Beginner to Bulbs

jessie30May 31, 2010

Hi, I need some advice on bulbs.

My husband and I recently purchased a new home and have been planting things - so far so good with things like roses, daylilies, lilies, irises, gardenias, Texas star, etc. Most of these are transplants from are old house, some are new purchases. Be prepared, I am a newbie and have a bunch of questions...

We now want to purchase rhizomes to add and expand the iris variety for next year. When do I plant these and when would I expect to see them next spring? Someone also told me to put 20-25 mini "bulbs" in one hole for a good planting, is this right?

I have never grown crocus before, but know they are in the iris family and come from bulbs. I am going to put these with my irises, hope that looks OK. Is there any types I can purchase and plant now for Fall blooming? If so, which kinds? I am confused on the time it takes in between putting them in the ground and seeing them bloom. Not sure if I have enough time to see any this year before Spring of next year...if I missed the window of time this year already. Otherwise, when do I need to plan on planting crocus this year and expect to see them bloom?

I also want to branch out and add some daffodils. Any recommendations on another to mix with it that is easy to grow and not expensive? I thought about tulips but then read online that after two years they quit blooming and require digging up the bulbs and replanting! I am not interested in doing that.

Any recommendations for some online suppliers that sell for good prices? My local growers are very expensive. I have found a few people around here that grow daylilies and such that split them off to sell, but not these other things.

I am extremely grateful for any guidance provided. I want a gorgeous yard and don't want to find out the hard way with a lot of costly mistakes. My email is

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iris_gal(z9 CA)

Rhizomes are for bearded iris and 20-25 bulbs per hole must refer to Dutch iris bulbs. I would plant 5-7 of these per hole to allow for increases. For beardeds BlueJ Iris has an excellent Iris Care link just below Pay Pal on the left hand side. They are best planted 3 feet apart and there is still ordering time. If I get 50% bloom the first spring I'm delighted. From Dutch iris bulbs, 100% bloom.

Do a google search on crocus for more info but basically there are 2 types. Fall bloomers and the more common spring bloomers which are available in Sept. Since they are only 6 inches high they need to be out in front to see. I don't know if the fall blooming kind are available now - check Scheepers online catalog. Check with your local nursery for suitability for the South. 100% bloom.

If I were starting with daffodils I would look at the collections Scheepers offers (Van Engelen and John Scheepers are sister companies owned by Jan S. Ohms). You get more bang for your buck plus a nice assortment of top quality at a reasonable price. The shipping adds up so if you have friends that want to split the cost, great. 'Ice Follies' is a top notch variety that multiplies well. I have heard some places in the south have trouble with some daffodils so be sure to consult a local source. And be prepared for 2 months of yellowing foliage after bloom. 100% bloom.

Planting time for spring blooming bulbs is as soon as you receive them in the fall. If Mother Nature is behaving you'll see sprouts in roughly 3-4 months, plus or minus. In our mild winter area we see sprouts on some established plantings in December. I made the mistake of trying to divide some daffs in early Sept. and they had grown a huge root mass already.

Here is a link that might be useful: Iris Care link on lower left hand side

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 12:15AM
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You may want to do a search for spring flowering bulbs suitable for southern gardens. Some require chill periods that are just not achieved in your climate and so require refrigeration/chilling before planting. This is particularly true with narcissus. There are selected varieties that do not require this chill period and would work better for you with minimal effort.

Spring flowering bulbs (and summer flowering one also) are typically carried in any garden center/retail nursery, as well as any box store and many hardware and grocery stores at the proper time of year - late summer/fall for the spring bloomers and late winter early/spring for the summer bloomers. Unless you are looking for very unusual types, these tend to be no more expensive than bulbs by mail order and maybe even less when you factor in shipping costs. Local garden centers will also tend to have more zone-appropriate selections than mass mail order sources.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 12:30PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

jessie, I live in east central Mississippi. You say you are in Zone 7B, so I assume you are south of Atlanta (which is a cooler clime than I have). Assuming you are in mid to south Georgia, I can give you some recommendations.

First, spring blooming crocus don't do particularly well this far south. But, the crocus tommasinius (tommies) do reasonably well. They become available in early fall and you should plant them in late October to mid November, along with daffodils, Spanish hyacinths (easy and gorgeous), Summer Snowflakes (Galanthus. They bloom in early spring. Also easy here.) and tulips. I would strongly advise against inter-planting crocus with iris.

The info you were given about tulips is true, though incomplete. Tulips have to be chilled in a refrigerator separate from any fruit for 8 to 10 weeks before planting in the southeast. They bloom one year and then you may as well dig them up and throw them away. Their foliage will return for years, but if you get any (and it won't be many) blooms, they will be pitifully short and small. If you're just getting started with your yard, your money is much better spent on daffodils and some of the others listed above.

However, not all daffodils do well in the southeast either. In general, the large cup and trumpet daffodils will disappear in about 3 to 5 years. When you are shopping, opt for the earliest blooming ones. Their flowers will last for weeks in the early spring. Late bloomers may wilt in a week or less because late spring can turn hot so quickly. If shopping from a catalog, for a beginner, your best bet are those in the jonquila division.

Here are some varieties that I have found to be easy to grow and which multiply here.

*Campernelle (early blooming)
Grand Primo (blooms as early as Christmas)
*Gigantic Star (a notable exception to the rule about trumpets)
*Ice Follies (another exception)
St. Keverne
*Thalia (a late one, but naturalizes well)
Early Louisiana

* Easy to find. Try Brent and Beckys Bulbs, as they are southern growers. The more difficult ones to find are often available through Old House Gardens, but they're not cheap. On the other hand, I bought 3 expensive Grand Primos two years ago, and dug them this spring and had l8!

If you have access to someone who grows bulbs locally, buy those. They will be ones that do well in your area, and multiply. The daffodils that bloom best in the south are small flowered, but they smell incredibly sweet, and when your clumps get large, their color is just as high impact as the big ones.

For more recommendations (and not just on daffodils), I recommend "Garden Bulbs for the South" by Scott Ogden. He gardens in Texas, so watch zones carefully. Some of his recommendations will not be winter hardy for you. But still, his book is a great resource.

Bearded Iris are very difficult to grow WELL in the deep south. The rhizomes (big fat roots) rot extremely easily in our dense soils. The foliage gets brown and ratty looking by mid summer. So bad looking, that you may wish they WOULD die. :) I have tried them from heirlooms to hybrids, and I am done with them. Iris pseudocorus are easy to grow and look great, but they are invasive. I am trying spurias this year, but so far, I am not impressed with them either.

My favorite bulbs:
spring blooming, fall planted:
daffodils, spanish hyacinths (not English), snowflakes, ipheion, arum italicum pictum (foliage is the attraction. They come up in fall and stand through the winter. Great to plant under perennials that go dormant in the winter. They need shade.)
Amaryllis, Byzantine Glads (get Cruentas or Alba and no other for the best show)
Dutch Iris are maybe/maybe not from year to year, and the blooms don't last long at any rate.

Summer blooming, spring planted:
Crinums (the best, but they take several years to bloom. Don't move them ever if you can help it.)
Caladiums (must be dug in the fall and stored inside)
Calla Lilies (need constantly moist soil and bright shade)
Tiger lilies (only plant them if you like them, for once you have them, you'll have a tough time getting rid of them)
Easter Lilies. Yes. The kind WalMart sells at Easter.

Fall bloomers:
Oxblood lilies (try E-Bay for the best prices)
To date, I have had very poor luck with Autumn crocus.

I hope this info helps you!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 4:14PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Just a little point, donnabaskets. SnowFLAKES are Leucojum sp. It's snowDROPS which are Galanthus.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2010 at 11:48AM
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In the south, you need plant only one Dutch iris to the hole. It will come back for several years. Plant them about 6 inches apart. Here are some of mine from this spring. They were planted in 2009.


    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 12:35AM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

organic_kitten: please tell. Where did you get those tidy-looking plant labels among your irises? They look as if they might be bird-proof!

    Bookmark   August 24, 2010 at 6:12AM
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