The Q&A Archives: Bulbs In The Desert Heat

Question: I always have a difficult time ordering bulbs from seed catalogs because they are shipped at the wrong time for planting in Tucson. We plant bulbs in November and I can't find seed companys that ship for our season. Help! Also, when I buy bulbs do I have to chill them? Are bulbs like gladiolas and daliahs periannials here? It is May and we are already having 98 degree heat and my glads are getting ready to start blooming and my amarillas are in bloom.

Answer: I don't know any low desert gardeners who have continued success with dahlias, so I don't recommend them here. Gladiolas can survive and even naturalize if conditions are to their liking, but again, not many people have regular success with them. Typical spring bloomers, such as daffodils and crocus need pre-chilling, but summer bloomers, such as canna, do not. A great bulb plant that you might want to consider is rain lily (Zephyranthes). It grows without fuss, will spread, and will take sun. Bearded iris and Dutch iris also do extremely well, as do crinum, or spider lilies.

Here are several companies that specialize in bulbs. Check with them to see if you can get shipping when you need it:

Van Bourgondien, 1-800-622-9959,
Brent and Becky's Bulbs,
McClure & Zimmerman,

Also, check with local full-service nurseries in the fall. I've noticed that more types of bulbs are showing up than in previous years and they arrive at the appropriate time!

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