Celebrating the Seasons

From April 2008 E-newsletter




Get a Jump on Your Summer Garden


Summer-blooming gladiolas are a favorite in bouquets.

Mention flowering bulbs and most people think of daffodils and tulips. But there's another category of bulbs — those that bloom in summer and add sizzling color in July and August. Some of my favorite, easy-to-grow summer bulbs are dahlias, gladiolas, and elephant ears (Alocasia or Colocasia spp.). Others are begonias, caladiums, cannas, and peacock orchids. Note that some of these "bulbs" are, botanically speaking, corms or tubers.

These summer-blooming bulbs orginate from the tropics and are finicky about cold weather. They won't survive if you sneak them into the ground too early in the season or before the threat of frost is over. Wait until the frost-free date in your area to set bulbs into the ground. For a jump on the season, you can pre-plant the bulbs in containers and get them started indoors. This will encourage them to bloom three to four weeks earlier than normal. Starting indoors is especially helpful for slow-growing elephant ears, which love sunshine, heat, and high humidity.


Dahlias will bloom continuously until fall.

Comb seed catalogues and browse your local garden center for summer-blooming bulbs. If you're buying from a bin in a store, inspect the bulbs carefully and select only ones that are firm and blemish-free. To start bulbs indoors, plant them in clean containers with drainage holes. Fill pots half way with potting soil, set the bulbs in the pot, and cover the bulbs with soil. Follow the the directions on the label to determine how deeply to plant the bulbs.


Caladiums are perfect for part shade.

Gently water, then place pots in warm, humid area in direct sunlight and keep soil moist. Once threat of frost has past and soil has warmed to 60 degrees F. or warmer, transplant the bulbs outdoors. Be careful not to disturb the roots when transplanting. In regions with cold winters dahlias, gladiolas, elephant ears, and other tender bulbs need to be dug in fall and stored indoors over the winter to protect them from freezing. Hardy summer-blooming bulbs, including Asiatic and Oriental lilies and crocosmia, are perennial in most parts of the country and don't need to be lifted in fall.
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