TOW: Bulbs with surprising hardiness

Boyce Tankersley
Tue, 09 Sep 2003 15:01:11 PDT
Hi All,

One of the many pleasures of being in the plant business is discovering plants that survive where the references or experts say they won't.

I was pleasantly surprised that one of the commercial cultivars of Hippeastrum behaved as a perennial in Ft. Worth, Texas, zone 7. Can't recall the cultivar name, it was red flowered and large. The plantings were made in the early 80's and were still flowering well when I left later in the decade (despite some really nasty winter weather).

We found Eucomis autumnalis and two cultivars of Zantedeschia from New Zealand survived in St. Louis, zone 6, in the Bulb Garden in the early 90's. The Zantedeschias were shared around with a number of other botanic gardens and I hope they still have them; those in St. Louis were eventually lost.

I've been very excited to find Alstromeria 'Sarah' to be hardy in Chicago, zone 5. 

Shortly after starting work at CBG I discovered some really impressive clumps of Lycoris sanguinea in flower in one of our gardens. It had been reported dead due to lack of winter hardiness some 7 years earlier ... guess the Lycoris didn't get copied on the memo reporting its demise. Following up on the find of L. sanguinea and later L. sprengeri where they shouldn't be, an evaluation of Lycoris from Jim Waddick was initiated 4 years ago and we have found all but radiata ssp. radiata to be hardy in Chicago as well.

Iris iberica collected as seeds in Republic of Georgia has grown incredibly well in containers, filling to the edges 5" square pots with healthy rhizomes and foliage. This is one of the taxa that are supposed to be almost impossible to keep alive in cultivation. In a similar fashion, Iris iberica ssp. elegantissima produced some really spectacular blooms this spring and the rhizomes divided up to create additional plants.

The other bulbs collected in Republic of Georgia, despite the nay-saying of some of the local pundits, have survived and thrived despite some really harsh winters and monsoonal summers. 

Yes, from time to time I do let my guard down and a smile crosses my face when I am told or read a reference that plainly states these plants should not be alive.

Boyce Tankersley

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