Planting and care of Cape bulbs

To ensure the widest choice, buy or order bulbs in August, but wait until late September or October to plant and water. If bulbs have already begun to sprout, however, plant and water immediately.

Dig a hole two to three times deeper than the bulb height. Plant with the pointed side up, indented side down. To improve drainage, encase the bulb in a sand sandwich: Add a 1/2-inch layer of construction-grade sand atop the soil in a planting hole, place the bulbs on top, then cover them with another 1/2 inch of sand. If you're planting in containers, use a fast-draining mix, such as 40 percent fir bark, 40 percent sand, and 20 percent pumice.

Water regularly during the active growing season. After bloom when the foliage begins to yellow, start reducing irrigation for several weeks to encourage dormancy, then stop watering. Store potted bulbs in a shady location after the potting soil is dry.

SOURCES

Jim Duggan Flower Nursery. Carries everything listed and more. (760) 943-1658 or www.thebulbman.com. Catalog $2.

McClure & Zimmerman. Lachenalia, sparaxis, and watsonia. (800) 883-6998 or www.mzbulb.com. Free catalog.