Bulbs, bulbs, bulbs…..it is time to plant your bulbs!
Spring-blooming bulbs are one of the easiest flowers to plant and grow. You just dig a hole in fall, stick in a bulb, wait 5 or 6 months and enjoy the show in spring. Most bulbs need cold rather than cool days and nights in fall and winter in order to produce large, sturdy flowers. Our winters are mild and short. We need to choose bulb types that do well in warmer climates, but unfortunately drought and heat-tolerant bulbs can be hard to find. Local nurseries often stock a wider variety of bulbs that are better suited to our climate.
The standard daffodils and narcissus will survive and can naturalize (proliferate or spread) in the right soil. Standard, non-species tulips are what our former Master Gardener coordinator Pam Elam called, “an expensive experiment” since they generally only bloom for one year here in the Central Valley. Darwin tulips, also called species tulips by some growers, can repeat bloom for up to three seasons. Darwin tulips and hyacinths really do best with long periods of colder weather. We can fool them into becoming truly dormant by keeping them in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks before planting. If ordering online, let the grower/shipper know your planting zone (zone 7 in the foothills and zones 8 and 9 in the Central Valley) and that you’ll be chilling the bulbs so that the grower can ship them to you by mid-September for planting before Thanksgiving.
I’ve had good luck with white narcissus (esp. Thalia and Silver Chimes) and white daffodils (Mount Hood) reblooming for many years. The bulbs were ordered from John Scheepers‘ online bulb catalog, www.johnscheepers.com, which provides an advanced search feature for warmer climates. Van Engelen bulbs, www.vanengelen.com, offers the same bulbs and search feature, but sells bulbs only in large quantities. Annie’s Annuals, a nursery based in Richmond, California, www.anniesannuals.com, carries many uncommon bulbs including California native bulbs.