Gardening Calendar

October to late December is the time to plant bulbs here in Alabama.

Good Bulb Choices

Megan Jones, an Alabama Extension home grounds, gardens and home pests agent, said the first step is deciding which to plant.

“Daffodils or narcissus are favorites in the South because they thrive even in our warm winters,” Jones said. “Daffodils come in a huge variety of colors, flower sizes and shapes and mature plant sizes. There is a choice for every garden spot.”

She adds that other good choices include alliums, crocuses, Dutch iris and squills (Scilla varieties).

“While many people love tulips, people should be prepared to treat them as an annual and replant them every fall,” she said. “Alabama winters are not cold enough for tulips to rebloom. For best results, buy pre-chilled tulip bulbs and plant in late December through January.”

Buying and Storing Bulbs

When buying bulbs, check their firmness. Also, buy early to get the best selections available.

“Another consideration is bulb size,” Jones said. “Generally, the bigger the bulb is, the bigger the flower is.”

Keep bulbs cool until planting time. Chilling bulbs in the refrigerator is a good option, but do not store them near fruits which can release gases that reduce blooms. It is best to store bulbs in a mesh bag.


plant spring bulbsJones said that most bulbs prefer growing conditions in acidic, nutrient-rich and well-draining soils that experience full to partial sun.

“Wet, soggy soils can cause bulbs to rot,” Jones said. “You may need to add organic matter to heavy clay soils. Even if you have a well draining sandy soil, adding additional organic material will increase the soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients.”

Jones said conducting a soil test to determine exactly what the plants need is always a good idea. County Extension offices can help gardeners with information on how to take a soil sample and submit it for analysis.

According to Jones, different bulbs require different planting depths.

“Consult the packaging information on your bulbs for specific depth,” she said. “A good rule of thumb is to plant the bulb in a hole three times as deep as the size of the bulb. Plant with the narrow end, or the nose, of the bulb pointing up.”

Cover planted bulbs with 2 to 3 inches of mulch. Mulch will help reduce soil compaction, regulate soil temperature, limit moisture loss and prevent weeds. Remember to water at planting to settle the soil and provide the right conditions for improved root development.

More Information

For more information about gardening, visit the Alabama Extension website,

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Information gathered from Alabama Cooperative Extension System

Lichen on Trees and Shrubs

Lichens are often blamed for the decline and death of shrubs and trees in Alabama landscapes. This is not too surprising because these unusual plantlike organisms are commonly seen on the exposed limbs and trunks of declining or dead shrubs and trees, especially azaleas, dogwoods, and pecans. Lichens are not responsible for the poor top growth or death of shrubs and trees. Instead, their appearance is often related to damage from environmental stress or poor management. Exposed limbs on damaged plants simply give lichens access to the sunlight they need for growth with little competition.

These often inconspicuous, hardy, and adaptive plantlike organisms are composed of two fungi and a green alga. This union or symbiosis produces a long-lived organism that does not look like the fungal or algal partners, all of which contribute to the growth of the lichen. The alga uses photosynthesis, like other plants, to produce food while the fungus supplies water and essential minerals and produces a structure that protects the alga from extreme environmental conditions. Together they thrive in some of the harshest environments on earth where few other plants and neither partner alone can survive.

Lichens colonize a wide range of exposed surfaces of limbs, stumps, fence posts, soil, rocks, and other living and nonliving objects. Lichens are firmly attached to these hard surfaces. They are most numerous on limbs and trunks of large mature trees and shrubs in full sun, particularly those plants with badly thinned canopies. Most lichens will not thrive on heavily shaded twigs and branches of healthy woody plants. Few lichens are found in areas with high levels of ozone, sulfur dioxide, acid rain, and other common air pollutants. Consequently, lichens are a good indicator of air quality.

Lichens are not generally considered plant pathogens. Lichenized forms (Strigula spp.) of the green alga Cephaleuros are plant pathogens. Strigula spp. is the causal agent of algal leaf spot of camellia, southern magnolia, and other shrubs although southern magnolia and camellia are the most common hosts. On leaves of camellia and southern magnolia, the lichen Strigula appears as numerous small gray-white crusty spots (figure 4), which later turn yellow and are shed. Leaf spotting and premature leaf shed may be unsightly, but this disease is not a threat to plant health.

Lichens are an indication of poor plant health. Good plant vigor is the best defense against the presence of lichens. Heavy infestations of lichens are most common on shrubs and trees in declining or poor health due to other factors. Following recommended establishment, watering, and fertility practices will promote the development of a thick leaf canopy, which will inhibit lichen growth on twigs and limbs. Better growing conditions and soil fertility may stimulate new plant growth and ultimately suppress the lichens. Light pruning of affected limbs will remove some lichens and stimulate new shoot growth that may help shade out the remaining lichens. Trees and shrubs in extremely poor condition will often not respond to better care and should be replaced. Refer to Extension publications “Pruning Ornamental Plants” (ANR-0258) and “Planting and Establishing Woody Landscape Plants” (ANR-0410) for additional information on pruning, planting, and maintaining shrubs and trees.

No pesticides are currently registered for the control of lichens commonly found on the twigs and branches of shrubs and trees. Kocide 2000 or Kalmore (1 level tablespoon per gallon) will control the lichen (algal) leaf spot caused by Strigula spp. on southern magnolia when applied every 7 to 14 days, starting with the unfurling of new leaves. Continue sprays until the leaves mature.


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Garden Volunteers

Volunteers Karin Carmichael and Linda Graydon help to prune the dried hydrangea blooms on MBG Volunteer Day in September.

Our next Volunteer Day is October 14, we’d love for you to join us!

New volunteer, Beth Wicker, helps to weed the bed near the garden entrance. 

Garden volunteer days are the second Thursday of each month.

Support the Montgomery Botanical Gardens when you shop on Amazon and a portion of your purchase will go to improve the Gardens.

1. Go to

2. Click the ‘Start Shopping’ button

3. Shop as usual.