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Past Articles Library | Flower Bulbs | Growing Drought Tolerant Bulbs


Two challenges that every gardener faces in their landscape is a too dry area or too wet. The best approach when faced with either one of these situations is to plant according to the environment verses trying to change the environment. What I mean by this is if the area is dry then plan your landscape design around plants that tolerate a dry soil. The same holds true for any wet area.

Below are some bulbs that you may consider planting in areas that are dry but these areas cannot be defined as a xeriscaped landscape. Instead, all these bulbs require a well draining soil and at times of long term drought conditions, you may need to water.

Mexican Shellflower (Tigridia pavonia)

While you may have never heard of this plant, a close relative to this bulb I am sure you have heard of. What is this plant? Well, it is the iris. This bulb produces a tall flower stalk like and iris but the flower is just sitting on the top of the stalk. Also, the flower itself is a three petaled beauty that can be three to four inches in diameter. Whilst the flower color is mixed, the center is speckled red to orange.

Yes, this bulb is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 through 10; it can also be grown as an annual in zones 2 through 7.

Planting this bulb should occur in the spring in a very sunny location. The soil needs to be on the dry side. Another factor to consider is the height of this plant. Once the flower stalk has been produced, the mature size of the plant shoots up to 12 to 18 inches. In doing so, you will need to use this plant as a backdrop in a landscape or focal point.

This bulb can also be part of a container garden.

When it comes to planting this bulb, a good rule of thumb is to plan to plant nine bulbs per square foot and two to three inches deep.

Purple Shamrock (Oxalis triangularis)

This bulb is one that welcomes spring with its little pink blooms that have as a backdrop almost black leaves, which are clover shaped. While this plant is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 10, it can be grown in other areas as an annual. If you want to keep the plant from year to year, you can either pull up the bulb before a killing frost or bring the entire plant indoors.

This bulb should be planted in early spring in a sunny location that is well draining. When it comes to utilizing this bulb to its fullest, consider using it as a border in your landscape design. The reason for this is the fact that the mature size of this plant is four to six inches in height.

When planning on using this plant, purchase several of them for impact. You will need to plant 10 per square foot. Also, make sure to plant them deep enough. A good rule is two to three inches.

Firecracker Flower Pink Diamond (Dichelostemma Pink Diamond)

Believe it or not, the “firecracker” name really says it all when it comes to this bulb. The blooms resemble little pink firecrackers on a string suspended on the top of a stem. This plant can be grown as an annual in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2 through 10 but it is known to be a perennial in hardiness zones 7 through 10.

While the sun requirement for this bulb is flexible from full sun to partial shade but the one requirement that is not as forgiving is the moisture level. This bulb requires a sandy soil or average soil that is very well draining.

Another factor is to consider the mature height of this plant. Once this bulb has bloomed, the mature height is 20 to 24 inches. In doing so, this bulb makes a colorful backdrop to any landscape design especially one that needs an unexpected splash of color.

Since this plant’s leaves need a room to spread, plan on planting your bulbs two to three inches apart and the same depth.

Double Tuberosa (Polianthes tuberose)

This bulb can be planted spring and/or summer. The flower stalk is tall at 24 to 36 inches and topped with white flowers. Due to the height of the flower stalk, consider using it as a backdrop to other plantings or plant by itself.

While the term for the start of this plant is being called a bulb, it is actually a tuber. In doing so, a trough verses a hole will need to be dug and the tuber will need to be placed on its side two to three inches down.

This plant is hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 10. If you do not live in this range, do not worry. You can still grow this plant as an annual in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2 through 6.

Growing requirements of this plant include a well draining soil that is in a location that receives full sun.

Beyond the above growing requires, make sure to not crowd the double tuberose. The maximum number of tubers you should plant is three per square foot.

Peruvian Daffodil or Spider Lily (Hymenocallis festalis)

This bulb has a vast USDA Plant Hardiness Zone range, which includes 2 through 10. In USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 2 through 6, it is grown as an annual. In the remaining USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 7 through 10, this bulb is grown as a perennial.

Due to a flower stalk that can be a mature size of 14 to 16 inches, this plant makes a wonderful backdrop to other flowers. This particular bulb starts growing soon after it is placed in the ground and can be planted in the early spring to summer. Do not worry about having to wait to see the flower. It is not uncommon to see the first flower stalk appear after the bulb has been in the ground for only a month. If planted in the spring, do not be surprised that your Peruvian daffodil greets you with a flush of four flower stalks through the growing season.

When it comes to planting this bulb, pick a location that is well draining. The light requirement can range from full sun to partial shade. Once you have your location picked out, mark off the area in square foot segments. This bulb needs room so only plant three bulbs per square foot and at a depth of two to three inches.


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