Issue: January 6, 1997

Prevent short flower stalks on spring bulbs


Last year my daffodils and tulips bloomed with very short stems. Is something wrong with them? Do I need to transplant them? Is it too late to move them now?


It is too late to move them for most New Mexicans, but that is not what they need. Even though you can't see leaves or flowers now, they are very busy underground. They produced roots this past fall and now they are beginning the process which results in the leaves and flowers appearing above the soil in just a couple of months, or sooner.

What they need now is water. There must be moisture in the soil for good flower stalk development to occur. At this time of year, water doesn't evaporate as rapidly as in the summer, so you don't need to water as often as in the summer, but in our dry Southwestern climate they usually need supplemental water.

Check the soil to see if it is moist where your flowering bulbs are planted. If the soil is moist an inch or so down, then don't worry. If it is dry, water to moisten the soil to a depth of at least a foot. That should be enough water for a month or so. Just check the soil moisture occasionally and water when needed. As the days become warmer and the winds develop, the soil will dry more quickly. Check more often during warm or windy weather and water if the soil is dry.

After the plants have flowered and the leaves naturally turn yellow and brown, you can reduce watering again. Summer is the season when the bulbs need the least water, though you can't let them dry completely even in the summer. If your bulbs are planted in perennial beds or with other plants, you must continue to water during the summer for the sake of the other plants. This will not harm the bulbs unless you keep the soil constantly soggy. Then the plants growing with the bulbs will also be overwatered.

Fragrant indoor plant


I have an atrium area that receives bright light for most of the day. I love the fragrance of gardenias, but can't successfully grow them. Is there something easier to grow that will have the same fragrance?


You might wish to try a plant called Hedychium. It is also known as white or yellow ginger. It has a strong, pleasant gardenia-like scent and is easy to grow if you have the room for it. It produces a three-to-four-foot tall plant that looks a little like a corn plant. When it is large enough, it produces large white or yellow flowers at the top of the stalks. These flowers are very fragrant. They are not suitable for cutting, but they will definitely fill your atrium with perfume.

The plant grows from a rhizome which looks very much like ginger root. This is because it is a relative of the ginger used as a spice. It prefers a soil composed of peat or compost mixed with a considerable quantity of sand so that it does not become soggy. It does not tolerate drying well. If the soil dries, the top will begin to turn yellow and die back. The rhizomes will survive and regrow if they don't dry for too long, but the plant will not bloom again until it has regrown the top again.

It will bloom more prolifically if allowed to become pot- bound, that is to fill the pot and have rhizomes pressed against the side of the pot. It is possible for these rhizomes to split plastic pots as they become pot-bound. In that situation the plant may be repotted or divided and repotted.

Adequate light is important. Full sunlight is not needed, but bright dappled light is needed. In too shady a location, flowers will be fewer and less frequent.

You may have to search somewhat to find the plant, but it is available through several garden catalogs. Good luck and enjoy the perfume.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!