Remember how “fall is a second spring“? Well, it turns out that fall is a good time to start thinking about spring, too.

I can just hear you now saying, “Heather…you just went on and on about how you love fall. And now you’re already talking about spring?”

Or, maybe, “Heather. Slow down. Enjoy the moment, live in the present.”

I know, I know. And I do try slow down and enjoy the present as it is happening. But, there are some things you just need to plan ahead for, and spring flowers like tulips and daffodils and crocus are one of those things.


You see, your spring flowering bulbs need a certain amount of cold (both temperature-wise and time-wise) in order to flower. This process is called vernalization. If the plant doesn’t get the cold requirement it needs, then flowering is reduced (at best) or just doesn’t happen at all.

Skagit Valley, tulip farm

I happened to be passing through the Skagit Valley, Washington one April when the tulip farms were in full glory.

In northern climates, you can plant the bulbs directly in the soil during fall and the temperatures throughout the fall and winter are sufficient for adequate chilling. In the warmer zones, a pre-chilling treatment is usually required. You want to wait until soil temperatures have started to cool, but still plant ahead of a hard freeze. Here, in northern Utah, we’ve had an exceptionally mild fall, so it’s still a great time to plant.

If, like me, you don’t have a patch of ground where you can plant some bulbs, never fear. You can still have your own tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, or crocus. Just this last weekend I attended a workshop about forcing bulbs to bloom indoors. It’s something I’ve tried before, but haven’t ever been successful at. I’m hoping things work out better this time around, so stay tuned for more on that subject.

forcing bulbs step 1

With forcing bulbs indoors, you have to get a little more creative on how those bulbs will get their chilling requirement. At a minimum they need 12-14 weeks of temperatures in the 40-45 F range. They can handle colder, but don’t let them freeze. And if they get much warmer, you’ll have to extend the chilling period. Places like unheated garages or unfinished basements work well. For the time being, mine are in the fridge, but I worry about a) running out of space for food, b) the bulbs remaining too wet and rotting, and c) ethylene from the fruit and vegetables in the crisper drawers affecting the bulbs. ┬áIf I can find another location, I’ll move them there, but for now I’ll keep my fingers crossed that all will go well and I’ll have daffodils and tulips blooming in my kitchen by February.

tulips, skagit valley, display garden

So, whether it’s in a pot in your fridge, or in a garden by your porch, now’s the time to plan (and plant) for spring!

What bulbs are you planting this fall?