By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
Now is the time to plant bulbs for your spring 2023 flower garden. There are bulbs that are beautiful and grow in the West Texas climate. But let’s start with what a bulb is. You are already familiar with bulbs: simply put they are underground storage organs derived from stems. A botanist would distinguish between true bulbs, think onions and other types of underground storage organs, such as rhizomes think ginger, or tubers think potato. Wha
tever the origin, these structures store nutrients for the plant so when conditions are right for growing after a winter or a drought or an adverse condition, the plant can use these nutrients to get to work.
Most bulbs bloom for a short time, then the flowers die. The leaves, the greenery of that bulb continue to grow and send nutrients to the bulb until they die back naturally. Because of this growth habit, bulbs are well suited for a rock garden, to border a pathway or to naturalize in a garden or meadow area.
Here are a few of the bulbs that grow in well-drained soil, with a little water and will survive our heat.
Daffodils: The heirloom varieties of these are paperwhites and yellow and will bloom for years with little help from the gardener. The double varieties will only bloom for a few years.
Crinums: This is a bulb that has been passed down from grandparents or as a pass-along plant among gardeners. The star shaped flowers are pink and white in varying patterns. Most will bloom several times in the spring and summer. Plant in full sun knowing it will need lots of space. Recently I (Debbie) thinned mine out. The bulbs were as large as a very large sweet potato. I would recommend thinning every few years.
Amaryllis: You will recognize these as the bulbs that are sold during the Christmas season. They can then be planted outside in the spring.
Oxblood Lillies, Rhodophiala bifida : This is another heirloom flower that is often found in cemeteries. They bloom in late summer and early fall, just in time to welcome students back to school, hence its other name, Schoolhouse Lily. The blooms are short lived and many of them planted together make a stunning show. Although a native of Argentina, they were first introduced in Texas, supposedly by a German immigrant to the into the Hill Country. From there they spread becoming naturalized becoming semi-naturalized.
Spider Lily Lycoris radiata: Another pass-along red lily is spider lily. It is in the same family as Amaryllis and is an Asian native that eventually was introduced to the United States and has become naturalized in the southeast. Also blooms in late summer or early fall.
There are several varieties of native bulbs: rain lilies. All have grasslike green leaves and white flowers on a slender stalk. If you are lucky to observe them after a rain you may notice that the flower turns a slightly pink color before it fades away. Cooperia drummondii, is named after a Scottish naturalist, Thomas Drummond. He came to Texas in 1833 and collected plants in along the Brazos, Colorado and Guadalupe rivers and the Edwards Plateau. His Texas collection was cut short when he died while collecting in Cuba in 1835.
If you have questions, call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700.
Additional information, and our blog for access to past articles, is available at westtexasgardening.org. Click on “Resources”.