Top Flower Bulb Picks for Coastal Southern California

Ixia gracing the April garden

Every fall and winter three things are on my mind: 1) chicks: when should I reserve chicks for the following year, 2) bare root season: which trees, brambles, or bushes do I need, and 3) flower bulbs: more!

The best selection of bulbs is late September and October but there are still some great bulbs available in November and early December right in time for planting in Southern California.

What makes a bulb the best, favorite, or prettiest is highly subjective. But, my criteria are that the flower is a good cut flower or smells great in the garden, doesn’t require refrigeration or other special handling, and tends to perform year after year.

My top flower bulb picks:

Stargazer lily. I must admit this is one of my favorite flowers hands down. So, this lily leads the list...I couldn't bear to put her on the list and not put her first! The scent is intoxicating for me and even if this flower didn’t perform year after year, I would likely plant it anyway. With lots of sun, great draining soil, and love, this lily will be a star in the garden.

Dutch iris. I tend to stay away from the exotic irises and stick with workhorse varieties such as Sapphire Beauty, Silvery Beauty, and Mauve Queen. Bargain iris bulbs are just that a bargain and might not give you the flowers you are expecting...I recommend buying bulbs from your local reputable nursery rather than discount chain or retailer.

 107's new bulbs for 2014

107's new bulbs for 2014

Muscari. I prefer the shorter variety Armeniacum. Every year I am surprised to see them pop up in places where I forgot that I planted them. Beautiful, long lasting purple blooms. And so fragrant!

Daffodils...narcissus. I prefer the short variety Jetfire. At a diminutive 10” clumps of Jetfire  add such a lovely yellow and orange pop in the orchard.

Ixia. Technically a corm that finds itself at home in Southern California away from its native South Africa. I have ixia planted in front of a hedgerow of Mexican sage bush and with no watering ixia returns each year with a punch. Some varieties are 36" and taller and bring such wonderful color and height when the deciduous trees haven't started leafing out in the Spring and early Summer. Ixia is one that you might be able to easily get from a friend or neighbor when ixia needs to be divided.

Crocus sativus. I strongly prefer plants that are edible and/or medicinal. Many a garden cut throat decisions have come down to the fact I can’t eat it and it doesn’t have a knock me off my feet flower. But, crocus sativa is not only a beautiful flower but will give me saffron for the kitchen. Bonus!