Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
November, 2000
Regional Report

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Oxblood lilies are one of the many types of naturalizing bulbs that grow well in our region.

Fall Is Bulb Time

Bulbs are some of the easiest of flowers to grow in our landscapes. They provide years of enjoyment and add seasonal beauty like few other plants can. Now is the time to plant bulbs if you want to enjoy the fragrance,

color, and beauty of their blooms next spring and summer.

Bulbs in the South

Some bulbs, such as the standard tulips and hyacinths, are best used as annuals in our region, as they tend not to naturalize in this warm southern climate. These are "one-shot" bulbs for us - best planted now, enjoyed in spring, and then discarded. Other bulbs are dependable perennials that return each year and slowing spread with time. I am personally a little partial to these naturalizing wonders.

Daffodils: A Southern Tradition

Daffodils are a southern tradition like few other bulbs. Just take a late winter drive through the country past old abandoned homesteads to understand why. The house may be gone, the chimney crumbling, the landscape overgrown by brush, but the daffodils will be going stronger than ever. Do some experimenting or consult veteran gardening friends in the area to find which daffodil varieties grow best in your particular soil and microclimate.

Other Bulb Choices

Not only daffodils but many other bulbs grow well year after year in our region. Some bulbs that have naturalized well for me include Dutch iris (Iris), grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum), hardy gladiolus (Gladiolus byzantinus), lady tulip (Tulipa clusiana), hardy amaryllis (Hippeastrum x Johnsonii), oxblood lily (Rhodophiala bifida), pink magic lily (Lycoris squamigera), red spider lily (L. radiata), and summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum).

Select Quality Bulbs

It's important to choose healthy, quality bulbs - second-rate bulbs produce second-rate flowers. Quality bulbs will produce flowers the first year after planting, as the blooms are already formed in the bulbs when you purchase them. Select bulbs that are large for their species and firm. I try to shop or order early while the selection is best.

Plant in Well-Prepared Soil

Before planting bulbs I work a few inches of compost into the soil. Slightly raised planting beds are worth the extra effort in the South, as our rainfall often comes in minideluges. Bulbs can be a bit picky about their planting depth. When in doubt plant them at a depth of 3 times the width of the bulb. In sandy soil, set bulbs slightly deeper; in clay soils, slightly shallower. I'll usually mix a small handful of bone meal or superphosphate into the soil beneath each bulb. Then I'll mulch the area well with leaves and pine needles to discourage weed competition.

Then I go on my way and forget about them - until spring, when they make their sudden debut with an amazing display of beauty.

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