Fall has become a popular second season for planting, particularly for spring-blooming flower bulbs. Trowel-carrying gardeners return to action once the summer heat abates to set more tulips, crocus or daffodils into the ground.
But bulb planting can be done any time of year. No matter what the climate — banana belt or ski country — you can coax blooms from one kind of bulb or another, displaying them indoors or out.
Here are some season-by-season examples:
Plant tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinth, narcissus, crocus, eranthis, fritillaria, scilla, cyclamen and lilium at least a few weeks before the first killing frost, although some gardeners routinely linger longer.
"I often wait until Thanksgiving before putting them in," said Sally Ferguson, spokeswoman for the Netherlands Flower Bulb Information Center at Danby, Vt. "The bulbs still have enough time to get rooted before winter."
All are good for hardiness zones 4 through 8. Some will begin to flower even before the last of the snow has melted. All go dormant in summer.
Force bulbs for indoor blooms. Start around Sept. 1 if you want to use them as Christmas presents. October 1st is good if you simply want to display them around the house during the holidays.
Start by potting up a few of your favorite spring-blooming bulbs. Keep them in a cool, dark but frost-free place for several months, then place them at a sunny indoor site after they bloom. Beware mixing varietals in the same pot since they may not share the same maturity dates.
To produce blooms from May through October, plant begonia, tigridia, eucomis, allium, amaryllis, gladiolus and oxalis as soon as the soil warms to about 60 degrees. These bulbs generally are good for zones 4-10.
Autumn-blooming bulbs like fall crocus and colchicums should be planted in early- to mid-summer.