Can you plant bulbs in January? Experts reveal whether it's too late to plant these springtime flowers

Planting spring bulbs a little later than usual can still provide a successful display if conditions are right

spring flowers in containers
(Image credit: iBulb)

Q: I have a couple of bags of spring bulbs in my shed that I forgot to plant in the fall. It's now January – is it worth planting them anyway? 

A: While most gardeners plant their daffodils, tulips, and other hardy spring bulbs between September and November, getting them in the ground a few months later can still give you a stunning display. However, there are a few tips to bear in mind to increase your chances of success.

planting bulbs

Planting bulbs is one of the best ways to bring color to your garden when temperatures warm again

(Image credit: iBulb)

Planting bulbs in January – 3 tips for a thriving display

Planting bulbs in the fall can give you more reliable results. However, there are actually a few benefits of planting some spring bulbs in January, highlights Jen McDonald, a co-founder of Garden Girls. 

If you're shopping for new bulbs, she notes how you may score a deal in January as garden centers try to clear their inventory. And, if you're planting tulips, January planting can help avoid tulip fire, she adds. This is a fungal disease that often plagues them when planted too early, when bulbs sit in warm and soggy soil.

Jen McDonald
Jen McDonald

Jen McDonald is a garden expert and co-founder of Garden Girls, LLC, based in Houston, TX. With 14 raised garden beds and 400 square feet of garden space, Jen grows cut flowers to peanuts, amaranth to okra, and everything in between.

1. Inspect your bulbs before planting them

colorful tulips

There is a huge variety of tulips available

(Image credit: iBulb)

Forgotten bulbs that have been kept in their original packaging can be susceptible to turning moldy, especially if they've been somewhere that's damp and warm. 

Moldy bulbs won't flower successfully, so always check before you plant them to save wasting your time. 'Make sure that the bulbs are firm, discarding any that feel mushy,' adds Autumn Hilliard-Knapp of Perfect Plants Nursery. 

Ideally, store bulbs somewhere dry, dark, and cool, out of plastic packaging. Paper bags or cardboard or wooden boxes are good storage options.

2. Make sure the soil is suitable

bulbs in pots

Ensure your bulbs are mold-free

(Image credit: iBulb)

'As long as you can work the ground, planting bulbs is achievable,' says gardening expert Petar Ivanov of Fantastic Gardeners. In colder climates, the ground can be frozen or too wet in January, which will make it challenging, he adds.

If the soil in your garden isn't suitable, you could plant bulbs in containers instead. Add a few handfuls of grit to the potting mixture to improve drainage, lift them onto pot feet (such as these UFelice ones from Amazon), and keep them somewhere sheltered, such as on your porch or next to a wall, to protect them from inclement weather.

Top tip: Remember that bulbs prefer well-draining soil. 'You can improve drainage by adding lighter-weight materials like peat moss or coco coir,' suggests Anna Ohler, the owner of Bright Lane Gardens nursery.

Petar Ivanov
Petar Ivanov

Peter Ivanov is a gardening and plant expert who has been working at Fantastic Gardeners for eight years. As one of the company's top-performing experts, he now manages over six teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work. 

Anna Ohler
Anna Ohler

Anna is an avid plant hobbyist and the owner and operator of Bright Lane Gardens, a boutique plant nursery in Northern Michigan. With over a decade of experience in gardening and landscaping, she takes every opportunity to share her knowledge on all things plant-related. She also runs the company's YouTube channel, which is full of practical advice.

3. Protect them from the cold

daffodils in container

Daffodil bulbs can be planted in a container if the ground is too waterlogged or frozen

(Image credit: iBulb)

Spring bulbs such as daffodils, tulips, and crocuses are hardy and can be planted in colder climates, says Anna. However, they can appreciate a bit of protection if you're planting them in midwinter.

If temperatures are expected to drop below freezing after planting, cover the beds with a layer of mulch or straw to provide insulation, Anna recommends.

Bulbs planted in pots can also be protected from winter cold by wrapping them in burlap, frost cloth, or bubble wrap.

narcissus and tulips

Hardy bulbs can benefit from a bit of extra protection if you're planting them in the depths of winter

(Image credit: iBulb)


When will spring bulbs planted in January flower?

Bulbs planted in January can be expected to flower a little later than those planted in the fall.

Can you plant snowdrops in January?

Snowdrops can be slightly more challenging to grow from bulbs, even when planted in the fall. If yours have been in storage until January, they have probably dried out and will no longer be viable for planting. Instead, wait another month or so and then plant snowdrops 'in the green' (with established leaves) from local nurseries. They should come back year after year, provided the squirrels don't get to them.

Bear in mind that some later-planted bulbs may not bloom, leaving you with foliage rather than flowers, as Jen McDonald points out. However, she advises to take the chance and plant them anyway; 'Those bulbs certainly won’t bloom in the garden shed.' 

Any gaps in your display can be filled with flowering bulbs bought from a local nursery when spring arrives.  And remember, some bulbs planted in the ground – particularly daffodils and crocuses – are likely to flower successfully next year, even if the results are a little disappointing this time round.

Holly Crossley
Contributing Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for for two years, Holly now regularly writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.