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A Snowbird's Guide to Sun-Loving Bulbs

Caladiums offer a wide variety of color for your shade garden, and you don't have to wait for a flower.

Caladiums offer a wide variety of color for your shade garden, and you don't have to wait for a flower.

 I love tulips. When I lived in Maryland, I’d plant tulip bulbs each fall knowing that, in the spring, my tulips would arrive in all their colorful glory. When I moved to Florida I bought 48 tulip bulbs from a local store and was terribly disappointed to have only one leaf sprout. My neighbor told me that everyone knows you have to put tulips in the refrigerator for six weeks before you plant them, but that didn’t work much better. It was time to become a real Florida gardener – now I buy only bulbs that thrive in the South. Snowbirds should do likewise.

Most folks consider any plant with an underground storage organ to be a bulb, but in addition to true bulbs, these storage organs also include tubers, root tubers, corms and rhizomes. Whatever their exact classification, they all have an advantage in the garden because of their ability to store nutrients and moisture, so for simplicity I’ll refer to bulbs in the general, all-inclusive sense. 

Most bulbs do best in well-drained soil so that they don’t rot, except for some water-tolerant varieties like swamp lilies and cannas. Many bulbs, such as crinums, grow slowly and rarely need dividing, but others multiply more quickly so they may become too crowded to bloom.

Read the entire article in the January 2010 issue