Fall Flowering Bulbs

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Deciduous trees dazzle us with the brilliance of the golds, oranges and reds they display before dropping their leaves in the autumn. However, you don't have to be satisfied with autumn leaf color alone. Consider planting fall flower bulbs.

Spring-flowering bulbs are universal symbols of spring. Many of us wait to see the cheerful little crocus as it pops through the last of the winter snows. The delicate narcissus, the colorful tulip, and the sunny daffodil are all spring flowering bulbs that bring out smiles after long, colorless winters. Just as spring-flowering bulbs bring a welcome burst of color as they usher in the season, fall flower bulbs offer you a last blast of vibrancy to keep in memory through a long, colorless winter.

There are two main differences between spring flower bulbs and fall flower bulbs. Spring flower bulbs are planted in the fall and need a cold period of winter dormancy to flower. Fall flower bulbs are typically planted in the spring or summer. Most fall flower bulbs aren't winter hardy and need to be lifted in the autumn and stored until time for the next spring planting.

When selecting fall flower bulbs, always choose those that are firm and blemish-free. A good rule of thumb to remember is "the larger the bulb, the larger the bloom." The bulb is actually a tiny womb for a flower. In fact, if you split a bulb in half, you frequently can see the bud and in some cases, even see the flower. Everything the flower needs to grow, except water, is contained inside a bulb. Although the differences between them are slight, many of these flower storehouses that we commonly call bulbs are actually rhizomes, corms and tubers. Look for these labels in addition to "bulbs" when purchasing fall-flower bulbs.

The dahlia, which grows from a tuber, is a beautiful late-summer flower that blooms until the first frost. Blooms can range from button to dinner-plate size in virtually every color except solid blue. As all fall flower bulbs, they are easy to plant and easy to care for, requiring only that you lift them in the fall for winter storage.

Colchicums are perhaps the best known but least planted fall flower bulbs. They are unique in that they only need sunlight to grow and will bloom sitting on your potting bench or even on your kitchen table! Large flowers, resembling the crocus, are typically pink. Although they need soil to make roots and foliage, because the bulb must be planted partly exposed, colchicums are a target for snails and slugs, which will peel the bulbs like an onion.

The saffron crocus is a fall flower bulb that does double duty in your flower garden. Lilac flowers display the burnt orange-red stigmas that are the source of the spice, saffron. The flowers only last for two days. Pick the stigmas on the second day, air dry them and you have just harvested flower and fruit gardening guides homegrown saffron to season your dishes.

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