by Sally Waxgiser, a master Gardener volunteer with the Jackson County Extension
Plant fall bulbs for spring color
Itís that time of year again. The bulbs are appearing in the stores, so you know itís time to prepare for those first signs of spring. Floridaís climate is favorable for growing many tropical and subtropical bulbous plants, but before you do, there are a few things to consider.
Selecting and preparing the site: In general, bulbs prefer a sunny location, but a few, such as caladiums, do better with partial shade. They also prefer to be in well-drained soil, and this is one of the first things
you need to consider. If the site does not drain well, raised beds may be in order. If you do install raised beds, make sure the fill soil has good drainage properties. You may also be able to dig trenches to help carry water away from the bed to lower ground.
The soil should be tilled and amended with 3" - 4" of organic matter such as peat, compost or well-rotted manure and 1 to 1Ĺ lbs. of a 12-8-8 or equivalent fertilizer per 100 sq. ft. of bed. After preparation, level and moisten the soil. It is best to then treat the soil to kill weed seeds and prevent problems later.
Planting: Once you have prepared the site, place the bulbs on the ground to form the pattern you choose whether in straight rows or curves and natural drifts of color. Once the layout is decided upon, dig the holes to the recommended depth with a small shovel or trowel and place the bulbs in theholes with the points up. Firm the soil around and above the bulb and water throughly.
General Care: Bulbs are not care-free. For healthy plants and beautiful blooms, continual care must be given. A two or three inch layer of mulch will prevent most weeds from germinating. Those that do come through should be pulled while young and easily removed without disturbing the bed.
General care includes fertilizer. Once or twice during the growing season with 1 to 1 1/2lbs of a 12-8-8 per 100 sq. ft. of bed area should do it. It is not necessary to fertilize those bulbs of northern states such as tulips, hyacinths, and some irises and lilies as they have enough stored food for the blooming season and almost never do well the second year. It is usually best to dig and discard these bulbs after the blooms are gone.
Water is crucial to bulb growth, and it is important that plants donít suffer lack of water during both growth and flowering periods. Keep the soil moist at all times except at the end of the season when it is necessary to "dry off" the bulbs for winter storage. Most bulbs grow best if left in the soil to over winter, but if they become crowded, it will be best to dig and divide to promote more even and larger blooms. Tropical bulbs, such as the caladium, should be dug and stored to prevent cold damage.
Diseases and Pests: Bulbous plants are susceptible to damage from many diseases and pests. The most difficult diseases to control are those transmitted by insects. Symptoms of virus infection are stunted growth, mottled or striped leaves and malformed foliage and flowers. The only treatment for virus is to destroy infected plants and control insects. When the soil stays wet thru poor drainage, soil borne bacteria and fungi may cause some bulbs to rot. Once the pathogen has invaded the root, little canbe done to control the disease. Improve soil drainage and remove infected plants as soon as possible. If the infection is not too severe, spraying with a bactericide or fungicide may help.
Daylilies are especially susceptible to a fungus called Daylily Rust. The disease may be avoided by purchase of disease-free stock and propagation from healthy plants. The pathogen spores are spread by splashing water, so minimize overhead watering. The disease is also transferred from plant to plant by human and animal contact and by dirty tools, especially when the leaves are wet. The symptoms are raised yellow-orange to rust pustules on the underside of the leaf.
Fungicides may be applied to slow disease development and protect tender new growth. Preventive control may be achieved by applying fungicides early in the spring as new growth emergesand before symptoms are noticed. Fungicides to consider for use are thiopanate methyl (Fungo or Cavalier), mancozeb (Manzate or Dithane), chlorothalonil (Daconil) and iprodine (Chipco, Aventis).
Yellowing of the foliage is a symptom commonly caused by lack of nitrogen, iron, zinc, magnesium or manganese. This may be due to an actual lack of the nutrient(s) in the soil or the roots may be unable to absorb them due to poor aeration, disease or nematodes. The availability of iron and manganeseis limited in soils with a high pH. Publications on testing and adjusting pH and correcting nutritional disorders are available by contacting your local county extension office.
This article was taken in part from the publication Bulbs for Florida, CIR552. Contact your local County Extension Office for more information. Visit or write the Jackson County Extension Office at 2741 Penn Ave. #3, Marianna, FL 32448, call 482-9620, email email@example.com, or log on to http://jackson.ifas.ufl.edu.
Back to Current Light Flashes