If you’ve never considered planting fall blooming bulbs in containers, you are missing out on quite a show. Although everyone is familiar with the spring blooming bulbs like tulips and daffodils, fall blooming bulbs are almost like the stepchildren of the bulb family.
These are great plants to use in containers because even if they are not hardy in your area, you can still have a fall showing of colorful blooms. When the show is over, you can move the entire pots to a garage or basement and bring them out again next year. If you prefer, you can lift the bulbs and store them bare root over winter to protect them from frost. Check out the monthly garden tasks for September for more information on storing bulbs through the winter months.
When you are ready to re-plant the bulbs, discard any bulbs that have shriveled. Check them over for rot or any signs of disease or insect damage. Be sure your containers are clean and sterilized.Follow the general directions for planting bulbs in containers and plant only firm healthy bulbs in your garden containers.
The range of fall blooming bulbs is not as extensive as that of spring bulbs, but you still have quite a few choices that will extend the bloom time of your garden containers. Although I’m discussing growing fall blooming bulbs in containers, these fall flowering bulbs can also be planted in the ground which is why I am listing the plant hardiness zone for each bulb.
Colchicum (Fall Blooming Crocus):
Hardiness Zone 4-9
Comments: These are actually corms and are shipped in late August, early September. They bloom within a few weeks of planting. Showy flowers. Colchicums can be placed in a dish of pebbles with enough water to keep the corm bottoms wet. They’ll bloom very soon without the addition of soil. Each bulb produces 5-10 flowers
Crocus speciosus (True Autumn Crocus):
Color: Violet Blue – Mauve
Hardiness Zone 4-9
Comments: These are shipped in early September and should be planted immediately for fall bloom. Very easy plant to grow and is the hardiest of the autumn crocus bulbs. Resembles its spring cousin, the crocus we all know and love.
Cyclamen Hederifolium.(Fall Blooming):
Blooming Season: Early to late Fall
Hardiness Zone 5-7
Comments: This bulb is the daintest of fall blooming bulbs. Useful for containers, but also great when planted in woodland gardens. Spreads easily
Lycoris (Spider Lily):
Blooming Season: Late summer -Early Fall
Color:Shaded of Reds
Hardiness Zone 8-10
Comments: An old fashioned favorite. Best if kept dry in the summer while plant is dormant. A member of the Amaryllis family.
Blooming Season: Late Fall – Early Winter
Hardiness Zone 7-10
Comments: Nerines are amongst the finest of the autumn flowering bulbs and are members of the amaryllis family. They are very long lasting when used as cut flowers. This bulb is a member of the amaryllis family
Sternbergia (Autumn Daffodil):
Blooming Season: Fall
Color: Golden Yellow/White
Hardiness Zone 6-9
Comments: Resembles the crocus flower. Prefers a sweet soil. A member of the amaryllis family. Combines well with blue or purple fall crocus in containers
This listing of fall blooming bulbs in containers is meant as a guide to fall bulbs that can be planted in containers. There are many other bulbs that bloom in the fall, but these seem to be the most popular among them for container gardening. Information on the care and planting of these bulbs can be found at White Flower Farms and also at the Pacific Bulb Society website.