Gardening Unplugged - Fall Blooming Bulbs

Gardening Unplugged - Fall Blooming Bulbs

with Zac Hill

By Published October 31, 2022

Shop for Fall Flowering Plants at Plant Delights Nursery

In this episode of Gardening Unplugged, Juniper Level Botanic Garden taxonomist Zac Hill takes guests on a tour of the trial gardens and shows them some of the wonderful fall blooming bulbs. This video was recorded during the Fall Open Nursery and Garden Days in September 2022. Gardening Unplugged is a series of free 30 minute garden-side chats where our guests have the opportunity to take a peek behind-the-scenes and speak with the experts at Plant Delights Nursery and Juniper Level Botanic Garden.

Fall blooming bulbs featured in this video:

  • Colchicum tenorei Allium 'Millenium'
  • Lycoris x albiflora 'Buttermint'
  • Lycoris aurea Lycoris radiata
  • Lycoris x straminea
  • Lycoris chinensis
  • Lycoris radiata var. pumila 'Adam's August'
  • Leucojum autumnale 'September Snow'
  • Cypella herbertii 'Castillo'
  • Polianthes tuberosa
  • Lycoris radiata var. radiata 'Benikujyaku'  
  • Hippeastrelia
  • Hippeastrum Zephyranthes
  • Zephyranthes candida
  • Rhodophiala bifida 'Hill Country Red'


Video Transcription:

My name is Zach Hill, I'm the plant records specialist and taxonomist here at Juniper level botanic garden. We're going to talk about fall bulbs today and we're actually going to get a little bit of a behind the scenes walk-through of some of our trial beds just because that's where a lot of fall bulbs are close together and we can actually see a lot in a little bit of time. So, we're going to walk this way.

So, this is a Colchicum tenorei. This is a fall blooming crocus relative from the Mediterranean. It will have about a foot, foot-and-a-half-tall big green leaves once it's finished blooming over winter and it goes completely dormant in the summer and then pops up regularly at about this time during the year.

Q: How long does it flower?

A: It flowers about a week and a half two weeks. it's a very large bulb so it's one that you don't see for sale too often through like Brent and Becky's and things like that. But once they're established, they're really long-lived and form really large clumps. So, it's a good Mediterranean bulb for the fall for us here in Central North Carolina.

You would plant it probably sometime in the summer or early spring. It's not going to root out until later in the year when it starts to send up leaves but they're not the easiest thing to source unfortunately and they're really massive. I know when Tony went to Crete to look for things like this, they were enormous bulbs and really hard to... and deep. So, we also have a few alliums, some ornamental onions, that are blooming at this time of year that were at the tail end of things. This is one of the highest selling onions we've ever had. This is Allium 'Millenium'. It's been a top seller for years so…

All right we're going to go this way. And for those of you joining in later, I'm Zach Hill. I'm the plant records specialist here at Juniper Level. So, we're going to go behind the scenes a little bit now.

Behind the Scenes - Lycoris Trials

So, these are our trial beds. We use these for production purposes as well as to maintain some of our collections here at Juniper Level. We have about 750 varieties of lycoris, which are these surprise lilies that you see here. Most of these [lycoris] blooming now are albiflora. We have Lycoris x albiflora 'Buttermint'. This is a good fall blooming bulb. It's a hybrid between Lycoris radiata which is this red, and this is hybridized with chinensis I believe. And straminea is the opposite. It's a radiata crossed with aurea. So, some come up with leaves in the fall and some come up with leaves in the spring. So, it's backwards from what you would think. They're blooming in the summer and then they put out the leaves during the colder parts of the year. This is Lycoris radiata, this is Adam's August. It's one that came from a guy in California. It's a pretty reliable bloomer for us here and it's a fall emerging leaves species. It's one of the parents of these white guys.

Let's see and we'll go...

Q: Do dear like them?

A: Deer generally don't touch them, and I don't think we've had any issues with voles with these as well. They’re not palatable to them, to deer, they're slightly toxic. Most members of the amaryllis family, which these are, are not good for deer to eat.

So, and they will actually start out a creamy white color and fade to a orangey pink sometimes.

And if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Q: How deep do you need to plant these?

A: Most of them want to be about… well, it depends. Lycoris squamigera the big pink one, the further south you are the shallower they want to be. I've got a friend in Alabama who grows them right on the soil surface because it doesn't get the cold that they want in the winter so the higher the bulb the more the bulb is exposed to cold. So, they actually bloom better for him in a much warmer Zone than we are in by being on the surface. Now if you're further north, you're going to want to go deeper just to prevent them from freezing solid in the winter.

So, one you wouldn't think of blooming now this is one of the ‘Autumn Snow Drops’. This is from the Mediterranean part of Europe This is Asis autumnalis. It used to be Leucojum autumnalis but it's a little tiny white flower and it comes up in late August and blooms for about a month, month-and-a-half. So, I'll pass this around and you guys look at these. it's a tiny little bulb but it’s reliably perennial for us here. it's one we'd like to eventually offer, and it looks like we're getting fairly close.

Q: So tiny little bulb meaning, how many bulbs are probably there?

A: Oh gosh there's probably 150-200 bulbs in that patch

And then we have an iris relative that's a bulb this is Cypella herbertii 'Castillo'. It's from South America. It's got these weird, goblet-shaped flowers, one of the common names is goblet flower. Surprisingly hardy for something that's from Argentina and Southern Brazil. They come in yellow, and blue are the hearty ones that we can grow here. We've offered this on occasion but it's one that blooms from probably July to about frost for us. So, it's a good late season bulb with these strappy green, almost palm-like leaves and it will seed around a little bit but it's a great bulb for the fall.

And while not technically a bulb, it's sold as a bulb… these are Polianthes tuberosas. They're agave relatives and they are really, really fragrant or can be really fragrant. It's sold as a cut flower. It's hardy to about Zone 7 but we have it in yellow and pink and double pink. We've sold a variegated one in the past as well. It's now listed as a member of the genus Agave due to genetics. It's surprising, it goes completely dormant, the leaves don't have any teeth but it's an agave and that's a hard pill to swallow for those of us that deal with agaves.

So, across the way, four beds over, is Lycoris radiata 'Benikujyaku'. It's a fully double spider lily and we'll head over there. It's one we've sold in the past, it used to be called 'Fireworks' but the cultivar is actually a Japanese cultivar and we have to use its original cultivar name which is 'Benikujyaku'.

And here's another albiflora, like the first one we saw over there. This is 'Moonbeam'. This is a Japanese cultivar we brought in and it's one of these fall emerging flowers.

And then here's another cultivar of the same hybrid species. This is ''Morrison's pink' so they're not always white. They can be this streaky, orangey-pink color.

Intergeneric Hybrid Bulbs

One of the other things we do here is we make intergeneric crosses with bulbs. So we've got Hippeastrelia here, which is a hybrid between florist Amaryllis Hippieastrum and Sprekelia which are blooming up ahead which is a weird Mexican rain lily relative and we make crosses between them and then we end up with streaky things and interesting bulbs.

So, this is the Sprekelia. It's got three big petals up top and then three clustered at the bottom and that's one of the parents of like this red hybrid here. So, this is surprisingly hardy for something from Mexico, and we sell a couple of these aztec lilies, and they're related to the rain lilies over here as well the Zephyranthes that we have. Lots in bloom right now just all sorts of clones and different colors. Basically, any color you would ever want to have.

Q: So, without irrigation, how many days of rain do you need?

A: It's so they bloom after rains it doesn't matter if you're irrigating. they're not going to bloom it's an atmospheric change that they react to.

Q: In the woods behind my house, they grow in a really swampy area...

A: Okay so that's that's Zephyranthes adamasco that's the native one and it's only a spring bloomer.

Q: I'm thinking of water requirements.

A: Oh, that one you can grow those in average garden soil as well. they do grow in absolute muck in the wild but they you can grow them in average garden soil. most of these originate out of northern South America and Central America into Mexico and South Texas. So, there's some yellow species in South Texas and a few white species, the cuparia types with long floral tubes. But and then the big white cluster there, that's a candida which is from Brazil and then the creamy white one there is a hybrid with candida and one of the yellow ones. So, you get there the Filipinos and Malaysian there's been several breeders in the Philippines and Malaysia that have introduced a lot of these cultivars. We have Fishier Marta which was a big breeder of these things back in the early 2000s late 90s.

Q: Which of these do you think will grow well for a novice?

A: Oh, they're all, they're all super easy. They're bulletproof really. They're good. They set seed they seed around, and they'll go into full bloom four or five days after a rain generally. After a big rain event will get just this whole thing will be just bands of color. So, so it's a great, it's a great thing.

And one of the other great fall bulbs is this Rhodophiala. It's a plant from Southern Brazil and Argentina that's related to Zephyranthes as well. This one is an old pass-along clone from Central Texas we named 'Hill Country Red’. It grows all over Austin and San Antonio and it comes up in people's yards and it was passed along through settlers. And it's on its way out of blooming but you know, August into September and this plant just absolutely sets this bed on fire with the bright red flowers.

Zephyranthes Hybrids

So Zephyranthes are another big collection of ours. So, I mean these are all the rain lilies we were talking about earlier and it's just they they're stunning in full bloom.

So, this is this is that fully double Lycoris radiata. It's got no floral parts other they were all turned into petaloids. It was 'Fireworks' it's now 'Benikujyaku’ and it sometimes has a little bit of pollen on some of the edges of these petals but I don't see any on this cluster here.

Q: Is it possible to breed it?

A: Possibly. If it had pollen, and I've only rarely seen pollen on this super-duper messed up mutant so… but this is a cultivar we've sold and offered for a number of years.

All right, yeah, I know we have this is over on the northeast side of the 49 Garden the part shade garden and with the purple leaved sweet shrub calycanthus over there and with like rudbeckia and stuff so it all blooms together and it's a really interesting calm combination.

Any other questions guys?

Q: Which one is this?

A: That's a rosea. most of our rosias are done for the for the season. No, it's half of this plant is that so…

All right. Thank you, yes thank you. I hope you learned a few things and I didn't bore you with the behind the scenes.

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