The Q&A Archives: Growing Bulbs in Warm Climates

Question: I grew up in New York and now that I've moved to New Orleans, I'm confused about growing bulbs here: Which ones need to be chilled? I grow mine in containers on a balcony, and assume I need to bring them all in IF it freezes. I'm growing cannas, caladiums, hyacinths, daffodils, paper whites, Stargazer lilies, and tulips. Can I force any of these, or do they need chilling first?

Answer: Many plants, including most common bulbs, have an annual cycle of growth and rest. The hardy spring-bloomers you remember from New York, such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths, rest during the hot summer and cold winter then grow in spring. They need a certain number of chilling hours to break dormancy. If your cold-hardy bulbs, especially the tulips and hyacinths, don't get 6 to 10 weeks of freezing temperatures, they won't bloom.

Paper whites are in the daffodil family, but they are native to a warmer climate. If you leave them in your pot year round, they'll bloom in the fall. They are also the easiest flower bulbs to force. Give them with moisture and light and they'll grow and bloom effortlessly.

For tender bulbs native to warmer climates, such as caladiums and cannas, the rest period coincides with whatever season does not support growth due to drought or excessive heat.

Cannas can stay right in the ground over the winter. They'll regrow all on their own.

Gradually decrease the water you give your caladiums until the leaves fade and dry up. Dig up the bulbs (technically rhizomes); allow them to dry in a cool, shady place for a few days, and store them in dry peat moss for the winter.

Your Stargazer Oriental lily can stay out for the winter as long as the soil in its container is well drained; it might rot if the soil holds too much moisture.

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