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Ask a Master Gardener: Planting Bulbs in the Spring

By: Alice Marty, Mobile County Master Gardener

When we hear gardeners talk about planting bulbs, we expect they are talking about spring flowers, tulips and daffodils, and the like. But tulip and daffodil bulbs are planted in the fall for those beautiful spring blooms. They like a 10-to-14-week winter chill period before sharing their beauty in the spring. Many of the fall-planted varieties won’t perform well here in the deep south for that reason.

Our climate zone 8b warmer winters are a great choice for spring-planted bulbs. No chill is needed, just sunshine, water, and perhaps a little bonemeal to urge them on to summer blooms. These unique specimens bring bold color while others deliver interesting texture, and a few are perfect for creating a stand-alone focal point.

Most of us are familiar with Asiatic lilies, gladiolas, cannas, caladiums, elephant ears, and calla lilies. Let me suggest a few varieties that will give your garden a new perspective for this year.

'Lucifer' Crocosmia is a famous hummingbird favorite with crescent-shaped sprays of fire-engine-red blooms and attractive, sword-shaped foliage. It is a sun lover but will accept partial shade. A mid to late summer bloomer with blooms reaching 36”-48” and foliage that stays green all summer. (Crocosmia crocosmiiflora)

Double Tuberose, also known as “The Pearl," is loved by gardeners for its pristine white flowers and heavenly scent. It makes an excellent cut flower. Growing 24 to 36 inches tall in full sun. A mid to late summer bloomer. (Polianthes tuberosa)

Chinese Ground Orchid pink or white– you can enjoy the fascinating orchid blossoms and pleated green foliage in your partially shaded or woodland garden. It’s an early spring bloomer 8 to 12 inches tall. (Bletilla striata)

Gloriosa Lily, sometimes called Fire Lily, is a tropical trailing vine that produces flame-colored blooms. Perfect for growing in a pot or in the garden. Just give it something to climb on! Up to 6 ft. Full sun or part shade, it blooms throughout the spring and summer (Gloriosa rothschildiana)

Summer bulbs should be planted after all danger of frost has passed, or in southern areas January-March. Bulbs such as caladiums and elephant ears will not grow in cool soil, so it's best to wait for the soil to warm before planting them.

Most plants, including summer bulbs, have preferences for how much sun or shade they want. When you're selecting plants for your garden, pay attention to these recommendations. They are usually noted in the catalog descriptions and on the packaging.

Before planting, take the time to observe your yard and garden with an eye to how much sun each area receives. Consider the shadows of trees and buildings and remember that the angle of the sun gets lower as the summer progresses. Then match your plants with a location that will give them the best chance for success.

FULL SUN areas get 6 or more hours of sunlight.

PART SUN areas get 4-6 hours of sunlight per day.

SHADE areas receive less than 4 hours of sunlight per day.

Most plants prefer growing in loose, well-drained soil. If your soil is compacted, sandy, or heavy, you can improve the texture over time by adding compost and peat moss. Avoid planting in soggy areas. Very few plants will tolerate wet feet.

Bletilla striata
Lucifer Crocosmia, courtesy of Pixabay

Gloriosa lily, by Alice Marty

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