These bulbs are California comebackers One of the great privileges of living in the West is being able togrow with ease plants that gardeners in colder, wetter climates cannot.The seven bulbs shown here thrive in the mild winters and dry summers ofCalifornia and the low desert, bouncing back each year in greaternumbers. Their proliferation gives many weeks of bloom: last year’sbulbs flower first, followed by smaller ones that have formed around thestem, then by youngsters that grew from seeds. Some bloom as early asJanuary; most appear March to May. Individually, their flowers are small– from 1 to 2 inches across.
But en masse, they produce sheets of color, most with two or three stemsper bulb cluster, six to several dozen flowers per stem. Most also lastwell when cut. Ixia, watsonia, freesia, sparaxis, and clusiana tulips are widelysold, but in small quantities. These small bulbs also dry out fasterthan large kinds. So buy soon and plant promptly. Tritonias and homerias are less common. Look for them in nurseriesand mail-order bulb catalogs that feature the unusual (several arelisted on page 242). Also watch for potted plants for sale in bloom inspring.
You may find other uncommon forms of the bulbs shown–coralwatsonias, yellow homerias or ixias, pastel tritonias. If you see anunusual bulb you like, pounce on it–you may not see it for sale again. Planting depths and recommended spacings are given in the captions.Because their flowers are small and stems tend to be floppy, all sevenbulbs look best in dense clumps at least 10 inches across. Tuck thembetween established flowers or shrubs, or spread in wide strips alongpaths or parking areas.
Poke low-growing kinds between pavers or intoflat ground covers. They bloom best in full sun. Add grit or other amendments as needed to ensure good drainage; ifsoil stays too soggy, bulbs may rot. Water regularly as needed untilflowers finish and foliage begins to die back. You can let bulbs gocompletely dry in summer, or plant near them and continue watering.When leaves dry completely, cut them off–pulling is likely to yank outthe shallow bulbs. Bulbs of the four shorter plants across the bottom of the page arealso well suited to pots: plant them only a bulb’s width apart andabout half as deep as recommended for the garden. When leaves die back,store planted pots out of the way until time to water again next fall.
Photo: Four-foot spikes of watsonia come in pink, white, orlavender. They’re too massive for most pots; plant 4 inches deep,4 to 6 inches apart Photo: Foot-tall wiry stems of tritonia each bear six or moreflaming flowers. Smaller bulblet to side prolongs bloom. Plant 2inches deep and apart Photo: Legendary fragrance of foot-tall freesias is strongest inwhite and gold shades, milder in others. Set 2 inches deep and apart Photo: Melon color of Homeria “Aurantiaca’ is rare amongbulbs. Branching 2-foot stems nod in the wind. Plant 3 inches deep, 3to 6 inches apart Photo: Kaleidoscopic patterns mark foot-high sparaxis; theydon’t open well after cutting.
Plant 2 inches deep and apart Photo: Dense clusters of ixia buds and flowers tip slender stems 2feet tall. Flowers often display dark centers or blushed tips. Whiteand deep pink are typical; yellow to orange shades are less common.Plant 3 inches deep and apart Photo: Graceful clusiana tulips open starshaped, wineblotchedflowers each day, close into pink-striped eggs each night.
Plant 2inches deep and apart in pots; 5 inches deep, 3 to 6 inches apart in theground