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Southern Bulbs 101

Relax... after reading the following, you will be a well-equipped and informed Southern Bulb gardener.

Bulbs are an 'underground storage structure.' Amazingly, they can be dug up during dormancy, shipped halfway around the world, replanted and offer blooms in a similar climate to their original home.

Their cycle usually involves first shooting up foliage (although some bulbs bloom first, with foliage following) which lasts for several months. When landscaping, you can often mix bulbs in with liriope or other border plants for an attractive display. During the time when the foliage (green grass-like leaves) is showing, most bulbs need to get at least a half day of sun. It really doesn't matter if the bulb is in a shady spot during its bloom period. The foliage is what needs the sun for photosynthesis to occur, thus allowing the bulb to get full growth, develop a bloom and remain healthy. After the foliage has been up for a period, the bulb shoots up its bloom in all it's glory. Enjoy this time. Next, the foliage begins to fade away by turning yellow, then brown, then disappearing all together. The yellowing of foliage does not mean the bulb has died. Bulbs are 'underground storage structures' that take the nutrients it gets from the green foliage and then stores them in the bulb underground for next season. The bulb is now dormant. Again, it is not 'dead.' If the bulb was planted in an environment it is not well-suited for (such as a cold climate bulb in a hot climate) it may die. However, bulbs grown in the climates they are suited for will store away the previous years nutrients and prepare for next year's bloom. This is the best time to move the bulb, if desired. It is very stable during this time -- and, as would be expected, is the state in which we harvest the bulbs and ship them to you.

Each bulb has slightly different care requirements, however there are a few good "rules of thumb" for bulb gardening: 1) Grow bulbs that are well-suited for your climate 2) Plant them at a depth of about three times the height of the bulb for fall bulbs. For spring bulbs, rain lilies generally only need about an inch of soil over the bulb, and crinums (along with Hymenocallis and Amaryllis) should be planted with a portion of their neck above the ground and the main section (rounder section) of the bulb just under the ground 3) Plant them at a spacing of about 2-3 bulb widths to prevent crowding 4) Give them at least a half-day of sun when the foliage is present (usually in the winter) 5) Apply mulch over the bulbs to keep them cool and increase the drainage of your soil 6) Don't be intimidated. Because of lackluster success with most bulbs available on the market, successful bulb gardening has become elusive to most gardeners. Remember: plant what is suitable for your area. Fighting nature makes gardening more difficult than it should be... and that's it -- now you're ready to garden with bulbs!

When do I plant my bulbs?

If we shipped you the bulbs, it's time to plant! We ship only at planting times! You may be used to chilling or storing your bulbs until precisely the right time... which is not necessary with our bulbs. Southern Bulbs are from the South, grown in Texas and are happiest in the ground. There is no need to trick the bulbs into believing they are in a cold climate or a different season of the year. Plant them now and leave them in the ground to multiply over the years!

When can I dig and divide my bulbs?

Bulbs generally have three visible states in their life cycle: a) Bloom b) Foliage c) Dormant. The most important thing to remember is not to dig the bulbs when they are blooming or when their foliage is present and green. The best time to dig and divide is when the foliage is yellowing/browning and fading away. This means the bulb is entering its dormant state and is most "stable" for replanting and transporting. (note: this does not mean the bulb is 'dead.' See Southern Bulbs 101 for more info.) Can you move the bulb with the foliage up? Well... yes, just do it very quickly, keeping the roots moist and plant it immediately in good soil. It may "shock" the bulb out of blooming the next year, but if you do it quickly, it will survive. Some bulbs, however, are tougher than others. That said, it is best to follow our initial advice and wait until the foliage is yellowing or faded.

What bulbs will grow well in my area?

Although 'hardiness zones' are not always the best indicator (but the best we have) of whether a plant will be successful in your garden (there are other factors, such as soil, sun/shade, etc), it is the industry standard by which we rate plants and bulbs. You can search our website on the main page by your zone by clicking on the left hand side links. If you don't know your zone, you can find it here: Find My Zone

How do I take care of my bulbs?

Great Question! Here are 5 Steps of Planting for Propagation:

  1. Step one is not required, but recommended: Prepare your soil with some organic matter and what ever amendment might be needed to help it reach a loamy consistency (like expanded shale for clay soils). Over-fertilization can often lead to lots of foliage and no blooms. Be careful - these bulbs thrive on neglect!
  2. Plant at a depth of about three times the height of the bulb and a spacing of 2-3 bulb widths. The only exception are the spring planted bulbs, which should be planted with the top showing through the surface and the main section of the bulb below the soil.
  3. Make sure the bulb is in a spot that will get at least a half day of sun. For fall bulbs, planting under deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in the winter) is a good strategy.
  4. Mark your bulbs! (doesn't have to be fancy, popsicle sticks will do!)
  5. Be patient. Bulbs teach us to wait patiently for a great reward: a season of beautiful blooms... and with Southern bulbs, you'll be the envy of the neighborhood!

What if my bulbs didn't bloom?

The Southern Bulb Co. only ships healthy bulbs that are of blooming size and have received proper care while they are in our possession. That is our committment to you.

However, if a bulb does not bloom, it can be diagnosed through the following observations:

Did the bulb produce foliage?

If 'yes,' then your Southern bulb is not dead. Congratulations! This means it probably got exposed to heat, did not get enough sun/water or underwent other adverse conditions. We advise you to wait until the foliage yellows and move it to a location that gets more water and sun.

If 'no,' there is a serious problem. Most likely, your bulb did not make it. The only way to know for sure is to dig it back up. Once out of the ground, see if the bulb feels soft and rotten. If not, good news -- the bulb was probably exposed to adverse conditions before planting but is hanging on for dear life! Replant it and expect a bloom next year! If it does feel soft, there are a few possible causes:

Was the bulb submersed under flooding for an extended period of time? It may have rotted in those conditions. Was your bulb left in the direct sunlight for a period before planting? Extreme heat and direct sun may have killed the bulb. Was the bulb planted at a depth of at least three times the height of the bulb? Shallow plantings can sometimes expose the bulbs to extreme heat.

If you attempted to dig the bulb and found nothing, the bulb was either moved by varmints (and may pop up somewhere unexpected) or has completely rotted in the ground. Think back to when you planted the bulb. If it was solid and healthy at the time of planting, there may be issues with your soil, such as soil-borne fungus. Ask your local garden center about treating your soil before replanting any new bulbs! If you are unsatisfied with the state in which the bulbs arrived at your doorstep, please email us at so we can take care of you.

Are your prices 'per bulb?'

No. The quantity of bulbs in each package varies by variety. However, our bulbs do cost more than most imported varieties. Think of it as an investment. These bulbs come back every year in greater numbers, are grown in Texas and have a 'rare and heirloom' status. Sure, you'll pay a little more at first, but for the price of one 'double venti skinny mocha latte,' you'll have bulbs that may even outlast your house. In fact, most of our bulbs were found around the remaining foundations of old homesites.

Do you have a catalog?

We realize that some of our customers are more comfortable ordering bulbs from a physical, printed catalog. However, we have decided to only offer our bulbs online for three reasons: 1) We have limited stock. By selling online, we can track sales "real time" so that we do not "over commit" our limited inventory. We will never ship substitutes to our customers! 2) Let's be honest: printing catalogs is expensive! We'd rather spend money where it counts: finding new bulbs for you, taking care of them and providing you with the support you need. 3) More and more people are becoming comfortable buying online. If you are not one of those people, we totally understand! Call us and we'll take your order over the phone! Please be patient, however, as we are often out of the office hunting for bulbs or in our barn shipping orders.

Can you give me some landscaping ideas?

We are happy to offer the following tips for landscaping with bulbs:

First and foremost, each gardener must answer the question, "what am I trying to accomplish in the landscape?" Are you looking for a particular color, texture, depth, etc? Bulbs can be used for great mass displays and drifts. However, Chip Clint (owner of a landscape design firm in Dallas) advises "it is important to offer little specialties in collections for the more careful, up- close observer."

  1. To extend the color life of drifts and other mass plantings, consider planting several varieties together that bloom a little later and a little earlier than each other.
  2. Common landscape plants like Mondo Grass and Liriope sp. can be spruced up by the use of fall or spring blooming bulbs. Properly selected bulbs will offer other foliage choices during the winter and early spring months, and at the same time add a splash of color. (examples: Oxblood, Spider lily, Snowflake, Campernelle) Also, several bulbs, such as the Pink Rain lily, blend well with liriope while most other bulbs can be planted behind landscaping to mask fading foliage in the late Spring.
  3. When using bulbs in mass, placement is key in accomplishing powerful displays for your yard. Do want a particular piece of architecture accentuated? Then have two mass displays that almost "point" to the piece. Or perhaps you would like to see color when you look out of your kitchen in the morning? Plan the display by looking out the kitchen window while shouting instructions to your spouse/neighbor/children, as they mark where the bulbs are to be planted! As a good rule of thumb, you can estimate the quantity needed for large, dense displays in the following manner: Grape hyacinths, 10-15 per sqft; Grand Primo, Double Romans, Italicus, Oxbloods and Spiders, 3-5 sqft; all other 'medium size' Southern Bulbs, 8-10 sqft. Bulbs can be planted less densely for a gradual effect over the years, as the bulbs begin to clump up and multiply.

As always, if you have any questions email for a response within 48 hours. We love to help!

How many bulbs should I plant per square foot?

As a rule of thumb, you will want to give all of our bulbs at least 1-2 bulb widths spacing between each planting. However, a popular technique that we completely endorse is opening up a hole in the ground and placing three to five bulbs in it for an immediate natural look when they bloom. After those bulbs root and propagate over a couple of years, you may dig up the clump and separate as desired. For most of our bulbs, 12-15 bulbs per square foot will offer dense color. For larger bulbs, such as Amaryllis, Crinums, Oxblood lily, Grand Primo and Double Roman, bulbs may be planted at much smaller numbers (3-5 per sqft) for a dramatic effect. See 'Landscaping' above for more details.

Why are my bulbs different sizes?

We harvest and select all of our bulbs by hand. The 'sizing standard' by which we select bulbs are the 'biggest, healthy, blooming-size bulbs we have available.' We sometimes throw in some giant bulbs with orders when we have them available -- so count yourself lucky if you get one or two huge bulbs with a few 'regular' size bulbs. Also, some of our bulbs may have very small bulblets attached to them. These bulbs will eventually become larger bulbs and were not counted in your order total.

Why Southern Bulbs?

There is nothing wrong with buying imported bulbs! They often offer beautiful blooms for your garden! However, it is important to understand that they should be viewed as annuals. They will usually last for one or two years. However, when you buy Southern Bulbs, you are buying a bulb that has survived naturally in the South for 50-100 years. They will come back every year in greater numbers and actually thrive in the heat while imported bulbs will not... as in most purchasing decisions, you must decide what you need. Annuals are an important part of every garden. Our bulbs, however, will be a permanent part of your garden.

I want a bulb that is sold out -- how do I get it?

Our bulbs are in limited quantities and sell fast! Here are two options for getting your hands on the most rare bulbs:

  1. Check with a garden center close to your area that carries our bulbs
  2. Shoot us an email at to sign up for a waitlist for a specific bulb
  3. Sign up for our newsletter below for notice on when the bulbs are made available for next year:
Join The Southern Bulbs Mailing List
New Product Updates! Planting Reminders!

Where is my order?

If you are able to order bulbs, that means that we have them available, and we will usually ship them out within a day or two. If we have the bulb available to ship, it is the proper time for planting. If you have not received your bulbs within two weeks, please email us at with your order number, confirmation number or last name so we can find the status of your order. Email is the best way to reach us, but can also call us at 1-888-285-2486.