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SHARING SECRETS: Bulbs For San Diego

Edited by Cathy Tylka, for Let’s Talk Plants! October 2023.

WiX stock photo.

This month’s question:

What bulbs have you found naturalize well in your San Diego Garden? I have a good selection of spring and fall bulbs and would welcome suggestions from others.

Stephanie Shigematus retorted…

…I would try any of the South African bulbs, however there are three tried and true species in my garden even with very heavy clay soil, and they are: Babiana, Sparaxis, and any of the many Amaryllis. The South American Ipheion uniflorum is also a good one for the shade.


Tynan Wyatt of 91910 says…

… Definitely not tulips, ha-ha-ha, what a disaster!

Daffodils failed me as well.

Rain lilies, sparaxis, and tiger lilies (all Home Depot buys) all bloomed but then failed to naturalize.

The "no surprise" category includes freesia and Amaryllis belladona.

The "pleasant surprise" category includes oxblood lilies and gladiolas. Gladiolas are only a surprise in that they do great when planted within California native bushes. It helps them stay upright, they seem to prefer less than full sun, and they love the same watering schedule. Plus, it means I suddenly have a ton of space to plant amazing gladiolas.

I'm still evaluating Babiana (various species), seafoam daffodils, and species tulips.


Susi Torre-Bueno of 92083 relates…

… I've had great success with South African bulbs: Babiana stricta (a corm, not a true bulb), Chasmanthe floribunda var. duckittii (the non-invasive kind), Amaryllis belladonna, Naked Ladies, Anomatheca laxa, Boophone disticha, Cyrtanthus brachyscyphus, Freesia cvs. (also corms), Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus, G. splendens, G. tristis (all 3 are corms), Ixia cvs. (corms), Lachenalia mutabilis, Ledebouria pauciflora, Ledebouria petiolata (= Drimiopsis maculata), Ledebouria socialis, Moraea polystachya (corms), Tulbaghia cominsii x violacea 'Fairy Star', T. fragrans (= Tulbaghia simmleri), and Watsonia cultivars (corms).

These South American bulbs have also done well for me: Crinum bulbispermum, Cyrtanthus hybrid, Cyrtanthus mackenii var. cooperii, Habranthus robustus, Habranthus tubispathus var. tubispathus, Zephyranthes 'Labuffarosa', Zephyranthes candida, and Z. rosea.

The California native bulbs that are thriving here in Vista include: Dichelostemma × venustum (= Dichelostemma 'Pink Diamond'), D. capitatum (Brodiaea pulchella), D. congestum, Ipheion 'Rolf Fieldler' (aka: Tristagma peregrinans), I. uniflorum 'Charlotte Bishop', I. uniflorum 'Wish Upon A Starflower Mix', Triteleia hyacinthina, T. laxa 'Corrina' (Brodiaea laxa), T. laxa 'Queen Fabiola', and T. laxa 'Rudy' (these four are corms).

Also, some paperwhite cultivars have been outstanding and multiplied really well: Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or', N. 'Geranium' (has a delightful scent), and old standby Narcissus papyraceus 'Paperwhites' (nasty scent but gorgeous from a distance).

Other bulbs from various parts of the world include Scilla peruviana, and Tulipa bakeri 'Lilac Wonder' (blooming reliably in pots since 2008!)


Viv Black reports …

…Iris bulbs do well here in San Diego, both yellow and purple in Rancho Bernardo.


Rebecca Smith puts it simply…

…Bulbs that have naturalized in my yard: Naked Ladies and narcissus.


Heather Hazen says, “don’t forget Fairy Lilies.”

Grow Zephyr Lilies in pots, they bloom from May to October. Divide every couple of years.


Ida Rigby of 92064, solicits us to notice…

… Over the last 30 years I have experimented with dozens of narcissi that supposedly grew in our zone. Most were failures. So, here are some that naturalized in my Poway garden, and which I have given to friends who are not gardeners, but who have also had success with them. I included a photo of our blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium, which is a rhizome in the iris family and not a bulb, because I wanted to include a native spring flower that acts and looks like a spring bulb. I usually order in April or May from Brent and Becky’s, which so far has had excellent quality bulbs.

So, here are a few, for me, foolproof naturalizers that look like “spring” bulbs. They are Narcissus ‘Carlton,’ N. ‘Ceylon,’ N. ‘Erlicheer’ (perfumes the whole garden, incredibly fragrant, and too fragrant to bring inside), N. ’Twinkling Yellow’ (a tiny flower and wants no summer water), Tulip bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder,’ Leucojum aestivum (will grow on seasonal rainfall or in moist areas near ponds), and Paperwhite N. ‘Grand Soleil d’Or.’ Then there is the corm, Gladiolus communes ssp. byzantinus for those of us who like a more species looking gladiola. It’s a lovely magenta. Hyacinthoide hisp. ‘Excelsior’ naturalizes here in light shade. I am sure I’ll learn more from others' responses, but these are the foolproof naturalizers for me.

Anemones I need to replant every year, but love their brilliant colors.

The Ipheion uniflorum surrounding the T. bakeri in the photo can be very invasive. I have given up on keeping it out of my gravel paths and just walk on it. Of course, we heard about the Amaryllis belladonna at our last meeting. Mine are blooming right now.

Narcissus 'Grande Soliel d’Or'. Photo credit Ida Rigby.

Narcissus 'Avalanche'. Photo credit Ida rigby.

Narcissus 'Erlicheer'. Photo credit: Ida Rigby.

Leucojum aestivum, Narcissus 'Carlton', Narcissus 'Erlicheer'. Photo credit: Ida Rigby.

Narcissus 'Ceylon', Narcissus 'Carlton'. Photo credit: Ida Rigby.

How to tie up unsightly leaves until they dry out.

Tulip bakeri ‘Lilac Wonder’ and invasive Ipheion.


James Booman of Vista shared…

Bulbs that live without help in my Vista Garden, only 2 kinds have survived sixty years of being ravaged by gophers, Naked Lady Lilies and Narcissus.

These clumps are sixty plus years old.


Lucy Warren spreads the news…

… One of my favorites is spraxis which gives me joy every spring. I harvest the seeds and spread them liberally. I even had one pop up in a crack in the sidewalk.


Linda Chisari of 92084 proclaims…

… Ah, the glories of spring!

Spanish Bluebells.


Ipheon and Freesia.

Neapolitan Wild Garlic.


Amaryllis Belladona, (Naked Ladies.)


Ixia Sparaxis.

Dianella Tasmania.


Sisyrinchium Bella.


Sisyrichium Bella.


Dutch Iris.

Tulip Tarda.

When you’ve lived in a house for 47 years, there’s been a lot of time for things to naturalize!


Vinnie Schabacker of 92027 educates us that…

… Freesia and Ornithogalum dubium have naturalized the best for me so far in Escondido, but I haven't planted many bulbs.

I've also had calla lilies both in the ground in sheltered areas, and in pots, but spread is slow. I'm thinking of trying Albuca spiralis in the ground to see if it really is reliable in my zone 9b.

Agapanthus bulbs hang in there forever, and they do spread outward, but certainly don't naturalize.

I'd love to know which ones you've planted and would recommend.


Carolyn Conway of 92025 declares…

Freesias that migrated from my neighbor's garden. They come up at odd places around the garden, are very polite, look pretty and have a nice aroma. In spring, I always wonder where they will come up next.


Karen England admits to forgetting the bulbs that she’s planted over the last twenty-three years until…

…they bloom! Again and again…

Anyone else sing Tiptoe through the Tulips while answering this question? Probably not but I can't resist submitting this anyway:

You are welcome!


Karen also shared . . .

. . . in the did-you-know department: Carlsbad, California may have fields of the corms called Ranunculus but Julian, California, has U-pick Daffodil fields! The fields are open to the public in the Spring. (This year the Daffodil fields were open at the end of March.) So much fun, maybe I'll see you there next year!

Best friends and SDHS board members Karon De Leon (left) and Karen England (right) in the Julian, CA daffodil fields, March 2023.


Cathy Tylka of 92026 proclaims…

Squills, Drimia maritima, a medicinal plant native to the Mediterranean. It's also known as sea squill, sea onion, and maritime squill.

Squill is a common name for several lily-like plants and may refer to: Drimia maritima, medicinal plant native to the Mediterranean, formerly classified as Scilla maritima. Scilla, a genus of plants cultivated for their ornamental flowers, native to Europe and Asia.


Question for next month…

Have you visited any gardens lately or even in the past? Did it give you an idea that you copied in your garden? Did it work? Show us the garden you visited and your good work in re-producing!


Cathy Tylka, RN, retired Emergency Nurse, found her love of plants and the SDHS merge many years ago. Cathy acted as Treasurer for the organization and volunteer for many activities. Now, more than happy to assist in gathering questions to ask you in the Sharing Secrets area of the Newsletter.


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