Plant Bulbs in Fall for a Spring Surprise

When I first moved into my house, I had grand plans of putting in a garden and lots of flower bed areas to grow plants. All summer long I dug up grass, pulled weeds, tilled the earth, picked rocks and plotted out my flower beds. But then things got busy and I never had a chance to get anything planted.

During the fall and winter months, I complained quite often about how disappointed I was that I hadn't planted anything. So imagine my surprise the following spring when I saw little green shoots popping up in the new garden beds. I stood at my kitchen window, staring out at the patch of brown earth I knew had been empty last fall. "It must be a weed," I told my husband. But I knew it couldn't even be that, I'd pulled every last one of them.

Finally I went out to check it out up close. It looked like a leaf from a tulip bulb - but the flower bed had been a patch of grass before tilling it, and I'd tilled it deep. There was no way anything could have survived.

I decided to let it grow and see what happened.

As the days went on, more and more green shoots popped up. It wasn't uncommon to find me in the backyard, coffee in hand, staring down at them. My family started to think I was a little crazy. I was starting to think I was a little crazy, too.

Then my daughter began pointing out more of them - "Was that there yesterday?" she'd ask. "Do you remember planting that?" Every day there were more and more. And I knew I hadn't planted a single one of them.

Finally these mystery plants began to bloom and make themselves known. There were tulips and daffodils, hyacinths and checkered lilies. Unable to stand the suspense any longer, my daughter finally revealed the truth - she and my mom had planted them in the winter for a spring surprise, knowing how disappointed I was that I hadn't planted anything.


Apparently their secret planting mission wasn't as easy to arrange as they had hoped. On more than one occasion, they had to reschedule to make sure I wouldn't be home. And an unexpected snowstorm postponed their plans even further.

I'm amazed that my daughter was able to keep it a secret for so long, but I so appreciate the surprise!

Bulbs have a funny way of reproducing and popping up where you least expect them, so I still find surprises every spring and am reminded of their kindness.

Do you know someone who could use a springtime surprise? Plant bulbs in the fall for spring blooms - bulbs need some time to get established before a cold, dormant period that will trigger blooming in the spring. Check your plant hardiness zone to determine optimal planting times for bulbs.

Here are a few tips:

  • Bulbs are better off planted too late than not planted at all - left out of the ground, they risk drying out.
  • Planting bulbs at the right depth is important - a general rule of thumb is a depth of three times the height of the bulb.
  • Bulbs also look beautiful planted in pots. Be sure they have plenty of drainage so they don't rot.
  • For pots full of blooms, the bulbs can be planted in layers, with larger bulbs such as tulips and daffodils deeper in the pot and smaller bulbs like grape hyacinth and crocus above them.
  • Bulbs planted in pots are more susceptible to cold, so keep pots near a house or garage (but not indoors).
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