Thomas J. Story

Blossoms that spring back

Jim McCausland,  –  January 31, 2005

Months before daffodils and tulips bloom outdoors, you find tempting selections of these spring bulbs in pots at nurseries and supermarkets around the West. They flower for a few weeks in your home. But before you toss them out after the flowers fade, consider this: Some potted bulbs are worth saving and transplanting in your garden. The comeback candidates listed at left can bloom again for years to come.

When you bring plants home, keep them in a spot that gets plenty of natural light. Some kinds, especially daffodils, benefit from spending nights on a cool, frost-free porch or patio. Water whenever the top 1/2 inch of soil dries out. Feed plants with a balanced liquid fertilizer once during bloom and again just after. When flowers fade, pinch them off and water sparingly.

After the leaves die back, let plants go dry and keep the bulbs in the pots. In late summer, knock the bulbs out of the pots and transplant them into good garden soil.

Best bets for repeat bloom

Bluebells. Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is a good bet everywhere except the intermediate and low deserts. Siberian bluebell (Scilla siberica), or squill, needs occasional winter snow.

Crocuses. Most apt to rebloom in cold-winter areas.

Daffodils. Most will naturalize in your garden and bloom for years. Paperwhite narcissus (N. tazetta) doesn’t usually bloom for more than a couple of years, except in mild parts of Southern California.

Freesias. Good long-term performers in mild-winter climates only.

Grape hyacinths (Muscari). Strong rebloomer and naturalizer almost everywhere.

Hyacinths. Bloom for about three years most places, but do best in areas where snow falls.

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum). Strong rebloomer nearly everywhere.

Tulips. Most hybrids bloom for a year or two, then peter out. Species tulips like Tulipa bakeri and T. greigii usually bloom for five years or longer.