by Sarah Wood, El Paso Master Gardener
“Bulb” is a general term often used to describe all types of plants that are capable of gathering and storing nutrients in a specialized underground storage structure. Classified as true bulbs, tubers, rhizomes and tuberous roots, these special plants offer seasonal blooms with low maintenance in gardens thoroughout El Paso. They evade drought by growing and flowering when the right combination of temperature and moisture occurs.
Iris (available in many colors) and the white Texas tuberose bloom in the spring. Rain lilies (white, yellow or pink) bloom in response to summer and early fall rains while gayfeather and society and edible garlic chives announce fall is coming. All these plants have low water requirements and will survive on annual rainfall alone when established.
With some supplemental water, daylilies in many colors, lily of the Nile (blue or white), fortnight lilies (white with purple markings), desert four o’clock (magenta) add color to the landscape from late spring to fall when coral vine and rain lilies contribute glorious exclamation points. In the oasis zone canna lilies contribute a variety of colored foliage and flowers.
All these colorful plants share some common growing requirements: good drainage, 4-6 hours of sun during the flowering period, some organic material, and fertilizer (5-10-5 or 10-10-10) and water during and following flowering. Obtaining good quality “bulbs”, planting them at the proper depth (2-3 times the diameter of the “bulb” with the growing tip up, a little fertilizer an inch below the bulb, and watering gets the process started. When the green foliage appears water as needed, then enjoy the flowers. When the flowering ends, work some fertilizer into the soil around the plant and continue watering while the foliage generates the nutrients for the next bloom cycle. When the foliage dies, carefully remove it and wait for the next glorious blooms.
Related links from our Learn»Gardening Topics–Links page:
Prepare for Bulbs in the Landscape Now (includes additional information on forcing bulbs)
Planting Bulbs for Spring Color (Video with tips on what kind of bulbs to buy and step-by-step instructions on how to plant them.)