Native Bulbs

Try some of these hard-working heroes in your garden.

By Carole Ottesen

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CamassiaThis fall, plant native varieties that thrive in your conditions, attract pollinators, and rebloom season after season.

For a brilliant display of flowers early next spring, you have to plant bulbs right now. Daffodils and tulips are lovely, for sure, but you see thousands of them at strip malls and in nongardeners' yards. This fall, plant native bulbs and give your organic landscape a unique look that's more sustainable than the familiar bulbs (typically imported from Holland) without compromising on ease and beauty.

These lesser-known species live "on the economy." That is, they are important in the life cycles of wildlife and are aesthetically fitting- small, but essential parts of the larger flora. They naturalize, increasing their numbers readily, and attract pollinators (unlike many hybrid bulbs). Plus, many are perfect for low-water-use gardens. You can choose native bulbs that bloom nearly every month of the growing season.

 

Rarely carried at garden centers or big box stores, native bulbs are most readily found through mail order catalogs. Be sure the website or catalog specifically states that the bulbs were not harvested from the wild.

Oneleaf onion (Allium unifolium)
Deer don't normally munch on this early-summer-blooming ornamental onion. Clusters of tiny pink flowers sway on 12- to 18-inch stalks. Like most bulbs, oneleaf onion needs well-drained soil. USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 8.

Brent and Becky's Bulbs
7900 Daffodil Lane
Gloucester, VA 23061 877-661-2852
brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Telos Rare Bulbs
P.O. Box 1067
Ferndale, CA 95536
telosrarebulbs.com

Mariposa lily (Calochortus)
Mariposa means "butterfly" in Spanish, and in late spring, when they sway on willowy 18-inch stems, you may mistake them for butterflies hovering over a meadow. Set the bulbs 3 to 4 inches deep in a sunny, very well-drained spot, moist in winter and spring but dry in summer. Zones 4 to 8.

Brent and Becky's Bulbs
7900 Daffodil Lane
Gloucester, VA 23061 877-661-2852
www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Willow Creek Gardens
2521 Oceanside Blvd, Ste A
Oceanside, CA 92054
www.willowcreekgardens.com

Camassia, camas or quamash (Camassia)
Tough camassias hail from western meadows where their spiky flowers bloom in great rivers of blue. They grow in ordinary garden soil, but tolerate cold clay. Set the bulbs 3 to 5 inches deep in sun or light shade. Zones 3 to 8.

Bluestone Perennials, Inc
7211 Middle Ridge Rd.
Madison, OH. 44057
Phone: (800) 852-5243
Fax: (440) 428-7198
www.bluestoneperennials.com

Joy Creek Nursery
20300 NW Watson Road
Scappoose, OR 97056
(503) 543-7474

www.joycreek.com

McClure & Zimmerman
P.O. Box 368
Friesland, WI 53935-0368
(800) 883-6998
www.mzbulb.com

Swamp lily
(Crinum americanum) Crinums are tough, disease-resistant and salt-tolerant; their white summer flowers attract hummingbirds. Plant bulbs with the neck at ground level in sun or shade, boggy or medium soil and stand back - plants grow anywhere from two to six feet tall. Fertilize monthly with fish emulsion or homemade compost. Zones 8 to 11.

Lilypons Water Gardens
6800 Lily Pons Road
P.O. Box 10
Adamstown, Maryland 21710
800-999-5459
www.lilypons.com

Plant Delights Nursery
9241 Sauls Road
Raleigh, NC 27603
919-772-4794
www.plantdelights.com

Tejas Native Bulbs
PMB162 6705 Hwy 290 West, Ste 502
Austin, Texas 78735
www.tejasnativebulbs.com

Firecracker flower (Dichelostemma)
In late spring, pink or red tubular flowers dangle on 2-foot stems. Firecracker flower is visited by butterflies and pollinated by hummingbirds, but deer don?t like it. Plant the bulblike corms 3 to 5 inches deep in sun or part shade with good drainage. Keep the soil moist during active growth, but bone dry when dormant. Zones 5 to 8.

Brent and Becky's Bulbs
7900 Daffodil Lane

Gloucester, VA 23061
877-661-2852

www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Telos Rare Bulbs

P.O. Box 1067

Ferndale, CA 95536
www.telosrarebulbs.com

Trout lily or dog-tooth violet (Erythronium)

These miniature lilies-only 9 inches tall-make the floor of a wooded garden sparkle. Creamy white petals curl back to show off yellow throats. The leaves are mottled like a trout's back, giving rise to one common name. The other arose from the bulb?s shape-similar to a dog's canine tooth. With no work from you, prolific trout lily soon spreads into a colony. Plant these bulbs, pointed end up, 3 to 6 inches deep in well-drained soil where they?ll get four to eight hours of spring sun a day. Zones 3 to 8.

Brent and Becky's Bulbs
7900 Daffodil Lane
Gloucester, VA 23061
877-661-2852
www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Fraser's Thimble Farms
175 Arbutus Rd.
Salt Spring Island. V8K 1A3 B.C. Canada
www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

McClure & Zimmerman
P.O. Box 368
Friesland, WI 53935-0368
(800) 883-6998 
www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

Spider lily (Hymenocallis)
Great big--up to 7 inches across-white spidery blooms open en masse in early spring, and on and off until fall, exuding an exotic fragrance. Two-foot long, strappy foliage provides bold texture. Grows in sun or shade. Set bulbs 2 feet apart an inch below the soil surface in a bed enriched with organic matter. Zones 8 to 11.

Bergen Water Gardens and Nursery
7443 Buffalo Road
Churchville, NY 14428
585-293-2860
www.bergenwatergardens.com

Lilypons Water Gardens
6800 Lily Pons Road P.O. Box 10
Adamstown, Maryland 21710
800-999-5459
www.bergenwatergardens.com

Plant Delights Nursery
9241 Sauls Road
Raleigh, NC 27603
919-772-4794
www.bergenwatergardens.com

Ponds, Plants and More
PO Box 155
Bentleyville, PA 15314
Phone: 724-239-6673
www.bergenwatergardens.com

Leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum)
A hummingbird magnet, Turk's cap-shaped summer flowers are a sunset of red, orange, and gold, freckled with maroon, on a 6-foot stalk. The regal leopard lily multiplies slowly into colonies. Leopard lily prefers "clematis conditions"-moist, well-drained soil at its feet and sunlight on its head. Zones 5 to 9.

Las Pilitas Nursery
8331 Nelson Way
Escondido, CA, 92026
760-749-5930
www.laspilitas.com

McClure & Zimmerman
P.O. Box 368
Friesland, WI 53935-0368
(800) 883-6998
www.mzbulb.com

Wayside Gardens
1 Garden Lane
Hodges, SC 29695
800-213-0379
www.waysidegardens.com

Pretty face (Brodiaea, a.k.a. Triteleia)
In early summer, these bell-shaped flowers turn upward in succession, extending their show and their supply of fragrant cut flowers. The 18-inch stems grow in clusters, making a clump look like a tiny nosegay. Buy plenty of these inexpensive bulbs! Pretty face tolerates light shade in spring, and summer-dry soil. Incorporate humus and chicken grit for better drainage. Zones 5 to 9.

Brent and Becky's Bulbs
7900 Daffodil Lane
Gloucester, VA 23061
877-661-2852
www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com

High Country Gardens
2902 Rufina Street
Santa Fe, NM 87507
www.highcountrygardens.com
(800) 925-9387

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