Bulbs for Spring Color – Part 2

Many cultivated bulbs are originally from deserts around the world, and so make a wonderful addition to our Southwestern gardens. Here are three that I have found especially successful.

If you follow Southwest Gardening, a website I also write for, you know I have started this topic already, and please visit that site for growing tips.  If you are not “into” bulbs – or if you rent, try some of these colorful annuals.


Paperwhites – A bulb by any other name….

First a bit of terminology – Narcissus is the genus name for plants commonly called narcissus, paperwhite, jonquil, and daffodil. The genus is native to the Mediterranean region, with a few species are found in central Asia. Busy plant breeders over the past several centuries have increased the few dozen species to hundreds of hybrids, varieties and forms. Commonly the white varieties are called narcissus or paperwhite, while the yellow and orange varieties with larger central cups are considered daffodils or jonquils.

Paperwhites bloom early in the Southwest, sometimes in January in my yard, though more typically in February. They have white, powerfully fragrant, clustered flowers. I love the somewhat musky fragrance but my husband does not, thus I enjoy them in the yard, but do not cut them for indoors.


Later blooming than paperwhites, daffodils are charming in the rose garden, as they generally bloom just before the roses. Large flowered daffodils are the most popular back East, but the blooms don’t fare well in a hot spring, lasting only a day or two. I have some old heirloom bulbs with smaller flowers, and they last for up to a week in the yard.

Wild Tulips

Dutch tulips will not over-summer for me without digging them up and pampering them indoors, so I go with the wild-type tulips, also called Turkish tulips. Native to the eastern Mediterranean, they are used to baking summer soils and reliably return year after year. Please note that these “wild tulips” are not wild collected. They are bred in massive bulb farms and come in a vast array of colors.

I hope you will try these bulbs this year. And if first you don’t succeed, think of the bulbs that don’t over-summer rooted bouquet, about what a dozen delivered roses would cost and well worth it!

Bulb Sources:

Old House Gardens. Sign up for their newsletter while you are at it!
Brent and Beckys Bulbs Too many choices!
Colorblends. For the very ambitious, they are wholesalers that do sell to the public.

If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures. Watch my Facebook page for times and locations. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month-by-Month Guide to Gardening in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada” (Cool Springs Press, $26).
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