Best Spring Bulbs for Warm Climates

by Anthonyfamilyinfo@gmail.com

Bulbs are some of the most beautiful and least demanding flowers to grow. Some narcissus bulbs are the easiest to grow in Texas and are well suited for the mild winters. So, what are the best spring bulbs for Central Texas?

Narcissus bulbs are categorized as early, mid and late bloomers. The varieties that bloom early are almost always the best for warm climates. To bloom, they require a low amount of chilling hours – the minimum amount of time bulbs must stay below temperatures of 40F. Central Texas winters are mild but can usually meet the chill hour needs of the early blooming varieties.

Of the early bloomers, my favorite are the bulbs that perennialize in Texas. That simply means plant them once, they bloom reliably every year and they multiply. How great is that and what difference does it make? It means that bulbs that perennialize need minimal care with no digging up annually and no refrigerated pre-chilling.   

Of the bulbs that perennialize in Texas, two of my favorites are the Narcissus tazetta types. ‘Grand Primo’ and ‘Italicus’ have bloomed reliably for decades in my gardens. Both have highly fragrant, clustered white flowers and originated in the Mediterranean. So, the warm climate of Texas suites them. 

Both are early bloomers with a wide range of flowering time. Depending on the weather, they have bloomed in late December, January or even early February in my garden. These are really winter-blooming bulbs that brighten the garden when little else is flowering. They were passed along to me by a 100-year-old gardener and are treasured heirloom bulbs.

Narcissus x Italicus is one of the best bulbs for Central Texas
Narcissus tazetta 'Grand Primo'

Are there any traditional looking daffodil bulbs that bloom well in spring in Texas? Yes, of the early blooming daffodils, I grow Sweetness that blooms in March, as well as Ice Follies and Carlton. All have proven to be more reliable as return bloomers. These varieties have a more traditional looking cup or trumpet in the small to medium range size.

Jetfire

Of the large trumpet daffodils, I’ve grown King Alfred, perhaps the most recognized daffodil in the world. It did not multiply in my central Texas garden and the return bloom was minimal.

Note that the soil in my region is primarily alkaline, heavy clay that drains poorly. In addition to a short period of cool temperatures, this is also a limiting factor. Most all bulbs must have well- draining soil and often grow best in slightly acid soil. Therefore, when planting bulbs, I add compost for organic matter and usually some expanded shale to improve drainage.  

But, don’t be discouraged if you want to grow bulbs in Texas. Try some new varieties every year to discover which ones grow best in your garden’s growing conditions. At the end of this post, I’ve listed some bulb sources. I usually order bulbs in August, with delivery scheduled in October or November.

Texas Star

WHEN TO PLANT SPRING-BLOOMING BULBS IN TEXAS?

In the fall, during November all the way to Christmas. I’ve occasionally planted narcissus bulbs in October. It just depends on the weather because it can still be hot and dry in Texas in October. Soil temperature for bulbs should be about 50F. I’ve also transplanted blooms immediately following bloom, just so I know which ones I’m re-locating.  

Plant bulbs in sun or at least partial sun. Early blooming bulbs can be planted near deciduous trees. I plant bulbs in the same areas where perennials grow, so those spaces have color when perennials are dormant.  

HOW TO PLANT BULBS?

Trench planting in large clumps or drifts is my preferred bulb planting method. I use a shovel to dig a space wide enough to hold all the bulbs, at the depth needed for the particular bulb. Next, I mix in compost and press in the bulbs based on 2 to 3 inch spacing. Then, cover bulbs with the soil and water gently.

Alternatively, an auger style bulb planter works or a handheld bulb planter tool, particularly in a natural setting. These bulb planting tools allow for planting one bulb at a time.  

 

HOW DEEP TO PLANT BULBS?

Plant at a depth 2 to 3 times the width of the bulb with pointed end up.        

 

 

HOW TO CARE FOR BULBS AND AFTER FLOWERING CARE?

I fertilize bulbs with compost at planting and again with nitrogen when the foliage begins to grow. After blooming, prune off the flower stalk, but leave the foliage. It replenishes the bulb for the following year’s flowering then cut foliage back around Mother’s Day in Texas.

BULB SOURCES

Success with bulbs also depends to a large degree on the quality of the bulbs. For the highest quality bulbs and to get the varieties you want, order early. If purchasing off the shelf, buy as soon as the bulbs are offered for sale. 

Bulb sources I use are:

Southernbulbs.com 

oldhousegardens.com   

brentandbeckysbulbs.com

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