Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs
Sweet Summer Bulbs
by Charlie Nardozzi
When most gardeners think of bulbs, their minds drift to tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. Although the flower show of these spring bulbs will soon be finished, there is another group of bulbs that can be planted now for flowers throughout the summer.
Summer bulbs technically include corms, tubers, and rhizomes, as well as bulbs. The beauty of summer-flowering bulbs is their diversity. You can grow gladiolus for cutting, Oriental lilies for bouquets, and dahlias and cannas to fill out a perennial border with color until frost. Not only are the big three summer bulbs lilies, dahlias, and gladiolus becoming more popular, many other lesser-known, summer-flowering bulbs, such as tuberous begonias and cannas, are experiencing a revival as well.
Sun and Soil
Most summer bulbs grow best in full sun (6 hours) in moist yet well-drained, loose, fertile soil amended with compost. Since most summer bulbs also are heat-loving plants, wait until the ground has warmed to at least 60 degrees F. before planting. If animals, such as voles, are eating the newly planted bulbs, consider placing a handful of crushed oyster shells in each planting hole, or plant the bulbs in a bed lined with chicken wire. Fertilize with a high phosphorus product, such as Bulb Booster, to get the bulbs off to a good start. Mulch bulb beds once they're established to conserve moisture and prevent weed growth.
Lilies are considered the queens of the garden. Their majestic flowers can dominate a perennial border, and they also are a long-lived cut flower indoors. Dig the holes 10 to 12 inches deep. Plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep and apart. Lilies are generally hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9. Remove spent flowers, but leave the foliage and as much of the stem as possible to rejuvenate the bulb for next season.
You can extend the flowering season by growing a variety of lily species. Asiatic lilies bloom early to midsummer. They stand 2 to 4 feet tall with upward-facing flowers ranging from red to yellow. Some especially lovely varieties to try are yellow 'Connecticut King' and crimson 'America'.
Following the Asiatic lilies, the trumpet lilies are the next to bloom. These plants grow up to 7 feet tall and produce fragrant flowers in bright colors ranging from yellow to deep purple. Some varieties to try include apricot 'African Queen' and yellow 'Golden Splendor'. Trumpet lilies naturalize well.
The lily show wraps up with the Oriental lilies. These intensely fragrant flowers bloom from midsummer onward. Each 2- to 4-foot-tall plant produces 6 to 12 outward-facing flowers with curled petals. The colors range from white to red. The white 'Casa Blanca' and the pink and white 'Stargazer' are two common varieties. A relatively new hybrid is the Orienpet lilies a cross between the Oriental and trumpet lilies. They feature fragrant, upward-facing flowers similar to Oriental lilies, with the more intense flower colors and naturalizing ability of trumpet lilies. 'Shocking' is a red-and-yellow-flowered variety.