Without a doubt, spring bulbs are the most popular type of bulbs. Their breathtaking flowers delight us with their beauty and their promise of spring.
But don’t overlook summer bulbs, which offer a special charm of their own. Summer choices put out gorgeous flowers in the heat of summer at a time when many other plants begin to slowly fade into the background. Not only do they provide spectacular color, but they boast big blooms that are sure to make an impact in your garden.
Picking Your Bulbs
At Merrifield Garden Center, we carry summer bulbs in the months of March, April and May. With the exception of hardy lilies, these bulbs shouldn’t be planted outdoors until all danger of a freeze has passed. Tender bulbs prefer warm temperatures and humid conditions, which is why they thrive during our summers here in the mid-Atlantic region.
In our area, summer bulbs, such as caladiums, begonias, cannas and gladiolus, start blooming in June and continue until late October or early November when frost finishes the growing season. For the most part, summer bulbs can be used in the landscape in the same way as their spring counterparts. Plant them in beds, borders, containers, rock gardens, cutting beds and wherever you want to add masses of color and / or height.
Care and Maintenance
You’ll experience the greatest success with summer bulbs if you grow them in optimum conditions. They’ll flourish if you:
- Add compost and Merrifield Starter Plant Food when planting to enrich the soil and create good drainage.
- See package instructions to make the planting holes the correct depth space the bulbs apart as recommended.
- Most summer bulbs prefer full sun. One exception is caladiums.
Summer bulbs require the same routine care as spring ones. It’s important to deadhead, fertilize, water, mulch and provide weed, insect and disease control to extend their bloom times. Adopting good watering practices will go a long way to guaranteeing the continued health and regeneration of summer bulbs. Watering thoroughly at planting time helps to activate root growth. During dry periods, summer bulbs need to be watered thoroughly and allowed to dry.
Depending on the soil, the sun and other environmental factors, some of the taller and / or top-heavy bulbs, such as gladiolus, Asian lilies and lanky dahlias, may require staking and tying. If this is necessary, the simplest method is to tie them to single stakes, bamboo canes or attractive metal supports.
Since they’re tender, summer bulbs must be dug out of the ground each year before the first freeze and replanted the following year. When lifting them out of the ground, remove all soil. Discard any that are undersized, moldy or diseased. Put the remaining bulbs in a cardboard box or wooden crate. Cover with several inches of dry peat or vermiculite. Store indoors in a cool environment where the temperature ranges between 50 and 60 degrees F.