Summer Blooming Bulbs

Cannas, Callas, Dahlias, Glads and more beautify this group of summer bloomers.

By planting heat-loving, summer-blooming bulbs such as Canna, Calla Lily, Dahlia and Gladiolus, you can enjoy the exotic flowers and foliage of the tropics without leaving your own backyard. Most summer-blooming bulbs are tender bulbs, which means, in areas with sustained frost, they require lifting from the ground and storage indoors for the winter.

Planting Summer Flowering Bulbs

  • Prepare your soil.  Good soil preparation is the first step to successful bulb gardening. Make sure the soil is loose and porous. Well-drained soil is a must or bulbs will rot. Turn the soil over and work organic matter such as peat moss or compost through to allow good root formation. Sweet Peet is an excellent soil conditioner.
  • Space your bulbs. Spacing depends largely on the effect you are trying to achieve. An effective planting technique is to plant bulbs in groups or clusters rather than in individual lines. Space bulbs according to color with the softer colors in the front and the more vibrant colors in the background. Also, consider how much growth is expected for larger species and give them plenty of room to avoid the task of dividing as they mature.
  • Dig your holes. The planting depth for bulbs depends on their size. A good rule of thumb is that the depth should be three times the diameter of the bulbs. Cover small bulbs with 1 to 2 inches of soil; plant large bulbs 6 to 8 inches deep.
  • Work in bulb food.  Work bulb food, bone meal or rock phosphate into the planting area or hole to encourage blooms and root development. Use well-rotted compost that has been incorporated into the soil rather than directly touching the bulbs when planting.
  • Plant your bulbs. Plant bulbs firmly in the soil, pointed end up, to avoid damaging fleshy roots, if present. Cover bulbs with soil. Water well. If the weather is dry, water the bulbs during the growing period.
  • Mulch. Mulch with shredded bark.

Winter Storage of Tender Bulbs

Tender bulbs are perennials in warm winter areas, but will not survive winters in the North. You can overwinter tender bulbs and enjoy them next year, if proper storage conditions are available and provided. To store summer-flowering bulbs, dig the bulbs when the foliage has withered or turned brown after a medium or hard frost. Dry the bulbs for two to three days in an airy, shady place before storing or they will rot. Brush soil from the bulbs and cut off the foliage 1 to 2 inches above the tops of the bulbs. Store bulbs in a dry, cool (50-55º F), well-ventilated area to prevent mold or mildew. Do not store in an air-tight container.

Place bulbs in dry peat moss or wood shavings in a brown paper bag, open crate, netted bag or even old pantyhose. Label the bulbs as you store them. Once in storage, you may not be able to differentiate between bulbs, so clearly label them for next season’s planting ease.

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10 Tips for Top Bulbs

  1. Plant bulbs in borders or beds with good drainage.
  2. Feed your bulbs with good bulb food.
  3. Label the bulbs as you plant them.
  4. Clip flowers, not foliage.  Cut as little foliage as possible when clipping flowers from your plants.
  5. Allow foliage to die back naturally.  Do not trim back healthy green foliage or the bulb will not perform well the next year.
  6. Deadhead spent blooms.
  7. Lift summer-blooming tender bulbs before winter.
  8. Dry bulbs indoors.  Never dry bulbs in the sun; always choose a shaded, well-ventilated area.
  9. Label the bulbs as you store them.
  10. Store bulbs in a dry, well-ventilated area.  To prevent mold or mildew, your bulbs need to be stored dry.  Do not store them in an air-tight container.