Fall Planted Flower Bulbs
Did you know ranunculus are my favorite flowers? Even before I started gardening, I’ve always loved them. In the Fall of 2020 I devoted a whole bed in my garden to fall-planted spring bloomers, and I absolutely do not regret it. This article is dedicated to some of my favorite Fall planted bulbs for Southern California.
Related article: Fall & Winter Gardening Guide for Southern California
Planting Spring Flower Bulbs in Fall
If there’s anything I’ve learned as a zone 10 gardener, it’s that Fall planting comes with so many benefits for mild winter climates. For example, the spring flowers I’m about the discuss can be planted near the end of October/November which gives them ample time to grow strong before putting on a brilliant Spring show! This early bloom also allows me to clear the beds before the weather gets hot and have room for Summer vegetables and crops. In 2020 I planted my ranunculus and anemones on October 20th and had wonderful succes with them.
I’m going to cover my favorite fall planted flower bulbs for Southern California, my vendor sources for bulbs/corms/etc., what amendments I added to the soil for great blooms, and how I ultimately dug up and stored the corms for planting again this Fall. As always, I like to write about my actual, hands-on experiences gardening. I enjoy hearing about other gardeners’ experiences as well and sharing knowledge. Please feel free to comment or ask questions here on the blog!
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What Spring flowers Like to be planted in Fall?
Ranunculus, anemones, and daffodils/narcissus all performed very well as Fall planted bulbs in Southern California. To be honest, I have had terrible luck growing any tulips over the years and have decided to not grow them anymore—-I especially don’t have the time for chilling bulbs. Besides, all the Spring bulbs I planted can come back year after year, but tulips have never done that for me.
Update: I now have an article on growing saffron crocus! Yes, this is the flower bulb that produces the infamous saffron spice! While saffron crocus corms should be planted in late Summer/Fall too, they are actually Fall bloomers as well. Read all about Growing Saffron Crocus in the garden.
As far as bulb sources, this year I tried Easy To Grow Bulbs for the first time. They are a Southern California based company, and everything I ordered performed well. Other great sources I’ve used for high-quality garden seeds, bulbs, corms, and tubers can be found at Where I Buy Seeds.
Related Article: Planting Daffodils in Containers
How to Prep Your Garden Soil For Fall Planted Bulbs & Corms
In case you’re wondering how I remember all this, typically I try to take photos or quick videos as reminders for the specific dates I plant and the amendments I add. Thank goodness for that because I would never remember otherwise! Haha!
Before planting my ranunculus and anemones I added several inches of our compost, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, and bone meal (make sure to buy organic). The bone meal is important for most flowering bulbs because it is high in Phosphorus which aids in flower bloom. You can read more about How I Amend Garden Beds Organically for more details on that process. For daffodils, they’ve grown extremely well in our more native soil simply amended with compost—they aren’t as picky.
For each type of bulb/corm/or tuber you plant, check on the orientation to be sure you are placing them right side up! Most vendors include a planting guide or tips for planting so follow those instructions!
Birds & Squirrels Love to Dig Up Corms
I’d like to discuss how important it is to protect your Fall planted flower bulbs! For some reason, my daffodil bulbs never have an issue with birds or squirrels, but there was one morning I came out to a dug up bed and missing ranunculus corms! To mitigate any further issues, I covered the beds with mesh (a better option would be the mesh I used in Winter Garden Planting) until the plants were about 6 inches tall. It worked! You can see the baby greens sprouting in the bed in the photo below.
The time between planting my corms and having the sprouts like the picture below was about 2 weeks.
Related Article: 5 Flowers to Grow Through Winter in Southern California
Watering Spring Flowering Bulbs
After planting my Fall bulbs, I followed the same protocol as my dahlias (grow guide HERE) where I water thoroughly after planting, but generally avoid more watering until I see some sprouts appearing on the surface. There is some room for changes here because ranunculus, for example, are planted very shallow and sometimes our Fall temperatures get to triple digits which can completely dry out the top few inches of soil. The best I can say is to use your personal judgement in regards to watering.
During this particular grow year, the bed I was using was irrigated using special sprinkler heads/emitters off irrigation tubing. This is one type of irrigation we use around our backyard garden, but you can read the other ways we irrigate in Watering & Irrigation Basics. The exciting news is that we will be converting that bed to a Garden Grid system this year. I’ve been using the Garden Grids in one raised bed (which I talk about HERE) and liked it so much I’ll be using it in one of my long rectangular beds as well.
Growing & Maintenance For Ranunculus, Anemones, & Narcissus
Picking! The more you pick, the more they produce and grow. Mid-season, when the buds start to form, I did add some all-purpose, organic flower fertilizer to the bed. Simply scraping it into the surrounding soil and watering in.
Mulch is an amazing way to build soil health, save water, and protect plant root systems from extreme temperatures. I use mulch in almost all my garden beds. If you are interested in the way I create organic mulches from my own backyard materials check out Let’s Talk Mulch! ~ Mulching a Backyard Vegetable garden.
Are you expecting frost? While mulching can protect somewhat, if you have a lot of foliage exposed or if it is going to be REALLY cold, consider covering your baby plants with row cover fabric like THIS or whatever has worked for you in the past. Frost tends not to be an issue for Fall planted bulbs in my area of Southern California
After the growing season has ended, let your plants die back naturally. I go over digging up corms for storage in the next section.
Over Wintering & Naturalizing Daffodils & Narcissus
Of all Spring bulbs, I’ve grown daffodils the longest—over 5 years to be more exact. Therefore, I can confidently say that daffodils are hard to kill, don’t need to be dug up here in Southern California, and will come back year after year with little to no maintenance. In fact, if you plant your daffodils in the ground, you can simply leave them there to overwinter and naturalize.Growing flowers of the genus narcissus in the ground, undisturbed year after year, and letting them spread is called “naturalizing.” I also should note: I have never chilled daffodil or narcissus bulbs in the fridge. I’ve simply bought them and planted them—-and they come back every year.
Narcissus and daffodils are toxic plants. If you’ve ever picked a daffodil, you might notice sap that comes out the bottom. Essentially, this sap can be irritating and toxic. If picking daffodils, wear gloves and keep them in vases on their own as it’s been said the sap can bother other flowers too.
As with most spring bulbs or flowers, let the plants die back naturally before cutting to the ground for overwintering. This allows the underground bulb to take up any energy stored in the foliage to make it through Winter and sprout again in Spring. Additionally, make sure to mulch to protect from freezes if you are leaving your bulbs underground through Winter here in California.
Storing Ranunculus Corms Through Winter
It stuns me every year how shriveled and tiny corms burst to life and create the most beautiful flowers. Since I do not have a dedicated spot for ranunculus, I actually dug them up to make room for other vegetables for Summer. Wait until your plants die back and then carefully pull up the plants—-I kept the dried stems attached to the corms for now.
The bundles of dried plants went into my garage (it’s dark and dry) and I left them to completely dry. Once the ranunculus were completely dried out, I snipped the stems down close to the corms and stored the corms in brown paper bags. Mesh bags or saved onion bags will also work, but I decided I needed a little more protection from possible damage. Keep them away from any critters that may want to snack on them. An indoor closet/pantry would probably be ideal because of temperatures, but I don’t have the space so they stay in my garage.
Always check any stored tubers, corms, or bulbs periodically for mold, mildew, or other issues.
UPDATE 11/22/22: Have you ever wondered if you could grow ranunculus from seed? I collected my own seed and tried it for myself. You can learn more by reading How to Collect & Save Ranunculus Seed.
I mention these specific Spring flowers because they have been low maintenance and perform well in Southern California. I’m zone 10b, but you can check your own gardening zone HERE.
You might have noticed that I didn’t add storage tips for anemones, and that’s on purpose. While I have personal experience with successful overwintering and storage of daffodils, ranunculus, dahlias, and narcissus, I simply don’t have that yet with anemones. I did store some corms from this past Spring and will update this article if those bloom well for me again. My mom actually leaves her anemones in the ground to overwinter (she is zone 10a) and they come back for her every year!
I hope this guide was helpful and encouraged you to grow these gorgeous Spring flowers! Leave your comments and questions below! I love hearing from other gardeners!
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