Fall bulb-planting time is almost here. You can order from specialists now…or wait until autumn arrives and get your bulbs in local outlets. Gardening expert Teri Dunn Chace explains the benefits of each…


Shop by Mail

Bulb companies encourage ordering in late summer. If you are on their mailing lists or they have your e-mail address, enticing and colorful offerings—often with early-bird sales and discounts—are already popping up in your mailbox.

Earlier shopping is partly for the bulb companies’ benefit. They have fields to harvest from and climate-controlled storage facilities to fill. Customers who shop now make their process run more smoothly. But there also are good reasons to shop for your bulbs this way…

Selection. You’re buying direct from the grower. Most specialty bulb suppliers are growing spring-flowering bulbs in the vast production fields of Holland. In addition to ones you are familiar with, they offer bulbs that you’ll never see in stores with diverse colors, color combinations and fancy or unusual flower forms.

Quality. Since bulb merchants are harvesting, storing and shipping their own wares, the bulbs are fresher and have not been bashed around or dried out during the journey from Holland. No middleman means less handling and better quality.

Price. No middleman also means less markup. Tip: Check out the discounted “grab bags” or “mystery assortments”—they frequently are made up of wonderful surplus flowers.


Shop Locally

Garden centers, nurseries and big-box stores with gardening sections have plenty of spring-flowering bulbs for sale in early fall—and there are good reasons to shop in person…

Timing is right. You see the ones you want, take them home and plant them.

You can see and touch before buying. Pick up a bulb and squeeze, as you do when shopping for onions in the ­grocery store. Every bulb should be firm and plump, not squishy or dried out. Reject the ones with dings, rotten or soft spots, or evidence of pest nibbling.

Buying tip: Fatter, larger bulbs are better—they have more stored reserves, which leads to better, more vigorous-growing leaves, stems and flowers next spring. In fact, larger bulbs are better able to rebloom in your garden in the years to come. This is especially true of crocuses and daffodils.

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