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Is it too late to plant bulbs in January?

Updated February 21, 2019

If wet, cold winter weather caught you off guard and you didn't get your spring bulbs in the ground, you may be able to plant the bulbs as late as January. When it comes to planting bulbs, doing so late is better than throwing the bulbs away.

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Cold temperatures

To bloom in spring, bulbs must be planted in cold soil 10 to 13 weeks ahead of time. The chilling time will allow the bulbs to develop healthy roots, which will transport nutrients from the soil to the foliage and blooms.

Planting in January

Plant the bulbs in January as soon as the ground is soft enough to dig or chisel a hole in the ground. The bulbs may not bloom on schedule in the spring. They may produce smaller blooms on short stems later in the spring or summer, or they may wait to bloom on schedule the following spring.


Spread 7.5 to 10 cm of mulch over the bulbs immediately after planting. Mulch such as pine needles, shredded bark or straw will protect the bulbs from winter freezing and thawing. Remove the mulch when the weather warms up in the spring.

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About the Author

M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.

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