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What bulbs do well in mild winter areas of California?

10 years ago

Due to the mild winters throughout a large portion of California, certain popular bulbs in other parts of the country do poorly here. But on the bright side, we can leave in the ground many bulb species that would never make it through a New England winter!

Tulips: Unfortunately the hybrid commercial tulips like the Darwins and Triumphs are poorly adapted here and need special treatment to bloom well. Tulips should be purchased as soon as offered in early September, then stored in the refrigerator (NOT the freezer) until the weather cools off in late October or early November. Without this chilling, the plants will emerge stunted, and the flower stem will not elongate, resulting in the flower blooming down in the base of the leaves. Try to get the bulbs into the ground within a half hour of removing from the refigerator, DON"T leave them sitting in the sun for a few hours while you are digging your holes, that will undo a lot of the artificial chilling. Plant deeply, about nine or ten inches down. After blooming the tulips will break up into several smaller bulbs that will not bloom next year, and these never seem to grow on to flowering size. Thus tulips are considered an annual, and are replanted fresh every year. Because of this it is best to shop around to get the best price on bulbs, since you are only going to get one flower from each bulb. The large home improvement stores are generally the best source for cheap tulip bulbs. A few species tulips will naturalize here, foremost T. sylvestis, bakeri, clusiana and saxatilis.

Daffodils: These are easy here, and come back every year. There is a common misperception that these are hurt by water during the summer. This is not true, and they will decline and eventually disappear if not given some summer watering (they will rot out, however, if planted in poorly draining heavy soil). Newbies are often surprised to see daffodils blooming in late fall. These are the Tazetta division of daffodils, the ones commonly grown for forcing indoors. The only daffodils that do not do well in California are the Poeticus division, they bloom so late in spring the weather is too warm and they don't amount to much.

Crocus: The regular hybrid crocuses are hit or miss, they will bloom, and come back for a few years, then peter out. Some of the species are good repeaters, C. tommasinianus, sieberi and ancyrensis especially.

Hyacinth: These are very similar to tulips, and the same problems apply. Buy cheap bulbs in fall, refrigerate for six to eight weeks, plant when the weather cools off. Don't expect more than one year of bloom.

Galanthus(snowdrops) Same as for tulips.

Alliums, Ipheion, Leucojum and Muscari do VERY well here, need no special treatment, and can become invasive, hard to eliminate pests, so keep and eye on them.

One of the special delights of gardening in California is the ability to grow the less hardy, beautiful irids. This includes the common Dutch iris, as well as many lesser known but very lovely South Africans like Freesia, Sparaxis, Ixia, and Babiana. These sometimes startle Newbies by coming up in fall. This is normal, the foliage will get a bit tatty by spring, but it does not hurt the plant and they will bloom in spring on schedule!

Here are some additional bulbs recommended for Southern California by Gardenguru1950
1. Not ALL daffodils/narcissus naturalize here, especially in SOUTHERN California. Here are some that are best for that purpose:

Accent -- large pink cup, white petals
Arctic Gold -- trumpet with deep all-yellow flowers
Bantam -- large orange-red cup and smallish, deep yellow
Binkie -- large sulfur yellow cup that fades to white, sulfur petals
Bridal Crown -- double-flowered, pure white
Carlton -- large-cupped, soft yellow
Ceylon -- large pale orange deepening to orange red cup,
golden petals
Cheerfulness -- white double tazetta
Delibes -- large-cupped, yellow petals, red-banded yellow
Erlicher -- small very fragrant, double white flowers in
February Gold -- cyclamineus, golden yellow trumpet
and pale yellow swept-back petals
Festivity -- yellow trumpet, large clear yellow cup,
white overlapping petals
Galway -- large-cupped all gold
Geranium -- tazetta, white and orange flowers
Green Island -- greenish lemon cup, white petals
Hawera -- triandrus, soft yellow, recurved petals, 5
Jenny -- cyclamineus hybrid, white and yellow, swept-back
Kinglet -- jonquilla hybrid, fragrant, yellow petals, orange cups
Mabel Taylor -- large pink cup, ivory petals
Matador -- tazetta, bright orange cup and sulfur petals,
several fragrant flowers per stem
Martha Washington -- tazetta, red cups, white petals
Mount Hood -- trumpet, giant all white
Rustom Pasha -- large trumpet all yellow
Silver Chimes -- tazetta, several fragrant creamy white
flowers per stem
Sir Winston Churchill -- double-flowered version of
Suzy -- jonquilla, small red cups, ruffled yellow petals
Sweetness -- jonquilla, rich yellow, fragrant
Thalia -- triandrus, all-white, 2-3 per stem
Trevithian -- jonquilla, bright yellow, 2-3 per stem
Vigil -- all white trumpet
Vireo -- jonquilla, fragrant, tiny greenish cup and
gold petals, 9
Wee Bee -- trumpet, tiny all-golden, 5
Yellow Cheerfulness -- double tazetta, creamy yellow


Narcissus bulbocodium
Narcissus jonquilla
Narcissus viridiflorus -- tiny yellow-green flowers;

2. Some other good bulbs:

Allium neopolitanum Cowanii FLOWERING ONION
Allium sphaerocephalon DRUMSTICKS
Anemone x fulgens SCARLET WINDFLOWER
Arum italicum (shade) ITALIAN ARUM
Babiana (many) BABOON FLOWER
Calochortus (many, some difficult) MARIPOSA LILIES
Chlidanthus fragrans PERFUMED FAIRY LILY
Cyclamen hederifolium (shade) HARDY CYCLAMEN
Cyclamen persicum (shade) CYCLAMEN
Crocus imperati ITALIAN CROCUS
Freesia (including Lapeyrousia) FREESIA
Galtonia candicans (for summer color) SUMMER HYACINTH
Gladiolus x hybrida GLADIOLA
Gladiolus tristis LEMON GLADIOLA
Hyacinthoides hispanica SPANISH BLUEBELL
Ipheion uniflorum SPRING STAR FLOWER
Ixia hybrids CORN LILY
Lachenalia aloides CAPE COWSLIP
Leucojum vernum SPRING SNOWFLAKE
Muscari armeniacum GRAPE HYACINTH
Narcissus (see separate list) NARCISSUS, DAFFODIL
Nectaroscordum siculum NECTAROSCORDUM
Ornithogalum arabicum STAR OF BETHLEHEM
Ornithogalum narbonense NARBONE STAR
Ornithogalum thyrsoides CHINCHERINCHEE
Oxalis purpurea CAPE SORRELL
Ranunculus asiaticus RANUNCULUS
Scilla peruviana PERUVIAN SQUILL
Sparaxis tricolor HARLEQUIN FLOWER
Triteleia Queen Fabiola BRODIAEA
Tritonia crocata FLAME FREESIA
Veltheimia bracteata (shade) CAPE FOREST LILY

3. Soe great California native bulbs:

Bloomeria crocea GOLDEN STARS
Brodiaea elegans HARVEST BRODIAEA
Calochortus (many) MARIPOSA LILY
Chlorogalum pomeridianum AMOLE, SOAP PLANT
Dichelostemma pulchellum BLUE DICKS, WILD HYACINTH
Lilium humboldtii HUMBOLDT LILY
Lilium washingtonianum WASHINGTON LILY
Triteleia hyacinthina WHITE HYACINTH BRODIAEA

4. Some good TULIPS for us:
Tulipa clusiana LADY TULIP
Tulipa clusiana chrysantha GOLDEN TULIP
Tulipa saxatilis MIDDLE-EAST TULIP
Tulipa sylvestris FRAGRANT WILD TULIP
... and one very good Crocus(a fall bloomer): Crocus sativus (SAFFRON CROCUS)