Written by Leslie Munroe and Yvonne Florian
If you wish to brighten up a shady spot in your landscape, why not try planting some bulbs? But not tulips, daffodils, or crocuses. Those are the bulbs for northern climates and would just end up enriching the soil by decomposing in the ground here. For growing successful bulbs in the Florida home landscape, you should be looking for tropical bulbs.
There are three oaks and other species of trees in my yard which cover very large areas. Many people believe it is difficult to grow both soothing green and vivid colors in shady places. But bulbs are one option to provide the rich green color and some brightness for sparkling focal points.
Best Bulbs for South Florida
The very best thing about bulbs in Florida is their ease of care. Many of them need only to be planted and watered-in for establishment. Then forget about them! When left alone, some will cover the area with their evergreen leaves until the telltale bloom stalk shoots up with the promise of bright, showy flowers:
Although many northern-transplants (of the human type) bemoan the loss of various beloved bulbs, it is still possible for the homeowner to have a great variety of these colorful perennials in the Florida landscape. Here are a few of them that are easy to find and are very well suited to our central Florida landscape.
- Agapanthus: “Lily of the Nile” will bloom in shades of blue, periwinkle, and white. These versatile bulbs can be used as accent plants or for ground cover whether under trees or in full sun. My own are thriving in part shade. They like their roots constricted.
- Amaryllis: These have flower stalks with several large, showy flowers ranging from the deepest scarlet to intense tangerine and salmon-pinks. There are even candy-cane-striped blooms to liven up a shady spot.
- Crinum lilies: Highly fragrant flowers in colors from purest white, startling hot pink to burgundy with some varieties boasting stripes. Crinum lilies produce a whorl of bright green leaves, some up to six-feet-long! Certain species’ leaves display a purplish blush. These are the largest of lilies, making a good accent plant.
- Rain lilies: Zephyranthes spp. These tiny garden gems look like something the fairies left. The delicate flowers bloom in shades from yellow to pure pale white, pink and deep fuchsia. Their leaves blend in with the grass. As the name suggests, they flourish in our early summer rains.
- Spider lily: is the common name for this Crinum relative. This is a gorgeous and showy Florida native wildflower with amazing white blooms that spread out almost like a spider’s web with string-like petals. These like a moist spot in the landscape.
- Canna lily: With interesting banana-like leaves, these bloom in varying shades from yellow, orange, and bright red to peachy-pink. Some of the yellow’s may be speckled orange. “Tropicana” variety has interesting leaves with colorful variegation in yellow, red, burgundy, and green.
- Gloriosa lily: Colchicaceae spp. Also known as “flame lily”, sports yellow, red and green large flowers which hang from vines like balls of fire. It is a vine lily and will need some good support. The whole plant dies back in the winter. Good for shading a porch from summer sun.
To Learn More…
If you would like more information on growing perennial bulbs in Florida, check out the list of University of Florida’s EDIS publications: “Bulbs for Florida”.