What bulbs do well in mild winter areas of California?
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 petals 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 cup Erlicher -- small very fragrant, double white flowers in clusters 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 petals 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 Geranium 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; fall-blooming
2. Some other good bulbs:
Allium neopolitanum Cowanii FLOWERING ONION Allium sphaerocephalon DRUMSTICKS Anemone blanda GREEK WINDFLOWER Anemone coronaria POPPY-FLOWERED ANEMONE 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 Crocosmia MONTBRETIA 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 Iris xiphium ENGLISH/DUTCH IRIS 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 Watsonia BUGLE 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 Triteleia laxa PRETTY FACE, TRIPLET LILY
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)