Flowers & Plants Resource Center
Planting Bulbs Last-Minute

Ideally, spring bulbs are supposed to be planted at least six weeks before the ground becomes frozen so they go through a chilling period to initiate flowers, root and establish themselves. This chilling period is usually 10-13 weeks of temperature below 40°F for most spring-flowering bulbs. However, if you bought your bulbs late or just didn’t get around to planting them before winter, don’t wait until the following spring or fall! There are other more effective options for you to consider. 

If you plant them this spring, there will not be enough days of cold temperatures under 40°F and they will likely rot in the ground. If you wait until the fall to plant your bulbs you will have to store them in proper storage conditions, which are often hard to find in a household environment. Keep in mind, the shelf life for bulbs is not long—they aren’t like seeds—and even if they are stored in ideal conditions, they will lose a portion of their food reserves. 

In short, the sooner you get them planted in the ground the better. Flower bulbs are very resilient and can bloom even in the most improbable circumstances. To plant them outdoors, get them in the ground as soon as the soil begins to thaw so that some chilling is still able to take place. Then top with a layer of mulch to prevent the bulbs from being heaved out of the soil due to alternate freezing and thawing. Keep in mind that the bulbs most likely won’t bloom this spring, but there is a chance they will bloom late in the season. If they don’t bloom this year expect them to bloom the following spring.