Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Bulbs

Summer Bulbs (page 2 of 7)

by Michael MacCaskey

Tuberous Begonia (Begonia)

Large flowers with neon candy-cane colors in every hue except blue, tuberous begonias are the most colorful of all the summer bulbs. Plants need bright light, cool temperatures and humid air to grow well. They thrive along the coast of California from San Francisco to San Diego, and likewise in the Pacific Northwest west of the Cascades.

Bloom begins early summer and lasts until frost. Flowers are categorized by their similarity to other flowers. Some are "carnation," others "camellia" or "roseform." Typical size is 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Most grow 12 to 18 inches high but some have a more spreading habit that's perfect for hanging baskets. Place tubers at soil level in pots or flats indoors in February or March. Bigger tubers flower better. Fertilize with diluted nutrients with every irrigation. Look for the upright or hanging Pacific Hybrid or Blackmore & Langdon strains, or more compact and smaller-flowered multifloras, which includes the heat-tolerant 'Non-stops'.

Chinese Ground Orchid (Bletilla striata)

Flowers are admittedly tiny compared to florists' orchids, but they are true orchids with all the shape and detail of a cattleya. Where winters are mild, plant in fall. Elsewhere plant bulbs as soon as soil is workable in spring, about one inch deep. Pale green, ribbed leaves are 12 inches tall; flower stems reach to 18 inches high. The 1- to 2-inch lavender or white ('Alba') flowers appear--sometimes a dozen to a stem--in late spring or summer for six weeks or more.

Fancy-Leafed Caladium (Caladium bicolor)

Gardens in Houston, Mobile, New Orleans and Tampa wouldn't look the same in summer without the color and texture provided by caladiums. All they need is warmth and shade. The plants grow 18 to 36 inches high. Plant corms about 1 inch deep and 8 inches apart in pots in March or May in the garden. Leaves variegated with white are most common, but there are also varieties with red, pink, silver and bronze coloring. Look for 'Freida Hemple' (red), 'Torchy' (red), 'Carolyn Wharton' (pink), 'Fannie Munson' (pink) and 'White Queen'.

Canna (Canna generalis)

There are few bulbs you can plant that, within a season, add an unmistakable feel of the tropics. Colors are hot yellow, orange, apricot, coral and red typically, though you can get white and ivory. Bloom begins in early summer and continues until frost. Leaves add to the picture, too. They're large and dark green or sometimes bronze-red. Heights vary between 18 inches and 6 feet. Plant rhizomes 2 inches deep, 10 inches apart, after danger of frost, in an area that receives full sun. Try clumps of single colors. Look for self-cleaning varieties such as the Freedom series. The old flower petals drop off rather than hang on the plant.

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