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Bulb Planting: There’s Still Time (Maybe, Depending on Where You Live)

The quickest way to incur the indignation of your East Coast friends: tell them you’re just now — in January — planting spring bulbs in your Southern California garden.

“But we planted ours months ago!” they’ll rage at you on Facebook.

Spring bulbs like tulips and daffodils need a winter chill if they’re going to grow properly in the springtime. Periods of freeze allow their stems to develop — not a problem in zones one through five, but tricky if you live in an area that doesn’t typically dip below 50 at night. (Although we did experience some bracing temps this week when a record cold snap passed through the region.) Stem-less tulips are real, and a sad sight indeed.

Whereas Northeasterners should plant in October, according to the Netherlands Flower Bulb Centre, gardeners on the California Coast can plant their bulbs through the month of January. Gardeners along the Gulf, in the South and in the Pacific Northwest have December deadlines.

We got our abba double and mondial double tulip bulbs pre-chilled from our local nursery and stuck them in our fridge (do not put them next to fruit; the fruit’s gases could kill the flower inside the bulb) until we were ready to dig.  A hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, was thrown in as a bonus.

This weekend, we’ll finally plant them — not so much from any zone-ist cockiness, but rather from the dumb luck of our poor planning and procrastination.