Fall is the time for planting bulbs, but what kind of bulbs should I plant? If you are from different parts of the country, the bulb varieties vary according to the USDA Plant Hardiness Map. The plant hardiness map shows the “average” annual, minimum, winter temperatures divided by 10 degree Fahrenheit for each climatic zone. What this map doesn’t take into consideration is the summer heat and humidity which has an enormous effect on plant growth and vigor.
What is a bulb? 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 storage tubers and referred to as a “bulbous plants or miscellaneous bulbs” for ease of reference. All storage tubers have the next season’s plant including the flower!
When do I plant bulbs? Spring Flowering Bulbs are planted September through December, Summer Flowering Bulbs are planted after last frost in spring. Bulbs that are “shared treasures” are normally divided as the plants are going dormant 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. (Dormant means there is no foliage or visible sign of the bulbs.)
TIP: If you purchase bulbs or 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 is a wonderful list of bulb-like plants to add to the garden for extra interest!
Spring Flowering: Daffodils, Narcissus, Leucojum (Snowflake), Scilla (Roman Hyacinth), Anomatheca laxa (Painted Petals) Louisiana Iris, Dutch Iris, Ipheon (Star Flower), Tulipa clusiana & T. chrysantha (species Tulip), and Sprekelia (Aztec Lily)
Summer Flowering: Oriental (Fragrant) Asiatic Lilies (Trumpet), Polianthes (Tuberoses), Watsonia (Bugle Lily), Gloriosa lily, Caladium, Haemanthus (Blood Lily), Gladiolas byzantinus (Magenta Byzantine Glad), Hedychium (Butterfly Ginger), Kaempferia (Peacock Ginger), Curcuma (Hidden Ginger)
Fall Flowering: Rhodophiala (School House Lily), Lycoris (Naked Lady or Hurricane Lily)
Winter Flowering: Clivia miniata, Paperwhites 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 Rainlilies.
Once you start collecting and planting bulbs, you will be hooked to fill your garden with new bulbs for every season! HAPPY HUNTING AND HAPPY GARDENING!