April 10, 2015
By: Kathy Kinsey
Amaryllis Hippeastrum Charisma. Photo by Kathy Kinsey
Bulbs….What an amazing history! Having held a special place in our history, bulbs have been around since ancient times. To this date, many of them are still grown in our very own gardens, though these modern relatives are larger and much more colorful than their ancestors. And did you know, bulbs are considered the most permanent and reliable of all the flowering plants? I can’t imagine not planting these!
Tulip (Tulipa) is the national flower of Turkey. They are native to the central Asia area to southern China. Their introduction into the west was by the Ottoman Empire, 16th century, also called the Turkish Empire. The Turks were cultivating these bulbs as early as 1,000 AD. Highly prized and grown by the Sultan, tulips symbolized wealth and social status during what has been called the “Age of the Tulip”. It has been noted if you planted nothing but tulips, you would have the most amazing garden with three months of color! Your neighbors are going to be so jealous of you! (Zones 3-8)
Daffodil (Narcissus) is native to Spain and Portugal and is considered to be the most gracious of all the spring bulbs. In the late 16th century, Holland had a large scale production of daffodils and tulips. The Dutch colonists are considered the ones that are responsible for spreading the flowers all over the world during the 18th and 19th century. Holland is still the world’s largest producer of flower bulbs, followed by Great Britain with United States being the largest importer of bulbs. Go USA! Belonging to the Amaryllis family, you could have a three month blooming period if the proper selections are chosen. Available in white, yellow, white and yellow, some small, some large…just something for everyone! (Zones 3-9)
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum spp.) What a flower…native to South America, it is one of the most popular bulbs for growing indoors, most especially around the Christmas season. Available in pink, red, white, green and multicolored, these flowers will simply add elegance to any room. The flowers on these can be quite large so you may want to stake them or prop the plant up against something…or plant them in a ceramic pot. Set the bulbs in a snug-fitting pot with about 1” of space between the bulb and the side of the container, keeping 25% of the bulb above the soil level. Press the soil firmly around the bulb and then water with lukewarm water. Avoid watering again until you see green growth. The warmer the room, the quicker it will grow but be careful of the pollen – it will stain what it falls on. You might want to move these to your garden after they have bloomed…I am assuming you will have purchased more than one! (Zones 6-8)
Crocus is a genus of perennial flowering plants that grow from corms. They are native to central and southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, the islands of the Aegean and western China. The spice Saffron is obtained from the stigmas of Crocus sativas – one of the autumn blooming species. The word crocus is from the Greek word Saffron! The cultivation and harvesting of Crocus was first documented in the Mediterranean on the Isle of Crete. Plant them in full sun to partial shade, though full sun is preferred for better flowers and well drained soil. If the day temperature gets too hot, they will fade. As their corms come under attack by some of our wildlife, you may want to plant them along with some Daffodils, of which they hate. (Zones 3-8)
The daylily (Hemerocallis) is another great bulb that is perfect for this area. Though they are best known for their yellow and orange colored flowers, there are other colors as well. Red, pink, purple, a melon color, bicolor, tipped, dusted or some even have the painted look with contrasting hues. And those flowers…well they come in smooth, ruffled, single or double while the petals are available with the pointed look, rounded, or even long and twisting. They love full sun but will tolerate light shade. Mulch around the crown but do not cover it….you will smother it if you do. A rule of thumb for planting…the way you see it in the pot is pretty much the way it needs to go in the ground. (Zones 1-11) I’m speechless!
In planting bulbs, loosen the soil to 6 inches or more deep – plant the bulb, nose up, and if planting more than one, set them 2 – 4 inches apart. There is a general rule to follow in planting bulbs – the hole needs to be three times as deep as the bulb is tall. Easy enough! Water them in the fall if there has been no rainfall and in the spring when they emerge from the ground…this will ensure a beautiful and full flower. Once the flowers are spent, leave the foliage intact and allow it to yellow and deteriorate slowly. This will provide the nourishment the bulbs need for future flowering. You will want to mark the areas where you have planted your bulbs so they are not disturbed while they are resting. A bamboo stake works great for this, and by doing so, you will have provided those lovely dragonflies that visit your garden a place to rest.
I hope you will give bulbs a try and when you do, know that you will have planted a self-contained package of foliage and flowers that will happily reward you with color year after year after year…. All bulbs will look much better if you mass plant them – either in a pot or in the ground – because one – well you know what they say about that. Though not all of them will be up all year round, you will get to enjoy them through the cooler days when some plants have exhausted all their avenues and have gone under, like the hosta for instance. I just know you will enjoy seeing all those beautiful and happy colors looking back at you!
So plant some bulbs…in the ground or in some pots if you have critters that dig in your yard…because of all the plants we can grow, there is just no other plant that requires so little maintenance…well maybe there is one….the cactus!
Kathy Kinsey is a Master Gardener volunteer with the UF/Leon County Cooperative Extension Office. You may also email us at Ask-A-Mastergardener@leoncountyfl.gov with any gardening questions you may have.