Select Spring Flowering Bulbs Now
Written by: Steve Huddleston
Steve Huddleston is the senior horticulturist at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden and co-author of Easy Gardens for North Central Texas.
Now is the time to think about ordering spring-flowering bulbs online, through bulb catalogs, or from selections at local nurseries and home and garden centers. While you will not actually plant until November or December, consider the following tips on growing bulbs and deciding which ones to purchase.
General Planting Information
Almost all bulbs prefer full sun. Some, however, will tolerate dappled shade, such as Scilla siberica.
Most bulbs prefer well-drained, organically-enriched soil. However, many of the bulbs mentioned in this article will tolerate various soils, including clay varieties.
The general guideline for planting depth is three times the bulb’s height. In a clay soil, however, the bulb is better off planted too shallow than too deep.
Always let the bulb foliage die down naturally since such foliage manufactures the food necessary to restock the bulb for the next year.
Consider interplanting bulbs with such spring annuals as pansies, alyssum, dianthus, or snapdragons for a really gorgeous display of color.
An excellent group of daffodils for Texas are the jonquillas, which feature several small flowers per stem with a fragrance resembling honeysuckle or jasmine. One of the best varieties is “Quail,” which has rich, bronzy-yellow flowers that are long-lasting and stand out in the landscape.
Tazetta daffodils also do well in Texas. They feature many flowers per stem and a fragrance that is musky sweet. “Avalanche” has white petals with a yellow cup and is very fragrant, while “Falconet” sports yellow petals with red cups, and “Geranium” produces white petals with an orange cup.
Darwin hybrid tulips produce long-lasting flowers on strong stems that are perfect for cutting, and the brilliant colors of these very popular tulips stand out beautifully in the landscape. Darwin hybrids, however, must be treated as annuals since they will not repeat or naturalize in our warm, clay soils. Instead, try any number of species tulips. These diminutive beauties hearken back to the very first tulips, the little bulbs that have given rise to all the large showy hybrids you often see. If given good drainage, species tulips come back year after year, and those adapted to Texas require no cold treatment to induce flowering. They are excellent for rock gardens and the front of borders.
Tulipa bakeri “Lilac Wonder” has flowers that are a pale lilac-pink with a yellow center and are about three inches across. The foliage is less than six inches tall. Tulipa clusiana var. chrysantha has petals that are red on the outside with a bright golden yellow interior. Their total height is six to eight inches. Tulipa linifolia has bright scarlet flowers with pointed petals and a jet black center, and a mature height of four to six inches.
Other Spring Flowering Bulbs
Or Spanish bluebells, have lovely, bell-shaped flowers on 15- to 20-inch stems. They tolerate dry shade and bloom in mid-spring when the trees begin to leaf out, but will also thrive in full sun. They look lovely paired with late daffodils and tulips, planted among low ground covers such as Vinca, or in front of azaleas. They also make good cut flowers. A variety called “Excelsior” has deep violet-blue flowers that are darker and larger than most.
Gladiolus Communis SSP. Byzantinus
Also known as Byzantine gladiolus, cornflag, corn lily, or hardy gladiolus makes another colorful, and heirloom, addition to the spring garden. In April, orchid-like blossoms rise above the sword-shaped foliage. The hooded blossoms are bright magenta, and up to fifteen florets can line the 24-inch stems. This gladiolus is hardy and does not need staking.
Or summer snowflake, has flowers that look like little white, inverted bells with green dots on the outside of each petal. The foliage looks very much like daffodil foliage. Summer snowflake naturalizes beautifully, so plant large drifts for a graceful, natural look. A variety called “Gravetye Giant” is a particularly robust selection with much larger flowers than the species.
Decide which bulbs you want to bloom in your spring garden and place your orders now!