Q. What kind of bulbs can I plant in South Florida?
A. Most bulbs have a fairly short blooming season here. I have tried several kinds with varying success. Eucharis lily is one beauty that is fragrant and likes shade. It has white daffodil-like flowers in February and March. It is very slow growing and somewhat expensive, but I would rate it highly. Rain lily is a small summer bloomer that comes in pink, white or yellow. It is very pretty and is somewhat like crocus. Amaryllis of various colors are available, but the orange-red form is most common here. It blooms in April and all have evergreen foliage. Spider lily is a fragrant white summer bloomer reaching 2-3 feet. Spider lily likes sun. I would try established nurseries for some of these bulbs. Mail order companies like Parks in Greenwood, SC will also carry them.
Q. Can I plant tulips here?
A. Tulips are one of those beautiful northern things that take some work to pull off here. They are not suitable in the ground or pots except for one blooming period. You may be able to purchase them from one of the bulb houses, pre-chilled and ready for planting in the fall. December is the best month to plant tulips. They should be planted about six inches deep and six to seven inches apart. If you are going to chill them yourself, allow 50 to 60 days at 40 degrees in the refrigerator to meet the dormancy requirements. They need full sun to part shade for best results. An eastern exposure may prolong the bloom display. If you are going to use them indoors use an African violet type soil that has good drainage.
Q. We have amaryllis bulbs that are multiplying but no blooms. What do you recommend?
A. Amaryllis need full sun and a somewhat dry location for best results. Bulbs should not be planted deeply or they will not bloom. They usually flower in April/May. Have the top of the bulbs just below the soil surface. Lift the bulbs if they are too deep. Fertilize with a low nitrogen fertilizer like 4-6-8 in October and again in March to stimulate growth. If the bulbs were small when moved, they will need several years to attain blooming size. After blooming leave all the foliage on the plant.
Q. We used to dig up our cannas and store them over the winter when we lived up north. My cannas bloom all year here, but the foliage looks burned up. What care do they require in south Florida? Sometimes caterpillars that roll up the leaves affect them. Is this a butterfly caterpillar?
A. Cannas can be left in the ground year-round here. They can be divided, as they multiply quickly. They do well at the edge of a pond or canal. Cannas are best planted at a distance from your viewing point because the nocturnal canna leaf-roller caterpillar seems to be standard equipment. They chew the leaves and make the foliage look bad but do not affect the blooms. Most leaf-rollers make attractive Brazilian skipper butterflies so just relocate the canna to a less prominent site. The caterpillars can be controlled with Thuricide, an organic caterpillar control. Repeat treatment in 10 days.
Q. Can I grow agapanthus?
A. Agapanthus, Lily of the Nile, can be grown here in a sunny, well-drained location. However, they do not bloom as prolifically as in California. The heat and humidity may be the problem.
Q. Could you tell me who sells oxalis bulbs? I would like the green-leafed version.
A. The green-leafed version is a weed in many lawns. Some nurseries sell the white-flowered version as the shamrock for St. Patrick's Day. It is hard to find locally except around the holiday. Bulbs can be purchased from the catalog of George W. Park Seed.(See supplier's list)
Q. My crinum lily has red spots. I used fungicide but the problem still persists. What do you recommend?
A. This is a common problem with Asian crinum lily in South Florida. It has rust, which can be controlled with copper fungicide. It's a persistent problem but does not seem to seriously affect the crinum. Continue spraying or just cut off the bad lower leaves. Water in the morning only to reduce fungal problems.