Consider planting summer blooming bulbs for variety


By Kenneth Elkin | Lycoming County Master Gardener

As the gardening season is beginning, consider adding some summer-blooming bulbs to the plan. The spring-blooming bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus are very familiar, but the ones that are planted in the spring for summer blooming are perhaps less well-known.

Many of them are not winter-hardy in our area, so they need to be dug at the time of the fall frost and stored indoors. The gardener who takes time for this additional step is richly rewarded by outstanding flowers each summer.

The range within this group is amazing: from 12 inches to 20 feet high, with blooms from 1/2 inch to 17 inches across, in every color on the palette.


Perhaps the widest range in size and color belongs to the dahlia family. They grow from a tuber about the size of a small sweet potato, and typically blooms from mid-summer to frost.

There are 15 different flower-shapes from which to choose such as pompom, cactus-flowered, dinner-plate.

In a sunny location, some short varieties can be at the front of a flower bed, and larger ones command the back row. Enriching the soil with compost, and giving consistent water during the dry times in the summer will be of great help.


Tuberous begonias are standouts for partially shaded locations. In contrast to the widely used fiberous begonias, the tuberous ones grow from a 3 inch, saucer-shaped tuber.

There are both upright types and hanging basket types, in many bright colors. Also for shade are the caladiums, grown for their colorful foliage mottled in white, pink, and green.


For a corner where the view needs to be blocked, the giant elephant ear caladium may be just the thing. Its tuber is also huge, the size of a grapefruit.


For the open, sunny space, cannas may be a good choice. There are some mini varieties, and some stand a commanding 6 feet or more. Bright colors and unusual flower shapes are sure to garner attention.

The rhizomes are planted near the surface and send up multiple shoots as they grow.


Old-time favorites are the gladiolas, with their dramatic flower stalk bearing a dozen or more florets in many colors and combinations of colors. Plant small groups of them in various corners of the flower bed. For extended flowering, plant a small group every 10 days or so until late June.

There are still other tender summer-flowering bulbs to sample.

A few examples: Callas often are seen as potted plants from the florist, but their graceful white or colored trumpets can gladden a morning-sun area in the garden.

Several, such as the white-blooming tuberosas, provide a lovely scent in the garden.

The agapanthus has a two-foot flower stalk with the less-common blue flowers. The pineapple lily has a flower stalk with florets and seeds in a shape that suggests the plant’s name.


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