By Becca Badgett
(Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden)
If your gardening efforts are limited by red clay soil in your landscape, consider growing Sternbergia lutea, commonly called winter daffodil, fall daffodil, lily of the field, and autumn crocus (not to be confused with the Colchicum autumn crocus). When growing winter daffodil, you can spend less time amending the soil and more time working on other aspects of the garden.
Info and Care of Sternbergia
This is not to say that your hard red clay won’t need amendments when you’re learning how to grow Sternbergia daffodils. Soil must be well draining, so you may mix in sand or gravel to assist with drainage. Soil should remain moist, but not soggy. Other than these improvements, you’ll find the winter flowering daffodil does well in existing clay soils.
Winter hardy in USDA zones 9 and 10, Sternbergia lutea may provide autumn or winter blossoms in zone 8 and part of zone 7. Care of Sternbergia in these areas includes a thick layer of mulch in winter, or lifting of the bulbs. Sternbergia lutea may be damaged below 28 degrees F.
Growing only 4 inches above the ground, blooms precede the leaves. A member of the Amaryllis family, this is common in many members, as with Lycoris lilies and the popular Amaryllis plant. Most winter flowering daffodil plants actually bloom in fall, though a few varieties bloom in winter and a couple bloom in spring. Most are yellow flowering, but one type of Sternbergia lutea has white flowers. Summer is the season of dormancy for the winter flowering daffodil.
How to Grow Sternbergia Daffodils
Care of Sternbergia includes planting them in an area of full afternoon sun. Best growth and bloom of winter flowering daffodil comes from bulbs planted in a somewhat protected area, such as near a building’s foundation.
When growing winter daffodil, plant the small bulbs 5 inches deep and 5 inches apart. When winter flowering daffodil is happy in its location, it will naturalize and spread, although more bulbs should be added every few years for a continued display.
If you need more fall and winter blooms to hug the ground in your red clay flower bed, try adding the winter flowering daffodil. Sternbergia lutea will perk up the autumn or winter landscape.