When it comes to growing a wide variety of fruits and flowers year-round, we can grow just about anything, with only a few exceptions. Fall-planted, spring-flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, crocus, and muscari are an exception since they thrive in colder climates and flounder in our southern soils. Why do we have such trouble growing these fall-planted bulbs in Fort Lauderdale when so many thousands of plant species thrive here? Read on to learn why bulbs need special care in our hot climate and how you can overcome these challenges to grow gorgeous spring-flowering bulbs in your garden!
Challenges of Planting Fall Bulbs in the South
Planting and growing these spring-flowering bulbs is challenging in the south because we lack one crucial component the northern states have in spades—cold weather! For these flower varieties, a period of cold weather sends the bulb into a state of dormancy, which is crucial for its later growth. Think of it as a long hibernation period, during which the bulb rests, grows a strong root system, and prepares itself for spring bloom. Then, after the bulb has been dormant for many weeks, the bulb awakens from dormancy with the warming weather and rapidly begins to grow new foliage and flower buds.
Chilling Fall Bulbs Before Planting
We don’t experience cold winters as they do up north, and we doubt any Florida gardener would trade our climate here for months of sub-40º weather. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean that planting these beautiful bulbs is out of the realm of possibility here—it just means we have to get a little creative.
All you need is a refrigerator, and you can grow these bulbs with a process known as ‘forcing!’ Once you purchase them, place them in a paper bag filled with wood shavings. Mark the date on the paper bag and place it in the fridge, as far away as possible from any fruits or vegetables; ethane gas from your produce can cause your bulbs to deteriorate. Then, mark your calendar to retrieve the bag in eight weeks. With the help of an artificial “winter” in your fridge, your bulbs will be chilled and ready for planting.
Bulb Care After Flowering
Most of these spring-flowering bulbs are treated as annuals here because of their natural incompatibility with our climate. However, you can attempt a second year of blooms by digging up, chilling, and re-planting your bulbs. To do this:
- Wait for the foliage to die back.
- When the foliage has all turned brown, remove the dead material; if you cut it back before it’s completely brown and dry, your bulb won’t be able to store nutrients for another year of growth.
- Gently lift the bulbs out of the soil, clean them off gently, and place them in a cool, dim place for a few days before returning them to storage.
To save yourself some trouble finding your bulbs to dig up, we recommend marking the location when you plant with what types of bulbs you planted and how many.
What About Summer Bulbs?
If you’re new to bulb gardening, you may wonder if similar rules apply to planting late-blooming bulbs like gladiolus, dahlias, and lilies. Fortunately, these bulbs adapt better to our climate—these warm-weather-loving flowers can be planted once and left where they are all year, where they will happily live their entire lifespan.
Planting spring-blooming bulbs is a bit of a science experiment for us in the south, but it’s easy and certainly very rewarding! You can browse our selection of plant bulbs for sale at our Fort Lauderdale garden center. Pick up some bulbs and have fun planting!