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Summer Container, Vinca, Calamint and Persian Shield

Summer Container Garden Inspiration

Container gardens are a great way to add color to any size garden, since they pack a powerful punch of vibrant blooms and foliage into one space. They are moveable, adjustable, and delightful additions to any garden. With summer still in full swing, now is the perfect time to create a colorful and exciting container for your home.

When choosing or building your container garden, the goal is to achieve the ideal combination of plants that thrill, spill, and fill:

  • Thrill plants draw your eye into the container, creating a focal point through height, color, bloom or texture.
  • Spill plants draw your eye down and through the container by trailing over the edge.
  • Fill plants are those that help to fill the voids in the pot. They typically provide contrast to your thrill plant and add interest

Our favorite aspect about container gardens is the customization—you can use any combination of plants that you enjoy to create one you love. Check out our step-by-step guide to creating a custom container garden, and take a look at our designs below if you want some inspiration. Of course, if you prefer to have some assistance putting yours together, our specialists are happy to help!

Summer annuals and perennials provide vibrant color even in the heat of the season. Here are some of our favorite plant selections for the season:

Our Plant Picks for Sun

(1) Celosia, (2) Pentas, (3) Rudbeckia- annual, (4) Cuphea (Mexican Heather), (5) Euphorbia, (6) Angelonia, (7) Ageratum, (8) Celosia, (9) Lantana, (10) Petunia, (11) Verbena, (12) Calibrachoa.

Our Plant Picks for Shade

(1) Tassel Fern, (2) Coleus, (3) New Guinean Impatiens, (4) Japanese Forest Grass, (5) Begonia, (6) Lysimachia ‘Aurea’ (Creeping Jenny), (7) Trailing Coleus, (8) Heuchera (Coral Bells).

Container Design Inspiration

Tropical Container with Elephant Ears, Coleus, Verbena

Clockwise from top: Elephant Ear, Trailing Coleus, Verbena, Petunia, Trailing Coleus. This dramatic container for sun makes a statement – elephant ears with their bold foliage and sweeping height grab attention and the vibrant colors of coleus, petunia and verbena complement it with color and blooms at the base. Add this container to any space for a tropical feel.

Summer Container Angelonia, Creeping Jenny

Angelonia (top) and Creeping Jenny (bottom). We love the simplicity of this container, which while only containing two types of plants, is still bursting with summer color and blooms. The elegant stalks of angelonia create texture and movement and the bright green of the creeping Jenny contrasts nicely with the blooms and dark green of the Angelonia.

Clockwise from top: Calamint, Bachelor’s Button, Iresine (Cherry Blood Leaf), Vinca, Iresine (Variegated Heart Blood Leaf). This vibrant container is packed full of cheerful vinca and vibrant bachelor’s button. Calamint—which has a lovely scent, cherry blood leaf and variegated heart blood leaf serve as the “thrill” plants drawing the eye upwards, while the vinca trails down the sides. This container will be bursting with color all season!

Summer Shade Container with Begonia, heuchera, Japanese stiltgrass and ferns

Clockwise from the top: Begonia, tassel fern, heuchera, Japanese forest grass. The tonal color palette and varying textures of this container will draw the eye to even the shadiest spot of a garden. Begonia provides a pop of color, while perennial Japanese forest grass, heuchera and tassel fern provide interest with contrasting textures and shades of green.

Caring for Your Containers

Here are some basics that will help you keep your containers healthy and beautiful during the summer:

  • Larger containers hold water better, so bigger is better when picking your size—you will need to water less with a larger container.
  • Since summer brings the heat, you will need to check your container for watering once or even twice per day. Only water when the soil is dry—and then follow our watering instructions and water the container thoroughly. If you are leaving town on summer vacation, create a watering plan for your time away! Ask a neighbor or friend to check on your containers every day and care for them as needed.
  • We recommend using a bloom boosting fertilizer to keep the blooms fresh all season. Miracle Grow Bloom Booster and Doctor Earth Bloom Booster, an organic option, stimulate new blooms and flowers and keeps them looking fresh in the summer heat. If you have a lot of containers, you can purchase one of these fertilizers with a hose end applicator to combine your watering and fertilization into one task. Lastly, make sure you deadhead the blooms as they die off in order to encourage further blooms and keep your container’s stunning appearance.

Creative Uses for Crape Myrtles in Your Landscape

By Paul McLane and Louis Ratchford, Merrifield Plant Specialists

The crape myrtle is one of the most iconic trees of the southern summer. You can rarely drive throughout the Northern Virginia area during this season without seeing these beauties in bloom. They provide stunning color and are very easy to care for. Generally, they don’t need a lot of water and will be happy with at least eight hours of sunlight. The warm, bright summers in our area actually make crape myrtles flower more. Because of this, crape myrtles can grow in places many plants won’t.

Crape myrtles come in many different varieties, including tree and shrub variations, making them a versatile plant that can be used in many ways in your landscape. Here are a few of our favorite ways to make the crape myrtles shine in your landscape.

Standout Specimens

With flowers in various shades of red, purple, pink, and white and leaves in shades of green, red, and black, there are a multitude of varieties available that make stunning specimen plants in any yard. These deciduous plants make an excellent specimen, providing four season interest with new growth in spring, beautiful summer blooms, standout fall foliage, and smooth, white branches in winter. For nighttime interest, add up lighting to the base of the tree to illuminate their beauty against the dramatic dark backdrop of the night sky.

Southern Living Crape Myrtle

(Image via Southern Living)

Complementary Plantings

The texture, size and colors of crape myrtles pair beautifully with all types of other plants. Here are some of our favorite trees and shrubs to pair to bring out the beauty in both plants:

  • Cherry tree: For blooms all spring and summer, plant cherry trees and crape myrtles together. The cherry trees will bloom through the spring, and just as their bloom is ending, the crape myrtles will begin to show off beautiful blossoms.
  • Evergreens: With their year-round foliage, evergreens provide contrast to the crape myrtle’s trunk and branches in the winter landscape..
  • Nandinas: With their similar care schedule and multicolored foliage, nandinas add greens, reds, and yellows to your garden, complementing the crape myrtles’ colors in spring, summer and fall.
  • Limelight hydrangeas: This particular variety of hydrangea has a similar bloom schedule as most crape myrtles. Their glowing white blooms will instantly brighten the purples and reds of your crape myrtle blooms. You can also make a wonderful white garden by combining the limelight hydrangea with a white flowering crape myrtle. These compliments will glow during fall evenings while both are in bloom.
House Beautiful Crape Myrtle

(Image via House Beautiful)

Shade for Outdoor Spaces

Create a relaxing summer space by using a crape myrtle to create shade on your patio. Crape myrtles are late bloomers and deciduous, which means in the spring you will have access to the warm spring sunshine as the tree leafs, and in the heat of summer your tree will provide refreshing shade and beautiful blooms.

Southern Living Shrub Form Rose

(Image via Southern Living)

Perennial Borders

Miniature crape myrtles will only grow about 3 feet high, making them an excellent choice for a perennial border that will change with the seasons. They add great color to foundation plantings and shallow depth to your landscape.

Chaste Tree, Shrub

Our Favorite Summer Flowering Shrubs

Louis Ratchford, Merrifield Plant Specialist

It’s midsummer and if you are like most people, when you think of blooming trees and shrubs you are probably thinking of crape myrtles and hydrangeas. Both of these iconic summer plants are beautiful, but there are many other summer blooming trees and shrubs to consider!  Each of these 7 gorgeous trees and shrubs make a wonderful addition to any summer garden. Now is a great time to plant any of these summer-bloomers, so come visit one of our locations to find the perfect match for your garden!

Buddleia, Butterfly Bush, Shrub

Butterfly Bush

As the name implies, this shrub is a butterfly’s best friend! Watch your Butterfly Bushes attract these pretty pollinators to your outdoor space as they bloom consistently throughout the summer with purple, blue, pink, red, white, or even yellow flowers (these ones are harder to come by). Typically, this shrub will grow 6-8 feet tall, but there are dwarf varieties available which max out at around 3 feet.

Chaste Tree, Shrub

Chaste Tree

The Chaste tree’s purple, cone-like flowers remind me of the Butterfly Bush. Similarly, it flowers consistently throughout the summertime, with nice colorful blooms lasting for many weeks. As the plant matures and grows larger in size—up to 12 feet or taller!—it acquires a multi-trunk sculpture and takes on a beautiful tree-like form.

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Shrub

Abelia

If you are looking for a bush that will always bring color to your garden for multiple seasons of the year, abelia is the right choice. It has long-lasting summer blooms, flowering for about 1 month. Even as colder months approach and the flowers start to fall off, it still keeps its brilliance! The parts left over from the white flowers, known as sepals, have the appearance of little red flowers— a perfect look for fall. The ‘Radiant’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’ abelias are known for their variegated foliage, which keeps your abelias looking wonderful even after the blooming season passes!

Trumpet Vine 'Morning Calm'

Morning Calm Trumpet Vine

This vining plant is a wonderful addition to any garden. Morning Calm is a unique kind of trumpet vine. It has trailing vines with orange flowers that bloom on the ends of the stems, following the vine as it trails downwards, creating a beautiful cascade of orange flowers. It takes on the personality of a grape plant with its large woody stem structure. There are also native varieties of trumpet vine available.

Rose of Sharon Hibiscus, Shrub

Hibiscus – Rose of Sharon

These easy-to-grow flowers will add a gorgeous tropical feel to your garden. There are both tropical and perennial varieties of hibiscus, and each flower consistently for at least 3 weeks. You can choose from a selection of pink, purple, yellow, blue, and white colors. Some varieties of the hibiscus are sterile, so if you are looking for a beautiful non-reproductive plant, the hibiscus is a great choice.

Hydrangea

This is an already popular plant, but for good reason! Add this colorful flower to your garden for a beautiful, timeless look. Note that there are many varieties of the hydrangea, with a more extensive list in our full hydrangea blog post.

Here are my favorite picks:

Macrophylla

The macrophylla, more commonly known as the big leaf hydrangea, falls under the endless summer series of hydrangeas, which bloom off of both new and old growth! It has coloring that is dependent on the pH level of the soil it is planted in. A more acidic soil will result in a blue flower, and a more alkaline soil will produce a pink flower. This variety is happiest in part-sun to shade.

Panicle Hydrangea, Shrub

Panicle

Depending on the cultivar, the coloring on the panicle hydrangea starts off as lime green and undergoes a transition from white, to light pink, to dark pink and finally to a beautiful maroon shade as it matures. This one is a more sun-loving hydrangea, preferring full-sun.

Oakleaf

Known for its cone-shaped flowers, the oakleaf hydrangea petals turn from white to pink as it matures. It has a nice woody structure with distinctive peeling bark and, in the fall, develops attractive red foliage.

Kodiak Orange Diervilla, Shrub

Kodiak Orange Diervilla

An exciting new addition to Merrifield Garden Center! Commonly known as the bush honeysuckle, the diervilla kodiak orange has beautiful red stems and will grow to be approximately 3-4 feet tall. It develops a bright orange foliage in the fall, is shade tolerant and adaptive to most soil types. My favorite aspect of this plant is that it is deer resistant!

And don’t forget – my favorite perennials for summer color!

If you are looking for a smaller plant for summer color, I always love the classic perennials Coneflower, Coreopsis, and Black Eyed Susan. These beautiful plants allow gardeners to add bright color to their gardens in the summer even if they do not have room for a tree or shrub.

Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Basil and Mint Infused Lemonade

By Lyndsey Bridgers, Marketing Director

The summer sun has us daydreaming of ice cold drinks and relaxing in the shade with family and friends. One of our favorite refreshers this time of year is a chilled glass of lemonade. You can whip up a nice infused simple syrup to give your lemonade a little more flavor. And it’s a great way to use some of your garden-grown herbs!

Basil Fresh Herbs

To begin, select your herbs (typically about a cup total if you’re using greens, such as basil, cilantro, mint or rosemary) and combine them with a cup of sugar and a cup of water into a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, turn off the stove and let the herbs steep as the mixture cools, about 30 minutes. Once it’s cool, discard the herbs.

Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Meanwhile, juice your lemons. I used a citrus press, but you can also squeeze them by hand, cut-side up to prevent the seeds from dropping into your cup. Add your lemon juice and water to the simple syrup and stir to combine. If you have the time, refrigerate your lemonade so it stays nice and cool once you add it to your iced glasses!  

Mint Basil Lemonade Blog

Herb Infused Lemonade Recipe

Ingredients (makes four servings)

  • 2 cups of fresh lemon juice (from about 12 – 15 lemons)
  • 2 cups of water
  • Herbed simple syrup

Herbed simple syrup

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup fresh basil, washed and stems removed
  • ½ cup fresh mint, washed and stems removed

Place your sugar, water, fresh basil and mint into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Let simmer for ten minutes. Remove it from the heat and let the simple syrup cool while the herbs steep. Once it’s cool, remove the herbs and pour the simple syrup into your serving pitcher.  

Juice your lemons and add the juice to the simple syrup. Mix in your water and add ice or set the lemonade in the refrigerator to chill as the flavors combine.

Serve in a chilled glass with lemons, basil and mint and enjoy!

Watermelon Gin Cocktail Blog

Watermelon Cucumber Gin Cocktail

By Lyndsey Bridgers, Marketing Director

There is nothing as delicious as perfectly sweet, chilled watermelon on a hot summer day. This thirst-quenching fruit always accompanies a delicious spread of grilled hot dogs, hamburgers and casseroles at my family’s Fourth of July cookout. To celebrate the Fourth of July this year, we’re whipping up one of our favorite cocktails using sweet watermelon and garden-grown cucumbers and basil.

I started by juicing my watermelon. I used a citrus press (mostly because I already had it out for making lemonade), but you can also use a blender and then strain it with a mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a jar. Afterwards, prepare your glass by running a lime wedge around the rim and rolling it in kosher salt. Set the glass aside.

In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add your lime juice, elderflower liqueur, cucumber and basil and muddle using a muddler or a wooden spoon. Then, pour in your watermelon juice, gin/vodka and ice and shake vigorously.

Add ice to your glass and strain in your cocktail and top with a lime wedge, cucumbers and sprig of basil. And enjoy!

Watermelon Cucumber Gin Cocktail Recipe

Ingredients (for two cocktails)

  • 1 ounce of lime juice (from two limes), with one wedge reserved  
  • 2 ounces of elderflower liqueur
  • 2 ounces of gin (or vodka)  
  • 6 ounces of watermelon juice (about three cups of cubed watermelon)
  • 6 slices of cucumber
  • 6 basil leaves, plus two small sprigs for garnish
  • Kosher salt

Run a lime wedge over the rim of the glasses, then roll the rims in the kosher salt and set aside.

Add the cubed watermelon to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour the mix through a fine strainer or cheesecloth draped over a glass to separate the juice from the fiber of the fruit

Watermelon Gin Cocktail Blog

Add the basil leaves, 4 slices of cucumber, lime juice and elderflower liqueur to a cocktail shaker and muddle. Next, add your watermelon juice, gin and ice and shake until cold. Fill your cocktail glasses with ice, then strain the cocktail into the glasses. Garnish with sliced cucumbers and the basil sprigs and enjoy!

Looking for more garden fresh drinks for summer parties? Try out our herb infused lemonade!

Bigleaf Hydrangea, Shrub

Our Hydrangea Picks for Summer Blooms

If you are looking for something to brighten up your summer landscape, hydrangeas are the perfect plant! These beautiful plants bloom in bouquets of large white, pink and blue blossoms. In any garden, hydrangeas can turn a green summer landscape into a show of vibrant flowers.

Here are our hydrangea picks:

Annabelle Hydrangea, Shrub

Annabelle

‘Annabelle’ is a native hydrangea that features stunning white flower clusters up to 12 inches wide. The flowers appear in late spring to summer, often continuing into fall. Strong, straight stems hold up the huge flower heads.

Endless Summer Hydrangea, Shrub

Bigleaf

Arguably the most recognizable of all hydrangeas, bigleaf hydrangeas are in full bloom from June through July. The flowers are come in two shapes – round and softball sized (mophead),

or flat topped and delicate (lace-capped).

With many of these varieties, the blooms tend to be blue in acidic soils and pink in more alkaline soil. Gardeners can change the colors of pink and blue flowers by altering the pH of the soil, but white flowers cannot be changed by altering the soil.

Our Bigleaf Hydrangea Picks

  • ‘Nikko Blue’ – Gigantic, blue flower clusters demand attention in the summer garden
  • ‘Pistachio’ – this dazzling variety features unique lime green and hot pink flowers.
  • Repeat bloomers – these recent introductions will continue blooming throughout the summer. Our favorites are ‘Endless Summer’, ‘Blushing Bride’, ‘Twist-n-Shout’ and ‘Penny Mac’.
Climbing Hydrangea

Climbing Hydrangea

This sprawling, woody vine can reach 30-40 ft. and becomes covered in white, lace-cap flowers up to 10 inches in diameter in the late spring and early summer. It can tolerate part to full shade and climbs up any structures it is places against, or when unsupported, as a mounding, sprawling shrub.

Japanese Hydrangea Vine

Similar to the climbing hydrangea, the Japanese hydrangea vine blooms a little later in the season and has heart-shaped flowers. One of our favorites is ‘Moonlight’, with silver, blue-green leaves and fragrant, white, lace-cap flowers.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Native to the United States, Oakleaf is named for its dark green, oak-like leaves. It produces large creamy white or pink blossoms. This hydrangea provides four season interest with deep mahogany-red leaves in the fall and exfoliating bark in winter.

Limelight Hydrangea, Shrub

Panicle Hydrangea

One of the last hydrangeas to bloom each summer, gardeners prize panicle hydrangeas for their gracefully arching branches and clusters of white flowers.

Our picks

  • ‘Pee Gee’ – This cultivar features prolific, showy blooms and can grow very large – 10-20 feet in height and width. Sometimes it can be trained into a small tree.
  • ‘Tardiva’ – This recent introduction flowers late, in August and September
  • ‘Limelight’ and ‘Little Lime’ – These compact cultivars feature unique light green blooms.
  • ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ and ‘Strawberry Sunday’ – The flowers mature to a strawberry color.

Caring for your hydrangea

Selecting the right location will make growing beautiful hydrangeas that much easier. They thrive in partial sun and moist, well-drained soil. Morning sun and afternoon shade with good air circulation is idea. Allow enough room for your hydrangeas to grow – 4 ft. by 4 ft. for compact varieties and 6 ft. by 6 ft. for larger varieties.

Mandevilla, Tropical, Annual

Say Hello to Summer with Tropical Plants

Tropicals instantly evoke a sense of serenity with their ability to make us dream of white sand and blue water. This summer, create your own vacation hideaway at home by adding tropical plants to your outdoor living space. If you have a tropical plant already, now is the perfect time to take it outside for the season. Here are a few plants that you can enjoy both inside and out this season.

Boston Fern

Boston Fern

If you are looking for beautiful foliage, look no further than the Boston Fern. This popular fern’s trailing, flat fronds make it an excellent addition to any hanging basket. Native to the forest floors of the tropics, these plants thrive in cool places with high humidity and indirect light. The key to keeping your fern healthy is to keep it moist, mimicking its natural environment as closely as possible. Feed your fern a diluted amount of Jack’s All Purpose fertilizer during the summer, then provide it the standard dose of fertilizer when it goes back inside for the winter. When indoors, keep it away from wood stoves or fireplaces, which dry out the air and deprive your plant of the humidity it loves.

Asparagus Fern

Asparagus Fern

The Asparagus Fern is not actually a true fern, but a member of the lily family. Its trailing foliage is perfect for containers and hanging baskets. This fern’s needle-like fronds and produce white flowers and red berries when situated in ideal conditions. Just like the Boston Fern, keep this fern moist to keep it happy and place it far away from your fireplace or wood stove during the cool months! Feed it a diluted amount of all purpose fertilizer during the summer to help its foliage show better and then the recommended amount when your fern goes back inside for the winter.

Citrus Plants

Lemon Tree

Keep a slice of tropical paradise in your home with a potted citrus plant. Fragrant flowers and delicious fruit we all love make this plant is one that will delight all year. There are many varieties of citrus fruits, though the most popular ones are lemons (Meyer and Ponderosa varieties), limes, and oranges. Bring your citrus plant outside for the summer to provide your plant with more sun and to allow for pollination. The best month to transition your plant outdoors is May, and the best time to bring it back inside is toward the end of September. Let the plant slowly acclimate to the new light and the space when transitioning indoors and out. To encourage health and beauty in your plants, fertilize every 7-10 days with a citrus fertilizer like Jack’s Citrus Feed.

Medinillas

Medinilla

Native to the Philippines, medinilla has been prized as an exotic houseplant by European nobility for hundreds of years! This tropical features dramatic, drooping pink blooms that last about 3 months, and a grape-like cluster of lavender flowers which bloom for a shorter time. When caring for your medinilla, water it well all the way down to the bottom of the pot and then let it dry ¾ of the way before watering again. Check regularly to find out how long this takes. These plants enjoy at least 4 hours of sun each day, but dislikes direct light.

Mandevillas

Mandevilla

Mandevillas with their stunning pinwheel shaped flowers provide vibrant color year round. Native to the southwestern United States and Central America, they come in many wonderful colors as well as night illuminating whites. They are easy to care for, thriving in bright, indirect or filtered sunlight. Give your plant  a balanced, high phosphorus fertilizer (20-20-20 or Osmocote) once every two weeks in the summer to boost the blooms. It is a vine, so give it a trellis to climb up as it grows!

Lawn

Treatment for Summer Grassy and Broadleaf Weeds

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

In our area, our lawns are the happiest when the temperature is between 50 and 75 degrees F and they get about an inch of water per week. With the soaring temperatures and lack of rain we encountered in July and August, our lawns are way out of their comfort zone! Stressed, thin lawns become vulnerable to weed takeover.

The last few weeks we’ve seen lawns mostly struggling with summer annual grassy and broadleaf weeds. these include crabgrass, Japanese stiltgrass, spurge and lespedeza. This a good time to treat these weeds and get ready to restore your lawn as the ideal time for seeding is right around the corner.

Crabgrass

Crabgrass

Spurge

Spurge

Japanese Stiltgrass

Lespedeza

Lespedeza

Treatment

If you’re struggling with grassy weeds, such as crabgrass and Japanese stiltgrass, we recommend Bayer Advanced Bermudagrass Control for Lawns. If you’re struggling with broadleaf grasses, such as spurge or lespedeza and/or grassy weeds, we recommend Trimec Crabgrass Plus Lawn Weed Killer. You can apply either product immediately. Just be sure to wait three to four weeks before seeding your lawn.

If you’re not sure what weed has taken over your lawn, bring a sample into any of our three stores and see a plant specialist at our plant clinic. We’re more than happy to help you diagnose the problem and recommend a treatment plan.

Summer annual weeds can be prevented, but the treatment must take place in the spring. The best way to protect your lawn from summer weed takeover is by maintaining a thick, dense turf.

Watermelon Salad for National Watermelon Day

We’re celebrating with this fresh-from-the-garden watermelon tomato salad! It’s one of our favorites and is fresh all summer long. We hope you enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 small seedless watermelon
  • 4 heirloom tomatoes
  • 1 bag baby arugula
  • 1/4 pound feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. pink peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 large shallot
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 bunch chives
  • 3 garlic cloves

Directions

In a bowl, add finely chopped shallots, minced garlic, salt, sherry, honey, mustard and crushed pink peppercorns. Using a wisk, slowly add the extra virgin olive oil until combined. If this mixture separates, that’s normal. Add the chives.

In a separate bowl, add the watermelon and tomatoes, which both should be cut into roughly 1 inch pieces. Crumble feta cheese into the watermelon/tomato mixture and toss with some of the vinaigrette mixture until coated. Mix with the arugula.

This is a great recipe to make a day in advance. Just store the watermelon mixture separate from the arugula. You can substitute lettuce for the arugula or use the tomato of your choice.

Summer Bulbs Are An Overlooked Gem

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.

Plant-Happiness

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.