Published on 08/31/06

Spring flower flourish depends on fall efforts

By Dan Rahn
University of Georgia

You know you look forward to the annual flourish of flowers in the spring. Everybody does. But the brightest display of blooms in your yard will depend on a little effort now.

"Most bulbs and perennials do better if planted in the fall," said Bob Westerfield, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension horticulturist.

If you don't plan now and try to plant them in early spring, they'll grow a little and try to bloom. "But you won't get nearly the show you would if they had all fall and winter to grow a root system," Westerfield said.

Perennials and bulbs planted in the fall will spend the late fall and winter developing hearty roots that will help them support the stress of blooming in the spring. Those planted in spring will give some blooms, but they'll offer a bigger show a year later, after those roots have had more time to develop.

Trees, too

The same is true for spring-blooming trees.

"Trees such as dogwood and magnolias form buds the previous season," said UGA Extension horticulturist Jim Midcap. For the best roots, fall planting is best, he said.

Early spring planting is usually acceptable but not preferred. "Crape myrtles, however, bloom on new growth," Midcap said. "Getting the trees established for summer blooming makes fall planting essential."

Midcap encourages planting all trees in the fall.

"Plant broadleaf evergreens, such as magnolia, hollies and azaleas, in early fall," he said, "because the soil is still warm. The broadleaf evergreens need warm soil to develop a root system."

The key

Whether you're planting bulbs or perennials, good soil is the key, Westerfield said.

"The soil must be in good shape with plenty of organic matter," he said. "You also need to mulch them to help protect them from cold. Mulch is good insulation. You need it to help the root systems grow and protect them from the cold."

For details on how to plant for spring flowering, contact your county UGA Extension agent at 1-800-ASK-UGA1.

(Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

Dan Rahn is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.