How to Plant Spring-Flowering Bulbs
Bulbs and bulb-like flowering plants (corms, tubers, rhizomes) can be tricky here in USDA Zone 8b. Some of the most well-known bulbs, such as tulips and hyacinths, don’t do well here or they require special care. Tropical bulbs need to be dug, stored for the winter and replanted in spring.
But don’t despair. Bulbs that love our climate and should be planted now include amaryllis, crinums, narcissus (daffodils), irises and snowflakes. There are slight differences in how to handle them, particularly in planting depth and spacing, but the general instructions are the same.
Step 1: Select a sunny location. Most bulbs prefer at least six hours of sun a day. Too much shade makes them spindly.
Step 2: Get the soil tested in the area you want to plant your bulbs. Kits are available at your county extension office. Also, check the drainage of your proposed bulb bed. Good drainage is essential, or else your bulbs could rot. If the drainage is poor, you can build a raised bed and fill it with good garden soil.
Step 3: Work in soil amendments such as well-rotted manure or aged compost and an all-purpose fertilizer. Unless your soil test showed a deficiency in phosphorus, use a fertilizer with a zero middle number (15-0-15).
Step 4: Plant your bulbs pointed end up, at the depth and spacing recommended for that specific type of bulb. Plant in groups of three or five for a pleasing presentation. Make sure you choose varieties for North Florida, particularly daffodils.
Not Your Cup of Tea
Camellias and hollies are vivid in the North Florida landscape during this time of year. Red, pink and white camellia blooms and red holly berries create pops of color amid glossy dark foliage. But danger can lurk on the undersides of the shiny leaves in the form of an insect called tea scale. The insects, which suck the plant’s juices to the point of weakening or even killing it, are hard to kill. They get their name from the scaly armor that covers them. Signs of tea scale infestation include yellow speckles on the tops of the leaves and a white fuzzy coating on the bottom. As the infestation spreads, the leaves turn yellow and drop and branches begin to die back. Horticultural oil sprays are effective this time of year, when temperatures usually range between 45 and 85. Make sure you cover the underside of the leaves thoroughly. You might need to repeat the application every 10-14 days if the infestation is severe. Prune the interior of the shrubs before you spray to allow for better coverage. If you opt for something more lethal than horticultural oil, read the label carefully to be sure it is approved for use on tea scale, and use the amount specified.
Your Monthly Garden Chores
- Plant cold-hardy flowers, including pansies, snapdragons, sweet alyssum and ornamental cabbage.
- Sow seeds for spring annuals, including poppies, larkspur and sweet peas.
- Divide irises, daylilies, phlox and other perennials and bulbs, replanting at the original depth.
- Apply fresh mulch to planting beds.
- Plant trees now, to give the roots time to get established before the heat stress of our summers.
- Plant pre-chilled tulips and hyacinths early in the month.
- Fertilize winter-blooming annuals once a month, and pinch off spent flowers to keep them blooming.
- Plant cool-season vegetables, including English peas and snow peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, radishes, collards, carrots and kohlrabi.
- Plant cool-season herbs, such as parsley, sage, cilantro and dill.
- Plant fruit trees this month.
©2016 PostScript Publishing LLC, all rights reserved. Audrey Post is a certified Advanced Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Florida/IFAS Extension in Leon County. Email her at Questions@MsGrowItAll.com or visit her website at msgrowitall.com. Ms. Grow-It-All® is a registered trademark of PostScript Publishing.