When to order flower bulbs

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spring tulips
Plant tulips in fall for a bright spring bloom
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Know when to order flower bulbs to enjoy the best selection and growing success

Flower gardening is a skill that requires some mental time juggling. The plants you water, weed and otherwise tend to today are through the planning stage. If flowering bulbs are on your agenda for next spring or summer, make sure you order them in time for planting.

The tricky thing about buying flowering bulbs is the time line. Since they need time to root some take months you need to get them in the ground long before their anticipated bloom. When to order flower bulbs depends entirely upon which varieities you want to grow.

There are generally two types typically referred to as either spring-flowering and summer-flowering. According to the International Bulb Society, a more accurate way to divide them is as hardy and tender varieties.


The hardy list includes tulips, crocus, daffodils, hyacinths and other popular spring flowers. If you want to enjoy their beauty after the cold winter fades at last, plant tulips and other hardy varieties in the fall prior to the first frost. This may feel counter intuitive to plant flowers just as the leaves fall from trees and all the colors of nature start to fade, but bulbs are incredible that way.

Though many are technically perennials, they may not return unless you live in a region that has very cold, dry winters, or you dig up the daughters. This means that once you know when to order flower bulbs, it's a good idea to place the re-order every year at the same time.

Order hardy varieties between late summer and early fall.


Tender flowering varieties include the gladiolus, dahlias, and callas. True to their name, these are not capable of surviving winter conditions, with the exception of lilies. Therefore they must go in the ground in early spring right after the last frost. Tender ones will bloom again the following year, but you have to dig them up in fall and carefully store them indoors during winter.

Order tender varieties between early winter and mid-spring.

Always think ahead

Ideally, every gardener would be able to walk to a local nursery and pick up what they want when they need it. This is rarely the case. Not only do you have to make sure you order them in time for proper planting, you also have to work around vendor supplies.

Certain varieties are only sold at particular times, which may not correspond to your ordering plans. For instance, the pineapple lily is available in spring, but hard to find otherwise. Sign up for vendor newsletters so you always know what's in stock, and may even find some great deals.

As you finalize gardening plans for the year ahead, call your vendors and ask them when your varieties of choice will be in stock. Be sure to factor in shipping time. If you find yourself ordering later in the window than you'd have liked, splurge on faster shipping to guarantee they arrive in time.

Make a schedule

There's no need to keep all of these dates in your head. Many gardeners remember when to order flower bulbs by preparing their order approximately one season before planting. Treat yourself to a gardening calendar and mark summer as the time to start thinking about which hardy bulbs to order in the fall. Flip to next winter to remind yourself to start browsing tender bulbs.

The more seasons you grow and learn, the more these dates will seep into your overall gardening knowledge. Flowering bulbs bloom in a stunning array or colors and shapes. Have fun with your planning and don't be afraid to try new varieties alongside old favorites.

In addition to considering color and height, many gardeners like to stagger plants based on flowering times so there are always new blooms to brighten up the day.

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