It's time to get ready for spring planting
December 28, 2014
By Linda Hartman/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO BY BRYNN LEE/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER
Have you ever driven by a yard only to notice the beautiful spring flowers? Did you race to the closest nursery in order to replicate the same flowers in your yard? Did you discover that you should have prepared for the spring flowers months before now? If the answer is yes, join the wish club. Members only need say, "I wish I had planted those flowers earlier."
Time to plant: Late December to mid-February
As gardeners in South Texas, we have realized that the rules do not always apply to our area. According to the book, "Bulbs," by James Underwood Crockett, we may plant bulbs from late December to mid-February for early spring flowers, and from January to March for spring flowers. Some bulbs will need a chilling time before placing them in the ground. Remember to store the bulbs away from fruits and vegetables. The sooner the bulb is in the ground, the better one's opportunity for beautiful spring plants.
Planting for blooms
It is important to select from healthy bulbs. Choose a site in your garden that receives full sun, but a somewhat shady location will work because most trees will have not put on their new leaves. The soil must be well-drained to prevent damage (rotting) to the bulbs. Plant the bulbs to a depth two to three times the diameter of the bulb. That is six to eight inches.
Some experts suggest adding red pepper to ward off rodents while others suggest adding bone meal to help with the growth of the plant. Bulbs have all the food needed to produce blooms within the bulb. Another suggestion is to add an inch or two of sand in the hole with the bulb, especially if one's soil is heavy with clay.
Best bulbs for our area
For our area, narcissus also known as daffodils, jonquils, or paperwhites are a good choice.
Smaller-flowered or cluster-flowered blooms will be more permanent. Narcissus are divided into classes with 7, 8, and 10 being the best for local gardeners.
Daffodils, ranging in colors from golden to white, such as King Alfred, Carbineer, Carlton Golden Harvest, Ice Follies, or Mount Hood are choices to locate. Jonquils (Class 7) such as Trevithian Golden Perfection is a good cultivar to plant.
Look for early-blooming bulbs when considering tulips, such a Lady Jane or Darwin tulips.
Spring bloomers, which do not require chilling, include the following: allium - an ornamental cousin to the onion; crinum lily - a tall plant with a trumpet-shaped flower in shades of pink; Gloriosa lily - a perennial tuberous; and crocus - one that announces the coming of spring, usually found in Zones 4-7.
Also grape hyacinths - bloom in late winter to early spring and are a good substitute for crocus in our area; Dutch hyacinth - spring flowers grown from perennial bulbs and provide showy, fragrant flowers; summer snowflakes - clusters of white bell-shaped blooms; Dutch iris - bloom late winter to early spring with white, yellow to blue flowers; and amaryllis - long leaves with beautiful blooms and often found as potted plants.
You might also consider the striking lily of the Nile - dome foliage with white to dark blue trumpet-shaped blooms or yellow/white butterfly iris - an African native which can grow to three or four feet tall with small butterfly shaped flowers.
Other spring flowers include dahlias, freesia, gladiolas, German iris, rain lilies, red spider lilies, and pink wood sorrel. Many of these flowers may be seen at the Master Gardener Victoria County Educational Gardens at the Victoria Regional Airport throughout the seasons.
Planting with a plan
You should always have a plan for growing plants, and bulbs are certainly no exception. Choose which spring flowers you want by bloom and characteristics, including size, color and height in your landscape. Keep in mind that flowers grown from bulbs look best when planted in masses or at least a dozen of a single kind together.
Looking forward to spring
When our trees and shrubs have lost their greenery and our gardens look barren, the colors of the daffodils, the amaryllis and other spring blooming plants will brighten your days. Spring means a new beginning for gardeners.
Begin planting your choice bulbs now to fulfill your plan for a spring garden. Don't find yourself in the club that wished you had; but, rather, in the ranks of those who are envied because they did plan ahead. Plant your favorite bulbs and then nestle in for upcoming winter months that will be met with the colors of spring before you know it.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.
• Held second Monday of the Month
• January through August
• Jan. 12 first session
• Topic: Selection and Care for Trees in Your Landscape
• Choose healthy bulbs.
• Plant with pointed side upward.
• Plant large bulbs deeper than smaller bulbs.
• Plant in mass or at least a dozen of a single kind together.
• Let foliage die back naturally; leaves provide food for bulbs next year.
• Don't lose your bulbs. Annuals will grow where plants die back, but mark bulb location.