As we all know, there are pluses and minuses to the weather wherever you live. If you’re located in the upper Midwest like me, you may complain the winter’s too long. If you live in southern Texas, you may miss seeing snow at Christmastime. The same is true when it comes to gardening benefits in relation to your climate. Those of us in the northern zones (zones 3 to 7) can appreciate the cooler temperatures in winter because they mean beautiful flowers from our fall planted bulbs (such as tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth) in the spring! Those of you in the more southern zones (zones 8 to 10) can boast of your beautiful dahlias, cannas, and begonias which come back year after year.
But what if you live in a more southern area and still wish to enjoy spring blooms from fall planted bulbs? Of course there is always the option of artificially chilling your bulbs to force them but if this sounds like too much work, perhaps you want to explore some other options. There are some fall bulbs which tend to do better in areas with a winter more on the mild side! When selecting fall planted bulbs to grow in your warmer climate, it is important to remember that there are two factors which determine a bulb’s ability to withstand warmer temperatures: length of chill time required and ability to withstand heat when actively growing. For instance, most tulips and daffodils will not grow properly in a zone 9 or 10, not necessarily because the weather is too warm during their growing period but rather because the winter is not cold enough to stimulate the process to produces the blooms. Oriental lilies, on the other hand, do not really need much of a chilling period but struggle under extreme hot and sunlight and therefore, would not be recommended for a zone 10 location.
In general, the earliest blooming bulbs will be the best for warmer climates since their early bloom time indicates a shorter chilling requirement. Therefore, early-blooming daffodils such as the rock garden varieties (a personal fave) and tazette varieties do quite well. Both blooming early, they tend to put on quite a nice show of blooms even after an fairly mild winter. Dutch iris as well as crocus varieties found in the chrysanthus species also don’t mind the warmer winters. Love tulips and just wish you could get them to grow where you are? Try some of the earliest blooming varieties for your best bet at spring blooms. Besides the shorter chilling requirement, these early blooming bulbs also typically finish their blooming cycle prior to the drastic warm-up in late spring.
The few exceptions to this “early blooming” rule are allium, bearded iris, anemone, and ranunculus. All of these bulbs, for one reason or another, do not require as long of a chilling period as most other fall planted bulbs. The warmer temperatures of the spring in southern areas actually help to prolong the blooms on these particular bulb plants…we have seen some of the most beautiful photographs of allium come from some of our southern-based readers!
Hope this helps with some planting ideas for my southern friends! I know I often speak more to the “temperate climate folk” but this is simply because it’s the climate I am most familiar with 🙂 Good luck with your warm climate garden planning and let me know what you come up with!