10 Best Spring Bulbs for Warm Climates

Orange tulip bulbs blooming in spring

The Spruce / Leticia Almeida

Warm-climate gardeners face some special challenges when it comes to growing spring-blooming bulbs. Some of the most popular spring bulbs require a cold-winter period that allows the bulbs to "reset" themselves. In colder growing zones this is accomplished simply by leaving the bulbs in the ground for the winter. But gardeners in the warmer climates of USDA Hardiness Zones 8 and higher often don't have winters cold enough to grow some of these—unless they use special techniques to give the bulbs their needed reset period of cool temperatures.

Growing Spring-Flowering Bulbs in Warm Climates

Iconic spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips can also be grown in warmer climates if they are pre-chilled and then planted in the winter or very early spring. Prechilling isn’t difficult and can easily be done in the refrigerator. You can even purchase bulbs that have been prechilled for you; bulbs sold commercially to southern gardeners are often chilled to ensure blooms in the first spring. After flowering is completed, they can be dug up, stored, and then put through another refrigerated chilling period and replanted for repeated blooming.

But there are also many spring-blooming bulbs that don’t require a cold winter and are especially suited to growing in warmer climates. They are easier to grow in areas without frost, most are perennial, and because they are native to warm climates, they often look more appropriate in the garden.

Remember that warm climates can vary greatly, not just in USDA hardiness zones, but also in the amount of rainfall, temperature fluctuations, and duration and intensity of heat. So there is no one size fits all growing advice. In general, most spring-blooming bulbs are planted in fall and winter. The warmer your climate, the later you should plant. But check with your Cooperative Extension Service for local recommendations.

Gardening Tip

To keep your bulbs coming back year after year, you’ll need to feed them regularly with an all-purpose bulb fertilizer or bone meal. The best times to do this are when the foliage appears and as the blooms fade, usually in about March and May/June.

  • 01 of 10

    Alliums (Allium spp.)

    Allium flower
    VIDOK / Getty Images

    Alliums won't require any special chilling to grow in warmer climates. Best of all, there are many species and hundreds of allium cultivars to choose from. Alliums are ornamental cousins of onion and garlic and aren’t usually bothered by animal pests precisely because of the sharp taste. (The exception is the vole, which will eat newly planted bulbs over the winter.) Common names vary according to species; some varieties are more often known as ornamental onion or ornamental garlic.

    The flowers of alliums are usually are globe-shaped umbrels or sprays that sit atop long straight stems Heights can range from 1 foot to 5 feet, depending on species. . There’s a variety of colors and heights to blend into any garden. Two of the best are ‘Purple Sensation’, shown here, and Allium cristophii (star of Persia) which looks remarkably like a fireworks sparkler.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4–10

    Color Varieties: Purple, blue, white

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Well-drained, dry to medium moisture soil

  • 02 of 10

    Crinum (Crinum spp.)

    A purple crinum lily (Crinum Asiaticum), close-up

     Elizabeth Fernandez/Getty Images

    These tall members sof the Amaryllidaceae family are topped with a circle of trumpet-shaped flowers, usually either white, pink, or some combination of the two. Plant them so that the neck of the bulb is just above the soil and give it plenty of water while it’s growing. Although it likes heat, Crinum prefers fairly moist soil.

    The Crinum genus contains more than 100 species, mostly native to Africa, of which a relatively small handful are grown as garden plants. North of zone 8, they are usually grown as container plants that are brought indoors in the winter. Northern gardeners usually find that the potted plants bloom in summer, but in zones 8 to 11, they make excellent late spring garden bulbs.

    USDA Growing Zones: 8–11

    Color Varieties: White, pink, red, and white/red bicolor

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, moist, well-drained soil

  • 03 of 10

    Gloriosa Lily (Gloriosa spp.)

    Red Gloriosa Flower
    magicflute002 / Getty Images

    The gloriosa lily ( G. rothschildiana and G. superba) is actually a tuberous perennial native to Africa and Arabia. It sprawls and scrambles through other plants, lifting its bright reddish and/or yellow, lily-like flower heads above the foliage. This habit lends the plant its other common names—climbing lily or flame lily. It is often grown in containers rather than in the garden.

    Unlike most bulbs, gloriosa lily prefers some afternoon shade. Once naturalized, it blooms in early summer, but for early blooming in warm climates, it is often started indoors and transplanted into the garden. One established in the garden, it often blooms in July and August.

    USDA Growing Zones: 8–11

    Color Varieties: Bright red, sometimes edged with yellow

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Rich, medium-moisture, well-drained soil

  • 04 of 10

    Kaffir Lily/ Fire Lily (Clivia miniata)

    Schizostylis coccinea 'Major', Kaffir Lily, garden plant

    Neil Holmes/Getty Images

    The Kaffir lily is another easy-going member of the Amaryllidaceae family, with clusters of bright tubular flowers on top of stiff, straight flower stalks. The Kaffir lily, also known as the fire lily, likes to be crowded, but it is not happy in wet soil.

    In warm climates, this plant will bloom in winter through early spring. The flowers are quite long-lasting, but the plant may require three years of maturing before it flowers. In colder climates, Kaffir lily is often grown as a potted plant, brought indoors for the winter.

    Warning

    All parts of this plant are toxic if large quantities are ingested.

    USDA Growing Zones: 9–11

    Color Varieties: Yellow, orange, red

    Sun Exposure: Part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta)

    Paperwhite Flowers
    RASimon / Getty Images

    Paperwhites are a miniature form of daffodil. Unlike other members of the Narcissus genus, paperwhites grow well in warm climates and require no chill period. These are a very popular plant for forced blooming in pots, but they also easily grow in warm-climate gardens, where they typically bloom in late winter and early spring. The fragrance of paperwhites is either loved or hated and can be a bit strong in a small room.

    Paperwhites will often naturalize as perennials in zones 5 to 8. The bulbs easily spread to blanket ground areas in appropriate regions. In warmer climates (9 to 11), paperwhites are often grown in the garden as annuals, planted in late winter for a single season of spring blooms.

    Paperwhites need relatively dry soil since wet soils can cause the bulbs to rot. The plant is distasteful to deer, rabbits, and squirrels, making it a good choice where these animal pests are a problem.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–11

    Color Varieties: Yellow, gold, white, bicolors

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 06 of 10

    Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum)

    Close-up image of the beautiful white flowers of the Spring Snowflake also known as Leucojum vernum
    Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

    Although Leucojum actually translates as “white violet” and these plants do have a violet-like scent. The common name "spring snowflake" is a good visual description of this plant. The dainty white, drooping, cup-shaped flowers are very similar to snowdrop (Galanthus), but Leucojum holds up better in the heat. There is also a summer-blooming variety (Leucojum aestivum) species.

    Leucojum vernum likes moist, even boggy conditions and it readily spreads as it naturalizes. Flower stalks are 8 to 10 inches tall, and the plant works well when planted in drifts in rock gardens or below shrubs and trees.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–9

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Moist, well-drained soil

  • 07 of 10

    Spider Lily (Hymenocallis caroliniana)

    Close-up of White Spider Lily - Higanbana (Lycoris albiflora)
    DigiPub / Getty Images

    Spider lilies have a similar appearance to spider daffodils, with a trumpet surrounded by six narrow, spidery petals. Plant them so that the bulb’s neck is just above ground level and don’t let them get too much water during their summer dormancy. Don’t confuse these with the red spider lily (Lycoris radiata), which blooms in the fall.

    Spider lily likes relatively moist soil conditions, and in the northern part of its hardiness range, it may bloom a bit later, in early to mid-summer.

    USDA Growing Zones: 5–8

    Color Varieties: White

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium-moisture to wet soil

  • 08 of 10

    Bugle Lily (Watsonia spp.)

    Watsonia meriana
    Graeme Scott / Getty Images

    Watsonia is not a true bulb, but rather a corm, planted in a similar fashion to gladiolas. In northern climates, the corms are often dug up and stored over the winter for spring replanting. You’ll need to be in a very warm climate to grow Watsonia outdoors as a perennial, but if you can, you’ll be rewarded with spikes of tubular blossoms in shades of red, orange, pink, and white that start blooming in late winter and carry on into spring. At the northern part of the range (zone 8), the corms should be covered with mulch over the winter. Soggy soils can rot the corms; this plant prefers very well-drained soil.

    The Watsonia genus includes more than 50 species, mostly native to South Africa. The most common garden species are W. borbonica and W. meriana.

    USDA Growing Zones: 8–10

    Color Varieties: Ros pink, orange (depends on species)

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, very well-drained soil

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Daffodil (Narcissus spp.)

    Daffodils
    Matt Cardy / Stringer / Getty Images

    No spring garden seems complete without daffodils, and you can have these iconic plants in your southern garden if you follow some special techniques. To grow most varieties of daffodils in frost-free climates, you will need to pre-chill the bulbs.

    For daffodils requiring prechilling, the normal process is to dig them up after the foliage has yellowed and dried up. Store the bulbs in a cold location (35 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit) for 16 weeks, then immediately replant them—normally in the fall. A refrigerator works well for chilling the bulbs, but take care not to store the bulbs with uncovered fruit. (Many other spring bulbs will flower for warm-climate gardeners if they are pre-chilled, but they are generally grown as annuals, with new bulbs chilled and planted each year.)

    If you don't want to go through this chilling ritual, most warm-climate experts recommend either Division Seven (jonquilla) or Division Eight (tazetta), which includes the popular paperwhites. These are of Mediterranean origin and thus don’t require pre-chilling.

    Daffodils have the advantage of being distasteful to rabbits, squirrels, and deer, making them a good choice where these animal pests are a problem.

    USDA Growing Zones: 4—8

    Color Varieties: White, yellow, gold, orange, pink, bi-colors

    Sun Exposure: Full sun to part shade

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

  • 10 of 10

    Tulips

    Tulips
    Yuriko Nakao / Contributor / Getty Images

    Tulips are another of the iconic spring bulbs that require pre-chilling to grow as perennials in warm climates. They also need cool spring temperatures. If you must have tulips in your warm-climate garden, look for early-blooming types. ‘Lady Jane' tulips are the big favorite among southern gardeners and the Clusiana species and hybrids are especially recommended by Brent & Becky’s Bulbs. These types originate in the Mediterranean region, Asia Minor, and Caucasus, and they handle the climate better than Dutch hybrids, which prefer colder winters. Darwin Hybrid tulips are also good choices for warm climates.

    To save and replant tulip bulbs in a warm-climate garden, dig up the bulbs after the foliage has yellowed and dried out in late spring. Store the bulbs in a dry area until mid-October, then chill them in the refrigerator for at least 12 weeks, but no more than 16 weeks. The ideal garden planting time for tulips in warm weather zones is January or February. Don't store tulip bulbs with uncovered fruit in a refrigerator, as the ethylene gases from the fruit can ruin the tulip bulbs.

    USDA Growing Zones: 3–8

    Color Varieties: All colors except blue

    Sun Exposure: Full sun

    Soil Needs: Medium moisture, well-drained soil

Article Sources
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  1. "Kaffir Lily". ASPCA, https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants/kaffir-lily#:~:text=Clinical%20Signs%3A%20Vomiting%2C%20salvation%2C,are%20the%20most%20poisonous%20part.