NATURALIZING BULBS FOR SPRING GARDENS
Enjoy Year Round Blooms With Bulbs, Corms, Rhizomes and Tubers
By Linda B. Gay, Horticulturist and Gardener | Photos by Linda B. Gay
This is the time for planting bulbs, but what kind of bulbs should be planted? In different parts of the country the bulb varieties will change depending on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The map shows a historic average annual extreme minimum temperature for each climate zone. What this map doesn’t take into consideration is the summer heat and humidity that have an enormous effect on plant growth and vigor.
A bulb is a storage tuber that, when purchased, has all the energy needed for the next season’s growth and bloom. A true bulb resembles an onion with many layers of leaf scales that hold stored food.
Other bulb-like plants are corms, rhizomes and tubers. These are just different types of geophytes and are referred to as bulbous plants or miscellaneous bulbs for ease of reference. All of these swollen, underground plant parts contain the next season’s plant, including the flower.
Spring flowering bulbs are planted September through December, summer flowering bulbs are planted after the last frost in the spring. Bulbs called “shared treasures” are normally divided as the plants are going dormant, with no foliage, after the bloom season. Shared treasures should be put in a container with holes for drainage and enough soil to cover the bulb and placed somewhere around the garden until you decide where to plant them. This is just a holding pattern until you see green growth sprouting from the tip of the bulb and once you know what the leaves look like you can find a permanent home in the garden. I like to use rocks or plants to protect or remind me where my treasures are when they are dormant.
If you purchase bulbs or are gifted with bulbs that have dried up, you can soak them in warm water for a couple of hours to rehydrate them. I like to place them upright in the bowl with roots down for better uptake into the bulb.
Below (and continued on the next page) is a wonderful list of bulblike plants to add to the garden for extra interest.
Spring flowering: daffodil, narcissus, leucojum (snowflake), scilla (Roman hyacinth), Anomatheca laxa (painted petals), Louisiana iris, Dutch Iris, ipheion (starflower), tulipa clusiana and tulipa chrysantha, and Sprekelia (Aztec lily).
Summer flowering: oriental (fragrant), Asiatic lily (trumpet), Polianthes (tuberoses), Watsonia (bugle lily), gloriosa lily, caladium, Haemanthus (blood lily), gladiolus Byzantinus (magenta Byzantine gladiolus), hedychium (butterfly ginger), Kaempferia (peacock ginger) and Curcuma (hidden ginger).
Fall flowering: Rhodophiala (schoolhouse lily) and lycoris (naked lily or hurricane lily)
Winter flowering: Clivia miniata and paperwhites, which can be forced in containers for holiday gifts.
Perennial bulbs keep foliage year round and do not go dormant. This group includes amaryllis, agapanthus, bletilla (ground orchid), crinum, daylilies and rain lilies.
The Arbor Gate has a fantastic collection of bulbs that bloom year round. Once you start collecting and planting bulbs, you will be hooked on filling your garden with new bulbs for every season. Happy hunting and happy gardening.