When people think of flowering bulbs, they usually think of springtime favorites like daffodils and tulips. However, there are a host of bulbs that flower later on in the summer too, and many gardeners enjoy planting these so that they can take over when the springtime blooms are finished.
Most summer flowering bulbs are relatively easy to care for in comparison to some of their more finicky spring cousins. Let’s look at how to choose, plant, and care for summer flowering bulbs.
Time Line for Care of Summer Flowering Bulbs
Before planting, check your bulbs to be sure they’re viable. Whether you purchased them from a store, a greenhouse, or are transplanting them from your own garden, there’s little point in planting weak or dead bulbs. Healthy bulbs will be firm and relatively heavy. Lightweight, crunchy or squishy bulbs are weak or even dead.
Planting Summer Bulbs
Summer bulbs are best planted in the spring after the soil has warmed. The timing will depend on your plant hardiness zone. The soil and air don’t need to be hot, but they do need to be well beyond freezing. Each variety has a different depth requirement and the “pointy end” (stem) should be up for fastest sprouting. Add 50/50 mixture of soil and aged manure or compost around the bulb to give it a little nutritional boost as it spreads roots.
Watering Summer Bulbs
Regularly water the bulbs as you would any other flowering plant, but be sure not to over-do it. Once the leaves are thick and robust, you can likely water your bulbs about three times a week in most climates.
Over-Wintering Summer Bulbs
Most summer bulbs will not over-winter. They will have to be dug up and kept safe in a controlled climate (refrigerator or cool room). This means you’ll need to dig up the bulbs once the frost has set in for the winter. Wait until the first deep frost has killed the plant above ground, but don’t wait until the ground has frozen for the winter. Dig up the bulbs by digging out from the edges of the plant by about two inches and going inwards in a V-shape, taking care to avoid hitting the bulb itself.
Carefully remove it with the dirt (don’t pull by the stem) and then clean the dirt off by brushing with your fingers or a light hand broom. Do NOT grip by the stem and shake, clean with water, or otherwise disturb the bulb. It can be stored dirty without a problem.
In the spring, replant and let it grow again!
Summer Flowering Bulb Varieties
Popular summer-flowering bulbs include:
Plant these shallowly so they are just covered in dirt. They are susceptible to rot, so keeping them high in the soil and watering only enough to moisten the soil is important. Stakes are also often needed because of their relatively shallow roots and top-heavy blooms.
These are very easy to grow and come in a rainbow of colors. These can be started from seeds (in most varieties), but bulbs are easier and can be transplanted.
Usually grown as cut flowers, these need full sun to thrive. Planting them in intervals of about a week apart keeps blooms going through most of the summer and early fall. These often need to be staked, especially the large-flower varieties most popular amongst porch-side growers.
These need full sun and should be dug up before the first frost as they are delicate.
These are grown for leaves rather than flowers, as their foliage is colored and beautiful.
One of the most popular of the garden “filler” plants, these beauties are often underrated. By using different varieties and staggering the planting, you can have a whole season of blooms from these.
Want to learn more about summer flowering bulbs?
Check out these helpful websites:
NC State University – Summer Flowering Bulbs
University of Illinois – Bulbs Planting and Care
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