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After spring’s flowers fade away, summer bulbs put on an impressive show.
One of my personal favorites, tuberous begonias are showy, and easy to grow, and a wonderful way to brighten up a shady area. These tubers do very well in containers and hanging baskets.
Dahlias are easy to grow plants that bloom during the heat of summer. Available in a wide range of flower colors, sizes, shapes and heights, dahlias bloom from late summer until first frost. The tallest varieties may require staking.
The 3-foot spikes of the red gladiolus make a strong statement in a cottage garden or a versatile addition to cut arrangements. For a steady supply of cut flowers, plant corms every two weeks from spring to early summer. Some varieties are hardy in this area and some are not.
Adding a tropical mood wherever they are planted, cannas are characterized by lush foliage topped by bold flowers. The flowers are magnets for hummingbirds.
The fluted flowers of lilies have been a garden mainstay for years. Many varieties are fragrant, and many are hardy in this area. Asiatic lilies and Oriental lilies are two popular choices.
Grown for their large, colorful leaves, caladiums add a bit of the tropics to shady areas. Caladiums are available with leaves that appear splashed with greens, whites, pinks and reds.
The flowers are small but the fragrance is lovely. Lily of the valley is hardy in this area and will easily naturalize in partially shaded areas. These plants can become invasive, spreading slowly through underground rhizomes, and are difficult to remove completely, so choose your location carefully. Be aware that all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested, so take care around pets and children.
With such a large variety available, there’s an iris for every gardener. The tall, bearded iris and the delicate Siberian iris are two traditional favorites. Iris is hardy in this area and should be divided every few years. It’s very easy to build up a collection to naturalize large areas.
The elephant ear’s giant leaves make them a special favorite of children. Store the tubers at the end of the season, or bring container-grown plants indoors for the winter and treat them as houseplants.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Mention bulbs to a gardener and most of us think of the beautiful tulips and daffodils coming into bloom this time of year. But there are also bulbs for summer that bloom after spring’s flowers have faded away.
Lilies, irises, dahlias, cannas and caladiums are easy to grow plants that bloom during the heat of summer. They provide showy and reliable blooming in flower pots, window boxes and garden plots, growing quickly and producing long-lasting flowers or dramatic foliage from early summer until the first frost.
Grouped together, grown as specimens or naturalized in large areas, summer bulbs work in gardens of all types and make terrific cut flowers. Wherever they are planted, summer bulbs put on an impressive show.
This year, take a look at this other group of bulbs for inclusion in your own garden.
How to grow
The category of plants known as summer bulbs includes bulbs, corms, rhizomes, tubers and tuberous roots that bloom in the summer. Some are hardy and can be left in the ground over winter while others are tender and need to be lifted and stored for the cold months.
Spring is the right time to plant summer bulbs. For tender bulbs, wait until the soil warms up to at least 50 degrees before putting them in the ground. Most will need a sunny spot, although caladiums and calla lilies are exceptions to this rule. Bulbs will also need good drainage to ensure they don’t rot, making them an excellent choice for containers.
Bulbs are planted the same way regardless of the season they bloom. Check the package for the proper planting depth, but in general, a planting hole should be dug about three times as wide and deep as the bulb’s diameter.
Amend the soil with compost or manure to get the bulbs off to a good start and position the bulb pointed end up and root end down. If you’re unsure about which is the pointed end, position the bulb sideways.
Feed your bulbs when plants start to grow and again after flowering to help the bulbs store up energy. Keep the spent blooms deadheaded but don’t cut off the foliage. The foliage must be allowed to grow for the bulb to store energy for next year’s blooms.
Some people treat nonhardy summer bulbs, such as caladiums, tuberous begonias and cannas, as annuals. Once the first frost hits and the foliage dies, the bulb is relegated to the compost pile.
If you choose to keep your bulbs year to year, tender ones will need to be lifted and stored for the colder months.
After the leaves have died back, cut the foliage, dig up the bulbs, and spread them on newspaper in a shady spot to dry for about a week. Store the bulbs between layers of vermiculite, sand or peat moss in a dry, cool location 35 to 50 degrees. Make sure they don’t freeze and throw away any that begin to rot.
Join the gardening conversation on my blog at http://blogs.roanoke.com/downtoearth/ for more information about growing summer-blooming bulbs.
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