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Bulbs that are persistent even in shade.

Which bulbs bloom in the shade? In the dappled shadows under lath, beneath deciduous or high-branching trees, or on the east side of a building, numerous bulbs can thrive for one season.

The five listed opposite perform year after year, coming back each spring in greater numbers even in mild-winter climates. Their persistence and productivity make them good choices for naturalizing.

How much shade is too much?

A half-day of bright light (about 4 hours) is enough for most bulbs. Those named here perform and multiply well with even less. But the darker the site, the floppier the foliage and stems, and the sparser the bloom. If you suspect your site is too dim, test results this year by planting small clusters of several bulbs before investing a lot of time or money in a big show.

Where days are often hot and sunny even in early spring (particularly in the high and intermediate deserts), most bulbs bloom longer and have richer color in semishady sites than they do in full sun.

How to plant-naturalized or in neat, formal rows

There are two ways to achieve a natural wildflower effect. The economical way is to scatter randomly spaced clumps of six to a dozen bulbs over the planting area; they'll cover more ground on their own in time. For a small space or with a larger budget, you can toss bulbs fairly close together over the entire area, planting them where they fall.

For a more formal look, plant in broad ribbons edging a path, drive, or border. Use a single bulb variety or parallel strips of two varieties.

To make weed control easier next spring, water bulb beds several weeks before or immediately after planting to germinate weed seeds. A few weeks later, pull and hoe the sprouts or apply a contact herbicide such as glyphosate. Or spread a 2- to 3-inch-thick mulch of ground bark or similar material over the soil.

If the site allows you to loosen soil and work in amendments, bulbs tend to multiply faster; but if you're planting between roots of trees or shrubs or on a slope, often that's not possible. Just work fertilizer into the bottom of each planting hole; timed-release types are among the easiest to use and are less likely to leach out of the root zone during winter rains.

To encourage early bloom and maximum multiplication, water as needed to keep soil moist between rains, from October until foliage begins to yellow in late spring. These bulbs can go completely dry from the time foliage begins to die back until next fall.

Five choices for partial shade

Scilla (Endymion hispanicus, commonly sold as Scilla campanulata).

Spikes of loosely clustered, bell-shaped flowers rise about 1 1/2 feet above a floppy tuft of leaves. Nurseries usually sell a mixture of blue-, white-, and pink-flowered forms; mail-order firms often sell colors separately. Plant 3 to 4 inches deep in mild climates, 6 inches deep in cold-winter areas. Space bulbs 3 to 6 inches apart.

Spring star flower (Ipheion uniflorum). Hardy enough only for mild to moderate winters, these 1 1//2-inch-wide blue-white stars bloom in profusion on stems 6 inches high. For a darker blue edging on petals, look for 'Wisley Blue'. Plant 1 to 2 inches deep, an inch apart.

Snowflake (Leucojum). Two kinds are sold, both labeled at nurseries as Leucojum or L. vemum. Despite accepted descriptions in garden literature, both bulbs produce three to five white bells tipped with green dots on foot-tall stems. Both appear to perform well in all but the hottest areas of the mild-winter West. Plant 1 to 2 inches deep (4 inches deep in cold-winter areas), 2 to 4 inches apart.

Grape hyacinth (Museari armeniacum). Thick clusters of deep blue- purple flowers top stems averaging 6 inches tall. Plant 3 inches deep, 2 inches apart.

Daffodil (Narcissus). Choose from miniatures 6 to 8 inches tall to full-size 'King Alfred' types. In shady sites, avoid kinds with extra-large single or double pompon-shaped flowers; their weight makes them prone to toppling in wind or rain, so they. need the extra stem strength given by full sun. Some favorites for naturalizing in sun or shade include miniature ' Tete-a-tete', medium-size 'February Gold', and multiflowered 'Geranium'. Make the planting hole about twice the depth of the bulb. Space big bulbs 8 inches apart, tiny ones 2 to 4 inches apart.
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Date:Sep 1, 1987
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