While the calendar might say it’s time to plant spring-flowering bulbs, most gardeners are waiting until next month to get their bulbs in the ground, and for good reason.
“Wait until after the first frost to plant bulbs. They will sprout too early if planted when it is too warm,” said master gardener Ginny Allen. “Bulbs do well in containers or in the ground with good drainage. Many types of daffodils, leucojum and crocus do well.”
Certain bulbs grow better in the South, said Judy Kirkland, president of the Augusta Council of Garden Clubs. Among them are Narcissus, also known as daffodils.
“The Southern Living Garden Book lists those that do well in our area,” she said in an e-mail. “For example, under Narcissus there is a paragraph titled ‘Surefire Daffodils of the South.’ These daffodils bloom dependably in most areas and increase with little care: Avalon, Carlton, February Gold, Geranium, Jawera, Ice Follies, Jack Snipe, Jetfire, Minnow and others. Note that the popular ‘King Alfred’ is not listed.”
When shopping recently for bulbs, Kirkland said she borrowed a copy of the book off of the store shelf to help her make selections.
“Also of note to me is that White Flower Farm has a selection of daffodils for naturalizing,” she said. “Actually, two: one for the North and another for the South.”
Waiting until it’s a little cooler is gardener Debbie Hill’s rule of thumb when it comes to planting spring bulbs.
“I will be planting bulbs this year in several places. It’s a little too early for me. I usually plant in November when the ground is a bit cooler,” the Martinez resident said. “I’ve bought bulbs and have them in the refrigerator to cool before I plant them. Martha Stewart has a good short article in her Living magazine this month on naturalizing with bulbs, a different planting technique. I think I will try it in my areas.”
For most, planting bulbs that don’t bloom year after year can be frustrating. Allen said tulips can be planted in the South but should be treated like an annual, with new bulbs planted each year.
“I have had no luck with tulips,” said Kirkland. “But I understand there are species of tulips which I have not tried.”
In The Southern Living Garden Book, Kirkland said tulips are listed as plants that should be “treated as annuals.”
Hill recalls the beautiful tulip gardens that Augusta State University used to have.
“Tulips do grow here. Generally, if you plant tulips here, you plant in the fall and then dig them up after they bloom and refrigerate since we are so hot here. I usually plant them and leave them in the ground. Sometimes I get repeats; sometimes not.”