Flower Bulbs For Mild Climates: Warm And Cold Weather Plants

Flower bulbs for mild climates, if cared for properly can make for a successful and hardy garden.

When you speak generally of hardy bulbs you would think of those that can be left in the ground all year and then the tender bulbs are those that must be lifted and stored over winter. But there are a few that are half-hardy in an intermediate class, and these are treated as tender. What would interest someone that grows either of these bulbs would be if they were left in the flower bed would they bloom again the next season. Even in the south gardens have a number of tender bulbs that come thru the winter but never bloom such as the Lycoris aurea, known as the Yellow Hurricane Lily, L. radiata, a tender bulb. This bulb blooms freely every season, while the L. squamigera that is perfectly hardy even in the north will increase slowly and bloom capriciously.

The success of half-hardy or tender bulbs in the open ground depends not only on how cold the winters are, but also on how wet they are. Remember that good drainage is essential to most bulbs. Sometimes bulbs will fail in California and Cape bulbs from South Africa will fail in the south because of excessive moisture, rather than the severity of the climate. The hardiness of a bulb depends on the exposure and the soil, as well as the temperature. I would say it is very difficult to say just how far north a bulb can be left safely in the ground, for a bulb that is not hardy in one garden may live and bloom next door.

In my experience with the mild climate and tender bulbs I have found that growing them in the open ground is the same general culture as for hardy bulbs. I do plant the tender bulbs deeper, in a more protected place and try to achieve perfect drainage for them. They require a light, rich, porous soil, and with a few exceptions, all the sun they can get. It is better to plant tender bulbs in the spring, even though they are to be left in the groun permanently, for then when they are established after cold weather comes and are more apt to survive than if they were just put out in the fall. I always cover these doubtful hardy bulbs with a mound of dirt or a mulch of leaves before winter comes in and I have great success.

Even when they can't be left in the ground, a large number of tender bulbs can be grown outdoors for summer bloom. They must be taken up in the fall, however, and stored in the cellar for another year. Sometimes it is even advisable to store them. If you have bulbs that don't keep well, I would advise just buying more as you get a good quanity of bulbs very inexpensive. When the tender bulbs are to be set out in the flower garden borders in the spring they should not be planted until the weather is settled, the soil warm, and the danger of frost is over. If they cannot be left in the ground over winter, the bulbs such as Ismene and Crinum, whose foliage does not ripen, should be taken up when the frost has turned them limp. They sure should not be packed air tight, but should be kept in a dry place where there is a free circulation of air, and where the temperaure does not go below 50 degrees. If it gets colder the bulb may not be destroyed, but the flower bud will be killed.

I think with the half hardy bulbs you may want to experiment and not bring them in and see if they bloom the next year, as you really haven't lost much as they are very inexpensive to replace.

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