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Gardening

The Best Flower Bulbs to Plant in Dallas

A beautiful spring garden is simple if you plan—and plant—ahead.
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Elizabeth Lavin

The best gardeners in North Texas share one secret: They grow plants that have a big payoff for minimal effort. If you’re searching for an easy way to take your garden from an exhausting disappointment to an effortless dream, spring-blooming bulbs are the answer. 

Bulbs are marvelously easy, and many will return for years—sometimes even decades. Though tulips tend to get top billing in most landscapes, I prefer to grow the less fussy supporting players, like daffodils, ornamental alliums, grape hyacinths, and snowflakes. Unlike tulips, which need to be replanted each year, these bulbs reliably return each spring.

Tulips

There is a never-ending debate as to whether or not tulip bulbs should be chilled. The late founder of local bulb importer Abbott-Ipco swore that they did not. But bulbs can be a considerable investment, and in my book, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. To pre-chill tulips, refrigerate them for six to eight weeks before planting. You can also buy pre-chilled tulip bulbs from places like North Haven Gardens in early fall*.

Single late or double late tulips are the most reliable for our area. Some of my favorites include “Menton,” “Renown Unique,” “Maureen,” “Dordogne,” and “Bleu Aimable.” Other standbys include “Mrs. John T. Scheepers,” “Pink Impression,” “Queen of the Night,” and “Kingsblood.” 

Daffodils

Unlike tulips, most daffodils will reliably return. Dependable varieties include “Carlton,” “Ice Follies,” “Double Play,” “Thalia,” “Avalanche,” and “Grand Primo.”

To encourage daffodils to come back the following spring, leave foliage in place for at least six weeks after blooming is finished. Older plantings of daffodils benefit from occasional division to maintain a strong bloom. 

Ornamental Alliums

The giant alliums you see in gardening magazines will grow here, but they don’t look the same as they do in cooler climates. They bloom a shade of maroon instead of the intense violet color you see in catalogs.

I grow Allium schubertii for its pink starburst bloom, which can reach up to 12 inches in diameter and Allium sphaerocephalon (Drumsticks)—a favorite of legendary Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf, whose work influences my naturalistic garden style. 

Alliums can also be planted as late as January here, so if you miss the fall planting window, you still have time to add them to your garden. 

One-of-a-kind Bulbs

Less common bulbs that deserve to be used more in North Texas landscapes include Red Spider Lily (Lycoris radiata), Naked Lady (Lycoris squamigera), native Texas Spider-lily (Hymenocallis liriosme), and Summer Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum). All of these bulbs and other heirloom bulbs that perform reliably here can be found at The Southern Bulb Company. 

Five of my favorite sources for bulbs

  1. John Scheepers
  2. McClure & Zimmerman
  3. Colorblends
  4. Dutch Grown
  5. The Southern Bulb Company
  • When to Plant
  • How to Plant

It’s easier to remember planting dates when you associate them with holidays. For bulbs, just remember to plant them between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you plan to order online, shop early for the best selection.

The general rule is to plant a bulb to a depth three times deep as it is tall. For most tulips and daffodils, I plant them six inches deep.

If you have heavy clay soil, amend the area with compost and expanded shale before planting to improve drainage and prevent bulbs from rotting.

The trick to a visually beautiful bulb display is to take a cue from the Dallas Arboretum and plant as many bulbs as possible. To make this easier on the budget, choose one or two varieties and order in bulk. I order large quantities from Colorblends.

Most spring-blooming bulbs need full sun to do best, but you can also plant bulbs under deciduous trees that are just starting to leaf out in early spring.

Callie Works-Leary is a Texas Master Gardener and founder of The Dallas Garden School, which offers classes and resources for North Texas gardeners. She is a native of Dallas.

*A previous version of this story implied pre-chilled bulbs are currently available at North Haven Gardens. This has been corrected.

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Callie Works-Leary

Callie Works-Leary

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