The tropical and subtropical conditions of the Gulf Coast Region create the optimal environment for a wide selection of easy-to-love, easy-to-grow bulbous plants. These versatile plants, grown from underground storage organs, include bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes.
Most of the spring-blooming bulbous plants in this region don't experience a period of dormancy. Our ground temperatures just don't get cold enough for bulbs that require fall planting to get established, or chilling time to bloom. It's not likely you'll see northern bulbs, such as tulips, hyacinths and some lilies, this far south. However, many unusual varieties of bulbous plants preferring warmer climates are readily available as spring-blooming bedding plants.
One of the earliest to bloom is a walking iris. 'Regina' Iris (Neomarica caerulea) is commonly referred to as Giant Apostle's Iris. Wide, erect blades of blue-green foliage emerge from a rhizome in a clumping fashion and reach impressive heights of 4 to 5 feet. The blend of vivid purple and creamy-white flowers, detailed with flecks and stripes, is striking and exotic. Flowers flush out in succession from spring through early summer. Partial sun and well-drained organic soil are ideal.
Variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata') can reach heights of 5 to 6 feet, with dramatic green and yellow stripy foliage that is 18 to 24 inches long. In zone 8 it is necessary to protect it from freezing. In my garden it grows best in filtered light under oak tree cover, which gives sufficient winter protection. Shell ginger blooms each spring on old growth.
The shell-shape flowers hang in arching clusters from the top leaves. Amend sandy soils with organics, as adequate moisture needs to be sustained to avoid browning leaf-tips. To maintain healthy plants, lop off spent stalks at ground level. New leaves continuously emerge from the underground rhizome.
A favorite reliable spring bloomer in my garden is African lily (Agapanthus orientalis). These evergreen plants are highly cold-tolerant and bloom best in partial sun. They look impressive planted en masse but are equally stunning in containers for a small garden or on a patio. Large clusters of trumpetlike lavender-blue flowers bloom on tall stalks that rise above glossy, strappy foliage. You can separate rhizomes for divisions in fall or early spring. Hummingbirds and pollinators enjoy them equally with each garden visitor.
Look for these tropically unique spring-blooming plants at your Lowe's Garden Center all year long. Which bulbous plant is a favorite in your spring garden?
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