By: Anne Baley
Northern gardeners are used to planting tulip, hyacinth and crocus bulbs in the fall, then expecting them to sprout and bloom the next spring. The problem with these bulbs is that they require a certain length of time in a cold environment in order to bloom. Southern gardeners without months of freezing weather require warm climate flower bulbs – bulbs that grow well in hot climates. Not every bulb thrives in the north, so you can still enjoy perennials that bloom year after year in the warmest part of the country.
Many common flowering bulbs originated in warmer regions of the world and don’t require colder weather in order to bloom. These tropical types of flower bulbs for hot climates thrive with month after month of warm weather, as long as they are planted in good soil and watered frequently.
When you are planting bulbs in southern regions, begin with a bed of rich, well-drained soil. If your soil is clay or has a problem with drainage, build a raised bed with a mixture of soil and compost and use it for the heat loving bulbs.
The second key to growing flowering bulbs in warm regions is in choosing the right kind of bulb to grow.
Almost any lily bulb will do well here, from the common daylily to the more exotic spider lily and African lily plants. Bulbs with larger and showier blooms, or even attractive foliage, are natural to these regions. Try raising caladiums, dinner plate dahlias or the enormous elephant ears.
Gladiolus, tuberose and narcissus or daffodils are among the more modest of the bulbs that still do well in the warmest areas of the country.
If you still miss your old tulips and crocus flowers, you can enjoy them in the warmer weather in the south, but you’ll have to treat them as an annual or dig them up at the end of the season to provide a suitable cold treatment.
Place the bulbs in paper bags, storing the bulbs in the crisper drawer in your refrigerator. Remove any ripening fruit from the fridge, as these give off ethylene gases that kill off flower bulbs. Leave the bulbs in the drawer for three to four months, then move them directly into a bed of well-drained soil. Bury them about 6 inches deep and keep the bed well-watered. You’ll see sprouts in a matter of weeks and blooms in about a month.
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Read more about General Bulb Care
Whether you call them jonquils, narcissus, or daffodils, these tough, beautiful flowers are easy to grow throughout the South and warm West — if you choose the right varieties and understand their simple needs.
One great way to find bulbs that will thrive in your hardiness zone is to use our easy Advanced Bulb Search. You’ll also find a lot of helpful information in the Bulbs for the South section of our Newsletter Archives.
For in-depth guidance, take a look at Scott Ogden’s Garden Bulbs for the South which includes 150 daffodils that do well in zones 7-9 and Texas-based advice on growing them.
Another excellent guide is Daffodils in Florida by Linda and Sara Van Beck. It’s based on the life’s work of the late John Van Beck, a great friend of ours and of historic daffodils. John and Linda tested hundreds of daffodils in zone-8b Tallahassee to discover those that did best in what John called the “Spanish Moss Belt” where modern, mainstream cultivars often fail.
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From around June to August, lily of the Nile produces rounded clusters of blue or white flowers on stalks that can reach 4 to 5 feet tall. Each cluster can have between 40 and 100 individual flowers. The plant grows in a variety of soil types, though it prefers soil that’s rich in organic matter. So add a layer of compost to your planting site each year. Space bulbs around 1 to 2 feet apart, and keep the plants evenly moist during hot weather.
American Meadows features one of the largest selections of flower bulbs online. Their website is easy to use and well-organized, with categories such as “sun-loving bulbs,” “bulbs that attract butterflies,” and “deer-resistant bulbs.” They also have many how-to guides to help you get started or answer any of your burning bulb questions. With over 700 varieties of flower bulbs, there’s sure to be something for everyone and every type of garden. Plus, American Meadows offers a one-year guarantee. As long as you follow the company’s care directions, they will replace any plant that doesn’t survive within the year. Whether you’re a newbie gardener or an experienced one, this peace of mind helps you rest assured you’ll see beautiful daffodils next spring.
Irises grow from fat, soft rhizomes. In coastal areas, irises are typically planted or divided after they bloom, from midsummer to fall. During hot weather, the newly planted rhizomes are prone to drying out, which can stunt growth or kill the plants. If there's a heatwave, it is best to wait a few weeks before planting irises or ensure the soil stays consistently moist. Plant irises no later than early fall so the roots become established before cold weather arrives, advises Clemson Cooperative Extension.