump of sword-like leaves. The flowers are large, showcasing a mixture of velvety pinkish peach and soft lavender hues, creating a stunning contrast. The characteristic yellow "beard," with its delicate hairs, adds a unique touch to the flower's falls.
Though they’re technically rhizomes, bearded iris plants share traits with bulbs and should be planted in the fall.
botanical-name botanical name Iris germanica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Technically, bearded iris plants grow from rhizomes, but I wanted to include them because they behave similarly to bulbs and should also be planted in the fall. These hardy flowering perennials like plenty of sunlight and loose soil types. Make sure these plants have excellent drainage.

There are many different varieties of bearded irises. They range significantly in height and color. The flowers have a unique petal formation, with petals facing upward as they descend toward the ground. Petals usually have ruffled edges and can be monochromatic or multi-colored. Plant these six weeks before frost is expected to give them time to get established. 

Camas Lily

Close-up of Camassia quamash flowering plants in a sunny garden. It features grass-like, lance-shaped leaves that emerge from the base of the plant. Tall peduncles adorned with clusters of star-shaped flowers rise above the foliage. The flowers are in shades of blue to purple, creating a beautiful look.
As members of the Lily family, camas lilies thrive in wet winters and cool early springs.
botanical-name botanical name Camassia quamash
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 12-14”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Camas lilies are members of the Lily family and enjoy the wet weather of winter and early spring. They need to dry out before blooming, so don’t make the mistake of overwatering in spring to get them to grow faster. These are great for moist, clay-heavy soil types. Plant bulbs as soon as the weather begins to chill.

The flowers that bloom in spring are a clear, crisp shade of blue with just a hint of violet. Large flower heads carry abundant blue flowers amidst tall, grass-like foliage.

If you can avoid deadheading the spent blooms and allow them to dry on the stem, camas lilies will reseed themselves and typically bloom in their third year when grown from seed.


Close-up of blooming crocuses in a sunny garden. Crocus is a small, early-blooming bulbous plant characterized by its slender, grass-like leaves that emerge from the ground. Bright cup-shaped flowers appear on short stems. Velvety purple flowers with orange stamens.
Small yet impactful crocuses bloom early in spring, providing vital nectar for pollinators after winter.
botanical-name botanical name Crocus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 2-5”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Although they may be small, crocuses greatly impact the garden. These are one of the first blooms of spring, often pushing up through the snow as winter draws to an end and other spring flowers are still hiding beneath a cold, white blanket.

These pretty flowers serve as a welcome food source for pollinators, providing early nectar for the long season ahead. 

I typically associate crocuses with the color purple, but they can be shades of orange, purple, red, pink, blue, white, or yellow. Many of them have a strong fragrance, which lures bees out of their hives. Crocuses naturalize easily, meaning they will form lovely colonies, returning every year with more of their friends.


Close-up of blooming daffodils in a sunny garden. They are bulbous plants with long, strap-like leaves that emerge from the base. They produce striking trumpet-shaped flowers in bright yellow, with a central trumpet or crown surrounded by six tepals.
Plant daffodil bulbs in October for cheerful early spring blooms in various colors and scents.
botanical-name botanical name Narcissus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height up to 2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Is there a flower more cheerful than a daffodil? Pop these bulbs in the soil in October for stunning yellow blooms in early spring. With thousands of varieties, the possible combinations are endless. You will find these flowers in shades of yellow, white, and orange, many with a strong fragrance, while others have a subtle scent.

Daffodils make lovely cut flowers and have a decently long vase life. Plant these bulbs in full sun where daffodils produce the most flowers.

In colder climates, give your bulbs a thick layer of soil to protect them, planting them down at least 5 inches with a minimum of 3” of soil on top. In spring, give them plenty of water and a bit of a high-potassium fertilizer. 

English Bluebell

Close-up of flowering Hyacinthoides non-scripta plants in the garden. Hyacinthoides non-scripta, also known as English bluebells, is a perennial plant with long, slender leaves that form a grass-like tuft at the base. It produces elegant, bell-shaped flowers that hang in drooping clusters. The flowers are blue-violet.
Create a lovely mass planting with delicate blue flowers that naturalize easily.
botanical-name botanical name Hyacinthoides non-scripta
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 12-18”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-10

English bluebells make a wonderful mass planting. A sea of delicate blue flowers is welcome in spring, as these pretty plants naturalize easily. These perennials need to be planted in partial shade and can even tolerate full shade. By the time the weather begins to warm, they will go dormant to avoid the heat of summer. 

Low-maintenance and reliable, English bluebells typically have fragrant blue-violet flowers, although they can rarely be white or pink. The sweet flowers appear on drooping racemes of 4-14 flowers, which are downfacing, nodding, and have a narrow, tubular shape. In British folklore, bluebell patches are inhabited by nefarious fairies that will lead you astray to be lost forever. 

Foxtail Lily

Close-up of Eremurus robustus flowering plants in a sunny garden. Eremurus robustus, commonly known as Foxtail Lily or Desert Candle, is a striking perennial plant with tall, erect flower spikes. Its long thin leaves form a basal rosette at the bottom. These long cylindrical flower stalks are covered with numerous small star-shaped flowers resembling a fox's tail. Flowers come in shades of white, yellow, pink and orange.
Often considered a bulbing plant, the foxtail lily grows from a tuber.
botanical-name botanical name Eremurus robustus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-8’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

This plant is often called a bulb, but technically it grows from a tuber. It has very similar characteristics to bulbous spring bloomers. Foxtail lilies are fast growers, reaching between three and 8 feet by summertime. They prefer good drainage, full sun, and the temperate weather of zones 5-8. 

The leaves are long and strap-like, growing in a loose rosette. The tall flower stems are topped with a long bottlebrush-shaped spire of bright orange, pink, coral, or yellow flowers. Plant these in the fall, giving them plenty of space between tubers. Foxtail lilies don’t like to be crowded.


Close-up of a flowering plant Na short Chionodoxa, also known as Glory-of-the-Snow, is a charming spring-blooming bulbous plant. It features slender, grasslike leaves that emerge from the base. Clusters of delicate star-shaped flowers bloom on short stems. These flowers are blue in color with bright white centers.
Named for its early bloom, Glory-of-the-snow thrives in spring and works well for mass planting.
botanical-name botanical name Chinodoxa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 4-6”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Named for their early blooming habit, Glory-of-the-Snow will be one of the first flowers to pop up in springtime. These petite plants look lovely as a mass planting, especially in a rock garden, and they make an excellent filler among larger perennial plants.

If you want your Glory-of-the-Snow to naturalize, plant them in a space that won’t be disturbed by raking or weeding until the following year. 

Plant Glory-of-the-Snow in mid to late fall, before the ground freezes, for best results. In spring, you will have lovely grass-like leaves from which spring up brilliant blue flowers with white centers and a sprinkling of golden pollen. Plant these bulbs close together (3-4”) and not too deep (2”). These plants can spread quickly, but they are not considered invasive

Grape Hyacinth

Close-up of flowering Muscari plants in a sunny garden. Muscari, commonly known as Grape Hyacinth, is a small bulbous plant with narrow, strap-like leaves that emerge from the base. In spring, it produces dense spikes of tiny, bell-shaped flowers that resemble clusters of grapes, hence its name. Flowers are bright blue.
Great starter bulbs, grape hyacinths thrive in mass plantings or with other spring blooms.
botanical-name botanical name Muscari
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-9”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

These pretty little plants are great starter bulb flowers. Reliable and pretty, they look great in a mass planting or mingled with tulips and daffodils in a stunning drift.

These are small bulbs and don’t need to be planted deeply. The leaves will sprout in the fall but don’t worry. They will survive the winter and won’t harm the plant’s growth in spring. 

Grape hyacinths look very much like full-sized hyacinths but miniaturized. Delicate stems are topped with clusters of small, downward-facing, bell-shaped blue, green, yellow, or purple flowers. They require very little maintenance but don’t make good potted plants due to temperature fluctuations, so plant these little bulbs directly in the garden for the best results.


Close-up of blooming Hyacinths in a sunny garden. Hyacinthus orientalis, commonly known as Garden Hyacinth, is a bulbous plant with thick, strappy leaves that grow from the base of the stem. It produces a tall flower spike adorned with densely packed, fragrant bell-shaped flowers that come in a wide range of colors including white, purple, and pink.
Famed for their springtime fragrance, hyacinths are perfect for garden planting in groups for their intense scent.
botanical-name botanical name Hyacinthus orientalus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-12’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

Hyacinths are best known for their heavenly fragrance. For me, their scent is the quintessential perfume of springtime. These bulbs can be forced indoors over the winter, bringing their sweetly scented flowers into the home space. They are best planted in large groupings in the garden, resulting in the most intense fragrance. 

Although they will return yearly after a few seasons, hyacinth flowers will decrease in size and vigor. Shades of white, blue, red, purple, and pink are most common for these flowers, which can be grown in the ground, in containers, or in water. Their large, brightly colored flower spikes make an excellent complement to tulips and daffodils. 

Lenten Rose

Close-up of blooming Helleborus in a sunny garden. Helleborus, commonly known as Lenten Rose, is a perennial plant with evergreen, leathery leaves. It produces clusters of elegant cupped flowers in purple-pink hues with dark purple freckles.
Also known as Hellebores, Lenten roses bloom from winter into spring.
botanical-name botanical name Helleborus
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial shade
height height 9-18”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

Lenten roses, or Hellebores, bloom from winter into spring. As soon as the snow melts, you can expect to see flowers from this bulbous evergreen. In warmer climates, these plants can begin blooming in late fall and go straight through to late spring.  They are often referred to as Christmas roses.

Hellebores need some protection from the sun, especially in the summer. In winter, they can tolerate full sun, but plant them in a space where spring leaves will bring shade to their space, or they will burn up in the hot summer sun. These lovely flowers come in shades of green, red, purple, pink, white, blue, yellow, and apricot.


Close-up of blooming peonies in the garden. Peony is a perennial plant with lush green foliage and large showy flowers. Its leaves are dark green, deeply lobed, and smooth. The flowers are large, lush, composed of many ruffled pink petals surrounded by a number of large outer petals.
For long-lasting beauty, consider peonies with large flowers that last a century when cared for.
botanical-name botanical name Paeonia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-8

Plant peonies if you’re looking for longevity and spectacular color in the garden! Peonies are known to live as long as a century with proper care and have the largest flowers on our list. These bulbs should be planted in fall, usually by the end of October in all but the warmer climates of zones 7 and above, where a November planting is fine. 

Peonies are not picky about their environment. They grow quickly and have exceptional cold tolerance. The flowers come in warm shades and have stunning petal formations. They are typically fragrant and bloom from late spring to summer, making them popular for summer weddings. 

Siberian Iris

Close-up of many blooming irises in a sunny garden. Iris siberica is a perennial plant known for its graceful sword-shaped leaves and bright flowers. The leaves are slender and erect, creating a striking foliage backdrop. The flowers are blue with a purplish hue and have intricate patterns and veins on the petals.
These irises offer lasting foliage, drought tolerance, and colorful flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Iris siberica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 2-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Siberian irises receive less attention than their bearded cousins, as they are somewhat less varied and dramatic in appearance. But don’t let that discourage you from adding these beauties to your spring garden.

One of the benefits of this particular type of iris is that its foliage remains attractive long after the flowers have fallen. These plants resemble ornamental grass when they finish blooming.

The Siberian iris is also more drought-tolerant and resistant to pests and diseases. The flowers come in shades of yellow, white, pink, and red. However, blue and violet are the most common colors. They are not as large as Bearded Irises but lovely in their own right. The bulbs can be planted anytime between spring and fall.

Siberian Squill

Close-up of blooming Scilla siberica plants in a sunny garden. Scilla siberica, commonly known as Siberian squill, is a petite bulbous plant. Its narrow, strap-like leaves emerge from the ground and provide a lush backdrop for the star-shaped blue flowers that appear in early spring.
This bulbous plant spreads quickly, offering a striking display of blue star-shaped flowers and grass-like leaves in spring.
botanical-name botanical name Scilla siberica
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-6”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-8

This is a perfect flower to plant in a raised bed, as it tends to spread and naturalize in its environment, and if you’re not careful, it can become invasive. However, when it’s planted in a raised bed, it will create a stunning show of blue, star-shaped flowers and thin, grass-like leaves in the spring.

Siberian squill is native to Russia, and its small bulbs multiply quickly. They are great for filling space, but as I mentioned, they can get out of hand quickly if left unchecked. Each plant produces about five stems, each topped with a delicate blue bloom. Siberian squill has excellent cold tolerance and can be grown as far north as Zone 2.

Snake’s Head Fritillary

Close-up of flowering plants Fritillaria meleagris in the garden. Fritillaria meleagris, also known as Snake's Head Fritillary, is a distinctive bulbous plant. Its grasslike leaves grow in a basal rosette, while slender stems rise above them, bearing nodding, checkered bell-shaped flowers. These unique flowers have a distinct serpentine pattern and purplish-pink hues.
Add these captivating bulbous perennials to woodland gardens for their nodding, snake-like flowers in white, pink, and purple.
botanical-name botanical name Fritillaria meleagris
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

These intriguing bulbous perennials are an excellent addition to any woodland garden. Their flowers are checkered white, pink, and purple and have a downward-hanging habit. They tend to nod with any movement, resembling a snake’s head with an open mouth. 

Fritillaries are native to England, where they have become somewhat endangered. They will grow in the United States in zones 3 through 8, blooming mid-spring. They can be planted in small clusters or scattered for a more natural look.


Close-up of Galanthus nivalis flowering plants in a sunny garden. Galanthus nivalis, commonly known as Snowdrops, is a delicate bulbous perennial. Its slender, grasslike leaves emerge from the ground and form clumps. The plant produces solitary drooping white flowers with three inner petals and three outer tepals.
Early bloomers related to amaryllis, snowdrops emerge through late winter snow and are easy to care for with minimal fuss.
botanical-name botanical name Galanthus nivalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-6”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

Another very early bloomer, snowdrops are known for popping up through the last bits of snow left over in late winter. These relatives of the amaryllis plant are easy to care for and don’t like to be fussed over. Because of their blooming time, disease and pests are a non-issue. They can also be forced indoors over the winter.

Snowdrops are tiny plants, best planted en masse. They are only about 3-6” tall, and each stem produces a single, white, downturned flower. Snowdrops are toxic to humans and animals and can be troublesome.

However, it means deer will leave your flowers alone. You can plant them in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Acidity is not an issue for these plants.

Star of Bethlehem

Close-up of Ornithogalum umbellatum flowering plants in a sunny garden. Ornithogalum umbellatum, commonly known as Star of Bethlehem, is a bulbous perennial with grasslike leaves. This plant produces clusters of white, star-shaped flowers.
The Mediterranean Star of Bethlehem is a small bulbous perennial with morning-opening flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Ornithogalum umbellatum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 6-12”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

This Mediterranean beauty goes by many common names, many of which refer to its habit of opening in the morning and closing back up in the dark or under cloud cover. The Star of Bethlehem is another bulbous perennial that works well in a raised bed or container, as it can be a bit aggressive in its spreading habit.

The good thing is it is not a large plant and has grass-like leaves, so as long as you don’t mind having it around, it will spread without much fuss. Just be aware of your regional classification of this plant.

For best flowering, the Star of Bethlehem should be planted in full sun, although it can tolerate partial shade. The bulbs are best planted in the fall.


Close-up of Trientalis borealis in the garden. Trientalis borealis, also known as Starflower, is a small woodland perennial plant. It features grasslike leaves and delicate white, star-shaped flowers.
A lesser-known bulbous perennial, starflower features white star-shaped flowers.
botanical-name botanical name Trientalis borealis
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial sun
height height 2-8”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

Starflower is one bulbous perennial that might not be familiar to many gardeners because it is typically considered a wildflower. However, the native bulbs can be acquired and planted in your fall garden for blooms the following spring.

It is a lovely, small, flowering plant with pretty, white, star-shaped flowers. This plant is perfect for the shade garden, as it prefers no direct sunlight. Instead, it prefers dappled or indirect light.

This plant prefers moist soil but won’t tolerate soil with poor drainage. It also does best in climates with cooler summers, although it is heat tolerant to about 100°F. Starflower needs very little care once established and will reseed freely unless deadheaded. It produces no nectar, but the pollen is a valuable food source for some pollinating insects, and small animals will enjoy the seeds.


Close-up of blooming tulips in a sunny garden against a blurred background. The tulip is an iconic spring flower with cupped flowers in a delicate purple. It grows from a bulb, producing strap-like leaves and single flowers on each stem.
Tulips, an iconic spring flower variety, are cold-tolerant and can be planted in fall for varied blooms throughout spring.
botanical-name botanical name Tulipa
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun
height height 6”-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-7

The tulip is an icon of spring. Tulips are very cold-tolerant and pop up in early spring. The fluctuations in temperature that could kill other plants are unlikely to do any harm except to slow down the growth a bit. Plant tulip bulbs in the fall, 6-8 weeks before the first expected freeze. Different varieties have different bloom times, so plant a variety of blooms that last throughout the spring. 

The classic tulip flower is cup-shaped and has three petals and three sepals. But you don’t have to stop at the traditional tulip varieties. Many hybrids have double petal formations, and many types have ruffled and more fancy-shaped flowers. Each tulip stem produces a single flower, making excellent cut flowers.

Winter Aconite

Close-up of Eranthis hyemalis flowering plants in a sunny garden. Eranthis hyemalis, commonly known as Winter Aconite, is a small perennial plant with lobed, green basal leaves. The plant produces bright yellow cupped flowers.
This bulb pairs well with snowdrops, sharing early blooming times, complementary colors, and a preference for partial shade.
botanical-name botanical name Eranthis hyemalis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 3-6”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-7

Winter aconite is a great companion for snowdrops.  These two bloom at about the same time. They are the earliest bloomers, and the buttery yellow blooms of winter aconite are an excellent complement to the white flowers of the snowdrop. They also enjoy partial shade, as they are woodland flowers, so these two have lots in common and make great neighbors. 

While it reseeds freely and tends to spread, it is not considered invasive in most areas. Winter aconite is a winner of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. It grows in only about 4” tall and wide clumps but naturalizes easily, so within a few years, you will have an abundance of these cheery blooms in early spring.

Final Thoughts

Before you hang up your shovel for the winter, consider planting some of these bulbous perennials in your beds. Most of these plants require very little tending to see flowers, with many making wonderful cut flowers. Make room for some bulbs in your garden beds, and you get a jump on spring planting. Doing this simple task now will bring color back to the garden early, possibly before the snow melts!

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