Summer Flowering Bulbs
By: Ron Kushner
There are many bulbs that bloom throughout the summer, giving incredible displays of color and texture in the garden all season long. They also provide flowers, fragrance and brilliant color on a deck, patio or outdoor living area. Lilies, tuberous begonias, cannas, caladiums, dahlias and gladiolus are the most common. Also to be considered would be hardy cyclamen, calla lilies, elephant ears, hardy gloxinia, agapanthus and anemone in many varieties.
Except for the lilies which are hardy, these bulbs can be planted as annuals in our area but they can be dug up in the fall, stored over winter and replanted each spring.
Lilies distinguish themselves by their dazzling colors and shapes. They are among the “stars” of the summer border. The Asiatics bloom in early summer, the trumpet types bloom mid summer and the Orientals are the last to bloom at the end of summer into fall. The Oriental varieties such as ‘Casablanca’, ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Mona Lisa’ are extremely fragrant. Plant them as early as possible in spring, as soon as the ground can be worked. Fall planting also is fine, if you can obtain bulbs at that time. Plant in full sun to partial shade in fertile, well drained soil. Mulch well in summer to keep the soil cool and fertilize monthly throughout the season.
Superb as a cut flower and a very effective border plant. Blooms start to open from the bottom of the spike upwards. Since the flowers last almost two weeks, begin planting the corms after the last severe frost and continue at two-week intervals until midsummer. Plant in full sun if possible but the plants will tolerate some light shade. Add compost to heavy soil before planting. Plant closely, 3″ to 6″ apart. Mulch well in summer and water during dry spells. Most “glads” will blow over in storms or actually fall under their own weight so staking is normally required. Glads make lovely cut flowers for vases throughout the growing season.
The genus Begonia is one of the largest of all the plants, excellent for both containers and beds. Hanging begonias like ‘Champagne’ are great for decks and patios. Other varieties make an ideal ground cover in borders as well as in pots. They bloom all summer until the fall frost. Most enjoy partial shade, especially in the afternoon. Move plants indoors before the first frost if you want them to winter over in their pots or store the tubers over winter for replanting the next spring.
Dahlias continuously produce new flowers all summer long right up to a killing frost. They come in a variety of shapes and colors ranging from 2′ to 6′ tall with flowers from 1″ across to huge “dinner-plate” varieties with 12″ blooms. They require rich soil with plenty of potassium and phosphorus with full sun to partial shade. Plant the roots horizontally 3″ to 6″ below the soil surface. Lightly cover unsprouted tubers with an inch or so of soil at planting time. Gradually fill in the holes as the plants grow. At planting time, drive a sturdy stake 6″ from the root. I use a 5 foot long, 1″X1″ hardwood stake for each plant. Mulch heavily once the plants are at least 6″ tall and the soil is warm. Water often and fertilize liberally throughout the summer with a fertilizer not high in nitrogen. Tubers must be stored indoors over the winter after a killing frost. Cut them back to a few inches above ground level, lift the clumps and store them on their sides while waiting for the soil on the tubers to dry. Store in barely moist peat moss or vermiculite in a cool spot.
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