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Shop now for spring blooms

Spring bulbs are flooding the garden centers and now is the time to purchase and plan for late fall or early winter planting. Planning is important. Not all spring bulbs are suited for the South.

Many of us dream of tulips, but sorry to say it, tulips belong in Holland where they are produced. Tulips, like many of the Dutch bulbs, require a definite cold period during the winter to initiate flowering and a mild growing season to develop foliage for next year’s flower. Hyacinths are also one of the most popular spring flowering bulbs. Unfortunately, the same scenario for tulips applies to hyacinths.   

Tulips and hyacinths can be chilled for at least six weeks, planted in early winter and enjoyed as an annual for spring blooming. That gets expensive.

The true king of Southern spring blooming bulbs is the narcissus. There are many species and types of narcissus, including daffodils, jonquils and paperwhites. A good rule of thumb when purchasing these bulbs is; the larger the flower or trumpet size, the less adapted it will be. The smaller flowered or cluster flowered types are easier and more permanent. 

Another general rule applies. Only the early blooming types are truly adapted. This allows them to flower and produce foliage while the temperatures are still mild. If you choose those that say they naturalize well, are very early, early or early midseason blooming, your chances of success will be much higher.

A country drive in early spring is proof that these bulbs do well and naturalize easily. Sweeps of blooms tumbling down hillsides at abandoned home sites are plentiful. Just remember a few rules — fancier is not always better. Now, go shopping!

Rebecca Bates is an MSU Extension-Lincoln County agent, and can be reached at 601-835-3460 or by e-mail at rebecca.bates@msstate.edu.