The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

March 22, 2013

Ask A Master Gardener

Local Bulb Event This Saturday


TARBORO — Edgecombe’s Extension Master Gardener Volunteers are holding their Spring-Planting Bulb Event tomorrow (March 23) at Marrow-Pitt Ace Home Center in the garden department from 10 a.m. until 1 pm. The volunteers will be giving demonstrations on basic bulb planting as well as container planting (bring your own or purchase one from stock).  A variety of pre-packaged summer and fall-blooming bulbs will be sold including: ginger lilies, rain lilies, galtonia, agapanthus, tuberosa, liatris, tigridia, cannas, nerines and many more.  Proceeds from the bulb sales will fund the Extension Master Gardener Volunteers’ spring/summer projects, including those sanctioned by this year’s America in Bloom competition committee. Ace is located at 1713 N. Main St.

What is a Bulb? The general definition of a bulb is any plant that stores its complete life cycle in an underground storage structure. Types of underground storage structures that are classified under the term "bulb" include true bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers, and tuberous roots. Knowing the differences between each of these underground storage structures helps determine how to select, plant, and care for these bulbs.

Bulbs can be classified as spring flowering bulbs or summer flowering bulbs. Another way to classify bulbs would be hardy spring flowering bulbs and tender summer flowering bulbs.  Summer flowering bulbs (tender bulbs) are killed by cold temperatures. They must be planted in the spring when there is no longer a chance of ground frost. They need to be dug in the fall following the first frost that discolors the foliage and stored over the winter.

For information and illustrations of different types of bulbs, see:

Carol P. (Tarboro) asks: What are some bulbs I can plant in the spring?

Answer: Spring planted bulbs are not cold hardy and must be planted after the soil warms and chances of frost and freezes have passed.  An example, Amaryllis blossoms range from pure white through various shades of pink to deep red. They are intolerant of frost and do not do well in cool soil. Because of this, it is customary to pot the bulbs and grow them inside at a constant 65 degrees F. Move the pot outside in June and take it inside in the fall. Store in a dry condition until spring, when it is again started indoors.

Alliums, Caladiums (Caladia), Callas, Cannas, Dahlias, Gladiola, and Lilies are examples of bulb varieties that will bloom in Summer and fall.  Most must be planted when the soil warms, but a few will survive the winter in the ground with proper mulching.

Lilies are available in several types and in colors ranging from white and yellow to deep red. While lilies are perennial, not all of them endure cold winters. If unsure of the hardiness of a particular lily, dig a portion of the plants, pack the bulbs (roots or rhizomes) in sawdust, vermiculite or perlite, and store in a frost-free location during the winter. They may be replanted in the spring. The plants remaining in the garden should be mulched to help them through the winter. The general rule is to plant the bulb (storage organ) to a depth of three times its height.

Brenda G. (Tarboro) asks - Many of my impatiens died last season - what is the most
likely cause of this?

Answer: While there could be a number of factors that contributed to the decline of your impatiens, a number of extension specialist witnessed a significant rise in the number of impatien plantings decimated by downy mildew.  Before you plant your spring and summer annuals, be sure to wait until there is no longer a threat of temperatures below 55 degrees.

Learn more at


“Ask A Master Gardener” is a weekly column providing our readers solutions to common problems concerning horticulture, gardening, and pest management.  Trained Extension Master Gardener Volunteers have access to the research that provides answers.  

Submit your questions by email to  Or call the local Extension Center at 252-641-7815 and tell them you have a question for a master gardener; a volunteer will return your call with a solution to your problem, or write to “Ask A Master Gardener”, c/o The Daily Southerner, P.O. Box 1199, Tarboro, NC 27886.