My Favorite Flowers From Bulbs That Come Back Year After Year in Our Dry Garden

My Favorite Flowers From Bulbs That Come Back Year After Year in Our Dry Garden

purple historic iris in zone 10 garden
Drought tolerant corner of the yard with an assortment of bearded irises corms in the foreground. These purple historic tall bearded irises are some of my favorites. They also have a distinctive root beer soda fragrance.

More than a decade ago, in early October, I began planting many of the bulbs that have since naturalized in our Southern California garden, including freesia, bearded Iris, Amaryllis belladonna.  All of them are tolerant of our long dry summers.  Each year I add a few more bulbs.  Planting varieties of flower bulbs that are known to naturalize in our Mediterranean climate saved us money on the garden over the long run.  They slowly multiplied in number and continue to come back year after year, unlike more popular bulbs like Tulips that need chill and moisture.  I also used to grow lots of Oriental and Asiatic Lilies, but they eventually wore out and died.  However, I am totally to blame for their demise because I couldn’t resist cutting the stems and bringing them into the house to enjoy the fragrance.

My Favorite Bulbs for Mediterranean Gardens:

  • Bearded Iris
  • Calla Lilies
  • St. Brigid Anemones
  • Freesia
  • Narcissus tazetta
  • Amaryllis belladona
Freesia bulb gardening best flower for drought tollerant dry garden

I highly recommend trying freesia in a dry yard like mine.  It actually prefers our native conditions of dry summers followed by cool wet winters.  Frequent watering in the summer would probably cause them to rot.  Their fragrance is strong, sweet, and kind of fruity, sort of like Calvin Klein Obsession perfume that was so popular back in the mid-1990s.  I love that it only takes one or two stems to fragrance a small room. And one benefit of Freesias is it is possible to cut the flower stems without the foliage so it doesn’t impair the bulb’s ability to store energy for the next year.  But a word of caution: When growing freesias for cut organic flowers, watch out for earwigs before bringing them inside.  I learned that lesson the hard way.  Much to my dismay, there were a few earwigs that crawled out across the dinner table one evening.  Now I always make sure to give them a quick tap or shake before bringing the flowers indoors.

When planting most bulbs or corms, make sure the pointy end is up and plant them twice as deep and the bulb is long.  If the bulbs are irregular like anemones, look for a scar where the roots were previously attached and put that end down.  Anemones are one of the hardest to figure which end to plant.  My daughter says the anemone bulbs look like cat poop.  So of course I told her to plant them like you would find cat poop in the garden – flat.  And if still in doubt which end is the growing tip, put the bulb in sideways; it will figure out which way to grow up.

What bulbs have naturalized well in your yard? Please share in the comments below. If you are looking for more bulbs to try, I have a newer post than this with an expanded list, Plants that just won’t die [bulbs that naturalize]

spring blooming bulbs that naturalize
The dog with St. Brigid Anemones in the foreground
bulbs and corms that naturalize in socal
Calla Lilies in front of the porch. They do well in the dry shady parts of the yard and they don’t mind the clay soil.

7 thoughts on “My Favorite Flowers From Bulbs That Come Back Year After Year in Our Dry Garden

  1. Sunny Simple Life,

    You are probably right about the shade, most bearded Irises like to get at least 6 hours of sun a day or they just put out nice green foliage. If you move them, Irises are pretty forgiving about being moved. They like being moved the best in August when they are partially dormant, but as long as you trim the leaves down by 2/3, they should survive a move at any time of year.

    I bought some fancy red bearded iris bulbs at a Horticulture Dept. sale in Cal State Fresno six years ago. They are planted in full sun near the other irises, and to this day, I have yet to see a red iris in my yard. All of the other colors I grow, purple, blackish burgundy, yellow, white, licac, and yellow, bloom just fine. My best guess is they don’t like living near the coast. Otherwise, I have no clue why the red have never bloomed.

I would love to know what you think about this.

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