Bulbs for Texas

Cynthia Mueller c-mueller@tamu.edu
Sun, 08 Jun 2003 05:43:30 PDT
Mary Sue has asked me to introduce the topic of survivable bulbs for Texas - let's hope the rest of our Texas contingent will add their input, too:

Bulbs in Central Texas - Much of Central Texas has alkaline soil and temperatures that may range from 8F in very severe winters to only a few degrees of frost, for only one or two days at a time.  Gardeners become bold after several winters with mild temperatures, experimenting with various subtropical or tender plants, only to have their hopes dashed during more severe weather.  Rains, drizzle or dampness may come for one to three weeks at a time in winter or in summer, or perhaps it might not rain at all for six weeks during the summer.  One characteristic of Texas weather is to have no reliable structure to plan on.

In this setting, some bulbs are capable of long-term survival.  Heirlooms here since the early 1800's include Amaryllis (Hippeastrum johnsonii), Roman hyacinths, Leucojum aestivum, School-house lilies (Rhodophiala bifida) and Crinum bulbispermum and its many hybrids, especially milk-and-wine lilies.  Many of the ornamental onions don't succeed, but there are heirloom leeks, garlic and Neapolitan onion.  Starch hyacinth (sometimes referred to locally as grape hyacinth (Muscari racemosum) can be found in waste places coexisting nicely with grass, but ornamental garden hyacinths and tulips do not last.  The commonly found Alstroemeria is the early variety A. pulchella.  A few Amsonias are native.  The single Mexican tuberose succeeds better than the double form.  Parrot gladiolus (G. natalensis, psittacina) and Byzantine glad (G. byzantinus) have survived as heirlooms.  There don't seem to be any long-lasting crocus or Sternbergia.  Four o'clock tubers have no trouble surviving without attention.  Dahlias usually go belly-up in the summer months, but calla lilies will thrive in a suitable setting.  Cannas grow taller than Eastern catalogs claim they are capable of (Texas influence).  

Dr. Bill Welch of Texas A&M University lists the following narcissi and daffodils as candidates for naturalization:  N. jonquilla, N. Jonquilla x odoratus 'Campernelle' 'Trevithian', N. cyclamineus 'Peeping Tom', N. tazetta 'Papyraceus', N. tazetta 'Constantinople', 'Silver Chimes' 'Pearl' and 'Grand Monarche'.  'Erlicheer' is a popular favorite.  The old strain of L. longifolium is still found in Central Texas, and Philippine lilies have no trouble recurring annually from seed or from bulbs.

Cynthia W. Mueller
College Station, TX

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