Growing spring bulbs in warm climates

U.S.D.A. Zones 9 and 10 can be excellent locales for growing tulips if they are treated as annuals and given some extra consideration. Many other wonderful bulbs thrive in gardens in areas with mild winters.

Most bulbs in mild winter areas are planted in the coolest part of the year, in December or early January.

The trick to growing tulips, crocus, and hyacinths is giving them a "cold treatment" to fool them into thinking they've gone through a cold winter underground. This can be done quite easily in your kitchen refrigerator (though if you're planning to store a large quantity, and still plan on eating, it might work better if you have an old, spare fridge handy).

Narcissi are the surprise exception: no chilling is needed for successful growing of narcissi and daffodils in the warmer climates. Just store them in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant.


1.  Place bulbs in a ventilated bag (best choices: paper bags, mesh bulb bags, or new hole-y vegetable baggies) in a refrigerator at the usual fridge temperature of 40° F to 45° F for a minimum of six to eight weeks. Don't worry if you bought the bulbs early in the season and need to store them for several months before planting: keep them chilling — even up to 12 to 16 weeks if necessary, until it is time to plant.

2.  Remove any fruit (especially apples) in the refrigerator, for the ethylene gas given off by all ripening fruit will kill the flower inside bulbs.

3.  Keep bulbs in the refrigerator until planting. Take them directly from the fridge to your planting site. 

4.  Plant bulbs six to eight inches deep. A two-inch thick layer of mulch is optional to help retain moisture and keep the bulbs cool. 

5.  Choose planting areas that drain well, as standing water can rot bulbs. 

6.  Water the garden after planting to help the tulips establish root growth. If you live in a dry area, be sure to water the garden as needed.

        Best Tulips for Warmer Climates

        Among the tulips that will do best in warm climates are the long-stemmed Single Late Tulips.

        Suggested Single Late cultivars include: 'Halcro' (vibrant red); 'Queen of Night' (deep dark maroon); 'Renown' (rose-pink); 'Menton' (apricot-pink with inside of poppy red); 'Maureen' (pure white); 'Makeup' (ivory white with red edge); 'Temple of Beauty' salmon-rose); 'Blushing Beauty' (pink with white edges); 'Blue Aimable' (lilac-blue); 'Hocus Pocus' (yellow tipped pink); and 'Black Diamond' (deep dark maroon).

        In the Single Early category, 'Apricot Beauty' (salmon) is tops. In the Triumph category, excellent choices are 'New Design' (light pink with darker edges).

        For the different look of Parrot Tulips, try 'Estella Rijnveld' (white streaked with red); 'Orange Favourite' (orange with green blotches, yellow base); 'Texas Gold' (deep yellow, narrow red edge) and 'Flaming Parrot' (yellow flamed with red).

        In double late tulips (peony flowered), the top performers are 'Angelique' (blush pink) and 'Mount Tacoma' (white).

        Most Darwin Hybrid tulips will do well in warmer climates with pre-cooling. Try: 'Apeldoorn' (red); 'Golden Apeldoorn' (yellow); 'Big Chief' (rosy-salmon); 'Olympic Flame' (red streaked with yellow); 'Parade' (dark red with black base edged yellow); 'Pink Impression' (pink); and 'Daydream' (orange and yellow).

        For Lily-Flowered Tulips, good choices include: 'White Triumphator' (white); 'Red Shine' (red); 'Mona Lisa' (red and white); and 'Marilyn' (white streaked rosy-pink). Among botanical tulips, try 'Linifolia' (red); 'Tarda' (yellow and white); 'Saxatilis' (lavender with yellow) and Bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' (violet-pink and yellow). These generally can be grown without pre-cooling and will even naturalize.

        Best Daffodils for Warmer Climates

        Barrett Browning, Carlton, February Gold, Fortune, Gernaium, Hawera, Ice Follies, Mount Hood, Pink Charm, Tamara, Tete a Tete & Thalia are all excellent choices for the south.

        Other Bulbs That Do Well in Warm Zones

        Other bulb favorites that will do well in warm weather are crocus, hyacinths, colchicums and muscari. Also good at handling the warmer weather are lilies and the ornamental onions such as Allium alflatunenseA. sphaerocephalum (drumstick allium), A. moly, and A. christophii.