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Warm Climate Bulb Planting

I’m in California, do spring flowering bulbs need to be pre-chilled in the refrigerator? When should I plant?

In most areas of the country you can plant your bulbs anytime during the fall. In my zone 7 garden, I start planting in October and often continue as late as Thanksgiving.

However, in warm gardening zones, you will need to take special measures. Tulips should be grown as annuals in your area, as is the case in most parts of the country.

First, with the exception of the daffodils and narcissus, you need to cool your bulbs in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks.

Place bulbs in a ventilated bag (best choices: paper bags, mesh bulb bags, or new open weave vegetable baggies) in a refrigerator at the usual fridge temperature of 40 degrees F to 45 degrees 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.

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

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

Be sure to select a planting area that drains well, as standing water can rot bulbs.

Plant the bulbs three times their height. For example, if the daffodil bulb is approximately 2 inches tall, dig a hole 6 inches deep. Once covered with soil, a two-inch thick layer of mulch is optional to help retain moisture and keep the bulbs cool. Just remember that if you do plan to add mulch factor it into your planting depth.

Water the garden after planting to help the establish root growth. If you live in a dry area, be sure to water the garden about once a week.