All bulbs have a specific period when they should be planted no matter if they are spring or summer flowering bulbs. Perennial and annual bulbs as well have specific periods when they need to be planted. A lot of beginner gardeners tend to make the mistake of planting some of their bulbs early, thinking that they give the bulbs a head start this way, but far too often the bulbs either get damaged or simply rot away.
Planting bulbs too early can expose them to the risk of rot. If you place them in the ground during late August or early September, they may be stimulated to grow as if it were spring, which can disrupt their natural blooming cycle. It’s important to avoid planting bulbs too early to ensure they bloom at the appropriate time.
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Spring flowering bulbs that are hardy in your zone need some cold in order to successfully sprout the next year, on the other hand, bulbs that are not hardy in your zone have to be planted a couple of weeks after your last frost date in the spring. The problem with bulbs is that you will never know for how long they have been sitting in storage, the more time they spend in a warehouse the less likely they will be able to sprout.
This is why so many people plant their bulbs as soon as they get them, although you have to be really careful when taking this approach. If you want to plant some Ranunculus bulbs then check out my recent article Ranunculus Perennial Or Annual?
What Happens If You Plant Bulbs Too Early
Planting bulbs too early can have both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, early planting allows bulbs to establish their root systems and promotes earlier blooming in the spring. However, planting bulbs too early can also expose them to unfavorable conditions such as frost or prolonged periods of cold and wet soil. This can lead to bulb rot, poor growth, or even the death of the bulbs. Additionally, if bulbs are planted too early and experience a warm spell followed by a hard freeze, they may sprout prematurely and then suffer damage when the cold weather returns.
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The Bulbs Can Get Bulb Rot
Ever wondered why you plant hundreds of bulbs in the autumn only to see a couple of dozen come up the next year, the most likely cause for this is bulb rot. Bulb rot can occur even if you plant the bulbs at the recommended time, but bulb rot is even more common if you plant the bulbs way too early. Once a bulb is planted it will slowly start absorbing as much water as it can, and if you have planted it way too early, then the bulb will not be able to absorb all the excess water.
As the bulb can sit for days or weeks in the water they slowly start to rot. Bulbs need some time to figure out if it is spring, summer, autumn or if it is winter, so even a mild winter can get the bulbs confused. Weather can be extremely unpredictable nowadays, it seems like the seasons have shifted a couple of weeks already, so even when planting the bulbs at the right time they might end up with bulb rot. If your plants are wilting then check out my recent article How To Save A Wilted Plant ( As Fast As Possible! ).
Early Planting Can Trick Them To Sprout Too Soon
One of the main problems of planting bulbs too early is that some of them will simply sprout as they will think it is spring. Usually, this happens if you plant spring-flowering bulbs in August or September, but in some cases, it can also occur if you have planted them at the right time. The main cause for the bulbs to sprout is the local weather, if the bulb gets plenty of water and the temperatures are above freezing the bulb will try to sprout.
Although having a couple of bulbs sprout too early might not seem like such a big problem but these sprouts are not frost resistant. Most perennial bulbs are frost-resistant, that is how they survive the winter, but their leaves and flowers are not. Once the bulb has sprouted way too early and frost is coming the below-freezing temperatures will damage the sprout which in turn can damage the entire bulb.
In case the winter is particularly warm you might notice that some of your bulbs have already sprouted, even though you have planted them at the correct time. This can happen from time to time and the easy fix for this is to cover the sprouts up with a thick layer of mulch. The mulch will protect the bulbs and their sprouts from the below-freezing temperatures and they will have a higher chance to survive. If you want to plant some bulbs that naturalize extremely well then check out my recent article Anemone Coronaria ( Windflower, Poppy Anemone, Crown Windflower, Spanish Marigold ).
Planting Not Hardy Bulbs In The Autumn
Not all bulbs can be planted in every corner of the world, as all bulbs have a specific hardiness zone. Hardiness zone simply means if the plant will be able to come back year after year, basically naturalize. If you plant bulbs that are not hardy in your zone then you have to do it in the spring and dig them up in the autumn. If you plant these bulbs in the fall then they are most likely not going to sprout next year,
Oftentimes these bulbs simply can not survive the winters, bulbs simply freeze which damages the bulbs. Even if the bulb somehow manages to survive the winter, the odds are that it is so damaged that it will not be able to flower.
- If you plant bulbs too early then they will most likely sprout too early and the frost will damage the bulbs. In addition to this, bulbs can also suffer from bulb rot if planted too early and in most cases, these bulbs will not be able to sprout in the spring. If you plant bulbs that are not hardy in your zone too early then frost will damage the bulbs, and they are unlikely to recover from the frost damage.
- It is not a good idea to plant bulbs too early, you will do way too much damage to the bulbs this way.
- Simply wait for the right time to plant every type of bulb, this way the bulbs will have a lot higher chance of actually surviving until they are able to flower.
What to do when bulbs come up too early?
When bulbs come up too early you will have to protect them, either by mulching them or by covering them. Frost can easily damage the new sprouts and a thick layer of mulch will usually protect them from freezing temperatures.
Can spring bulbs come up too early?
Yes, spring bulbs can come up too early if the temperatures are high. The temperatures tend to fluctuate a lot, and a week of warm weather in the middle of the winter can trick the bulbs that spring is coming.
How long do bulbs stay good unplanted?
Bulbs can stay good unplanted for several years, but with each passing year, the odds of the bulbs sprouting get lower. As long as the bulbs are not damaged, rotten, or completely dried out, they should be still ok.
Can bulbs survive unplanted?
Yes, bulbs will survive unplanted, even for years although it really depends on how they were stored. Ideally, bulbs should be stored in a cool and dark environment to keep them viable for a long time.