A wide variety of bulbs grow well in Georgia. Most are grown for their flowers and some for their foliage. They are grown as pot plants, in shrub borders, naturalistic plantings and in mass displays. Bulbs offer certain magic to the landscape virtually unrivaled by other plants.
Achimenes. Achimenes are widely grown indoors but are suitable for outdoor pots on shaded porches or patios when night temperatures remain above 60 degrees F. They are drought-sensitive and should not be planted in dry areas or in full sun. Most plants grown today are hybrids; numerous varieties and colors are available. They are propagated from seeds or rhizomes.
Agapanthus. Several species, hybrids, and varieties are cultivated. Leafless flower clusters bear 12 to 30 blue or white flowers. Often grown as tub plants, they are hardy outdoors only in Zone 9. Plant shallowly outdoors. In containers, leave the nose of bulb protruding above the soil surface. They prefer high organic soils
Allium. Lilac-pink flower clusters are 5 to 6 inches in diameter. A very showy plant in the landscape, it is usually used in the background of borders. The Allium (onion) genus is best known for its edible members — onions, garlic, chives, shallots, and leeks — but many ornamental species are also cultivated.
Anemone. Blue, red, white, and pink cultivars of A. blanda are available. Plants form small compact mounds of flowers and are frequently used with early tulips. A. coronaria (Poppy anemone) blooms later and has larger flowers but is less hardy than A. blanda. Soak tubers overnight before planting.
Begonia. Almost all colors of tuberous begonias are available in upright or trailing types with several distinctly different flower forms. Grown as a pot plant, in window boxes, or as a bedding plant in shaded areas outdoors, it is a handsome plant in bloom. Plants are somewhat brittle. Well-drained soils are essential. Pre-sprout tubers indoors to increase the length of the growing season outdoors. Plant shallowly so the top of the tuber is slightly above the soil surface.
Caladium. Caladiums are grown for their foliage, the flowers being rather insignificant. Individual leaves are 6 to 24 inches long and come in an endless combination of red, pink, white, silver and green. Caladiums should be dug and stored over winter. They may be pre-sprouted indoors to extend the growing season. They should be grown in shade and are well adapted to pot culture.
Photo by: Bodie Pennisi
Canna. Canna is a favorite summer blooming plant because of its long bloom time and because it thrives in hot weather. Numerous varieties and colors are available ranging from dwarf to very tall varieties. The rhizomes are generally hardy in Zones 8 and 9 but should be lifted and stored during winter at 45-50 degrees F. in Zone 7.
Chionodoxa. Blue and white varieties are available. The flowers are small, thus masses are usually necessary for a good display. Chionodoxa is an excellent bulb for naturalizing and will increase by bulblets and self-seeding. Mowing too soon after bloom can cause decline.
Colchicum. Colchicums are one of the few fall-blooming bulbs. Bright flowers, usually white or lilac, appear suddenly, rising from the soil without foliage. The flowers look much like crocus and are often confused with true autumn crocus. Plant colchicums immediately upon receipt, as they will bloom without being planted.
Convallaria. Usually grown for its fragrant bell-shaped flowers, Lily-of-the-Valley is also an excellent ground cover for shady locations. It is best propagated in the fall by dividing the pips (shoots that appear on the rhizome) when the foliage has developed fully and begun to yellow. Double-flowered and pink varieties are also available. Lily-of-the-Valley needs moisture. Do not plant in dry areas.
Photo by: Bodie Pennisi
Crinum. Crinums thrive in the South with little care. The plant is grown primarily for its long flower stalks, which bear umbels of as many as 30 lily-like white, pink or rose-red blooms. Several species and varieties are cultivated; the variegated pink and white are more common. The bulbs are very large, sometimes exceeding 6 inches in diameter. Full sun required.
Crocus. Numerous crocus species, hybrids, and varieties are cultivated. The large-flowered Dutch crocus is largely hybrids derived from C. vernus. Many colors are available. The fall, winter and early spring flowering varieties are particularly valued for their time of bloom. Many species naturalize freely from cormels and by self-seeding.
Cyclamen. Miniature relatives of the florists’ cyclamen, hardy cyclamen are excellent for naturalizing in shady areas. Colors range from white to crimson. Tubers may go dormant in mid-summer under high temperatures and low moisture. C. purpurascens, C. hederifolium, C. cilicium, and C. repandum are readily available.
Dahlia. Dahlias are grown primarily as bedding plants or for cut flowers; some of the dwarf varieties are suitable for tub culture. Most bedding types are seed-grown while most cut types are propagated by division of tuberous roots. Many colors and varieties are available with many flower types. Dahlias are not reliably wintered hardy outside Zone 9, unless heavily mulched, and should be dug and stored under dry, cool conditions. Tall varieties require staking.
Endymion. Sometimes confused with Siberian Squill, Spanish Bluebell bears much taller flower spikes and blooms much later. Blue, pink and white varieties are available. It too is an excellent choice for naturalizing in wooded areas.
Eranthis. Winter Aconite is valued for its very early flowering habit. The bright yellow flowers cover the ground even when ice and snow are still present. A good naturalizing plant, it will self-seed. Soak tubers 24 hours before planting.
Fritillaria. This is one of the showiest spring-flowering bulbs. The flower stalk is topped by a crest of leaves beneath which hang large clusters of 2-inch reddish-orange, bronze, red or yellow flowers. F. meleagris is also cultivated and produces unusual purple and white checkered flowers.
Galanthus. Snowdrops are among the first flowers to bloom in spring. They grow well under deciduous trees and are good for naturalizing and random planting. The drooping white flowers have a green splotch around the inner segments. G. elwesii (Giant Snowdrop) is larger and flowers slightly later.
Gladiolus. Gladiolus is best grown as a cut flower. Because the lower florets wither well before the upper ones open, it is generally not an attractive plant in the landscape. You should make successive plantings to ensure flowers for continuous cutting. Numerous varieties and colors are available. The corms are not reliably wintering hardy in Zone 7 and should be lifted and stored at 35-40 degrees. Mounding the soil around the base of the plants will help prevent them from toppling over.
Photo by: Bodie Pennisi
Hippeastrum. A spectacular plant in bloom, amaryllis have long been cultivated indoors. They can be grown outdoors as summer-blooming bulbs. Some hybrids and species are hardy outdoors in Zone 9. When planted outdoors, the nose of the bulbs should be just at the soil surface. In pots, leave about half the bulb above the soil surface.
Hyacinthus. Few flowers can boast the extensive color range and fragrance of hyacinths. H. orientalis is hardy but not notably persistent; the bulbs eventually decline, becoming too small to flower. H. orientalis albulus (French-Roman Hyacinth) has smaller flowers but is said to be more persistent.
Hymenocallis. It produces fragrant 3- to 4-inch intricately arranged white flowers in midsummer on tall leafless stalks. Several varieties are available, one with yellow flowers. The plant is not reliably wintering hardy outside Zone 9 and should be lifted and stored at 65-70 degrees F.
Ipheion. Starflower produces abundant bluish white flowers. It is excellent for naturalizing and multiplies rapidly. It is sometimes used in lawns, which can be a problem since the grass usually needs cutting before the plant’s foliage matures.
Iris. The Iris genus is extremely diverse and many species and hybrids are cultivated. Several classification schemes exist. They are loosely divided into bulbous iris and rhizomatous iris. The bulbous iris, e.g. I. danfordiae (Danford Iris) and I. reticulata (netted Iris), are small and generally bloom very early. The rhizomatuous iris, e.g. I. hybrids (Bearded Iris), I. siberica(Siberian Iris), and I. kaempferi (Japanese Iris), are taller (up to 3 feet) and bloom from mid-spring to early summer. The cultural requirements and differences are too diverse to discuss here.
Leucojum. Small white bell-shaped flowers tipped with green are borne on each stem. They are good for naturalizing and random planting in shrub borders. L. aestivum (Summer Snowflake) is taller and blooms later. L. autumnale (Autumn Snowflake) is fall blooming.
Photo by: Bodie Pennisi
Lilium. Numerous lily species and cultivars are available. Bloom times range from May to September. All colors are available except blue. Various flower forms exist. It is an excellent border plant and cut flower. The larger hybrids are effective as single specimens; the species are more often used in mass. Tall varieties should be staked.
Lycoris. In late July or early August, I. squamigera suddenly appears, hence the name “Surprise Lily.” Long leafless flower stalks bear 4 to 12 lilac-pink, lily-like flowers. The foliage appears in early spring and dies back to the ground by early summer. L. radiata (Red Spider Lily) and L. aurea(Yellow Spider Lily) are also members of this genus. Both bloom later. L. aurea is less hardy.
Muscari. The tiny purple flower clusters resemble clusters of grapes. Common Grape Hyacinth is easy to grow and naturalizes quickly. It is frequently inter-planted with other spring bulbs. A white variety is also available. M. armeniacum (Armenian Grape Hyacinth) is larger and more robust; several blue and double-flowered varieties are available.
Photo by: Bodie Pennisi
Narcissus. There are 11 major divisions of the genus Narcissus. Confusion often arises because the generic name Narcissus is also used as a common name. Daffodils, like jonquils, are but one type of narcissus. Hundreds of varieties are available. The cultural requirements for all divisions are essentially identical, but the size, color, time of bloom, etc., vary and are too complex to discuss here.
Polianthes. The fragrant tuberose became so associated with funerals that its popularity declined. It is a superb cut flower, however, and grows well in Georgia. It is usually treated as a tender bulb. Large size bulbs have a tendency to split into smaller bulbs, which may require an additional year or two to reach flowering size.
Scilla. Siberian Squill is valued for its early bright blue flowers. It is excellent for naturalizing, especially in wooded areas. Several varieties are available including one with white flowers.
Sternbergia. An underused bulb, Sternbergia is valued for its fall-flowering habit. It is frequently mistaken for autumn crocus. The plant grows best in full sun and can remain undisturbed for years. Foliage is produced in the fall and remains green during winter.
Photo by: Bodie Pennisi
Tulipa. Numerous tulip species and cultivars exist. The classification scheme for cultivated tulips lists 15 divisions based on time of bloom and parentage. More than 4,000 varieties are in existence. Virtually all colors are represented. The tulip is considered by many the premier spring bulb. Most tulips also make excellent cut flowers. Many tulips are not notably persistent in the south and usually decline after the first year. Size, flower type, time of bloom, etc., are too complex to discuss here.
Zephyranthes. Z. atamasco (Atamasco Lily, Rain Lily, Fairy Lily) is often seen along the roadsides of Georgia, frequently along drainage ditches and wet meadows. Flowers often appear following a soaking rain. Other species and hybrids are also available. These native bulbs can be grown in shady, moist locations or in full sun if moisture is present.
Main Photo Credit: https://kpwb.org/tulip_daffodils/