Bulb Planting in Southern California

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When you mention “bulb planting” most people think of tulips and bulbs associated with beautiful pictures of gardens from Holland and other northern climes where bulbs require a period of cold (vernalization) in order to grow and flower. So if you want your garden to reflect these images there will be a certain amount of work involved.

Vernalized Bulbs – beautiful but time consuming

In order to grow tulips, hyacinths or crocus, it’s necessary for the bulbs to spend some time in a cold atmosphere before planting. And late next spring, after they bloom, you’ll have to dig the bulbs up and store them in a cool, dry place until next fall. Repeat blooms means going through this ritual year after year—a fair amount of work, but the results can be gorgeous.

Non-Vernalized Bulbs – plant once and enjoy

If you can do without tulips and other vernalized bulbs, here’s a list of spring-flowering bulbs that you can plant this fall and enjoy for years to come:

Chinnodoxa – Glory In the Snow
  • Narcissus – including those generally labeled as daffodils, jonquils and their miniature varieties
  • Dutch Iris
  • Chionodoxa – “Glory in the Snow”
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Fritillaria – a tall, unusual-looking member of the lily family, will last for years in your garden and produces brilliant bell-shaped flowers in several colors
  • Scilla – naturalizes in Southern California’s climate, producing spikes of blue, pink, lavender and white
  • Allium – sometimes called “flowering onion”
  • Freesias – produce loads of tubular flowers in shades of pink, red, salmon, white and yellow
  • Anemone
  • Ranunculus

Whether it be vernalized or non-vernalized bulbs you want, you’ll find a selection of fall-planted bulbs in garden centers and nurseries from September through late December. These are great sources for the best sellers: Daffodils, hyacinths, Dutch Iris, tulips, ornamental onions, but if you’re looking for something more unusual, check out mail-order suppliers (just Google “fall planting bulbs”) and you’ll find dozens of mail-order companies that provide lilies, grape hyacinth, Spanish bluebells, ranunculus, anemone, gladiolus, freesias and much, much more.

Once you have bulbs in hand, all you need to do then … is plant them.

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