Lets play a little name association game. What would
be your first response if I said "bulbs?" Id wager most people would
answer "tulips" or "daffodils." Of course these favorites brighten the
landscape after a long winter and frankly, it wouldnt be spring without them.
However if you only think about bulbs (or corms, tubers and rhizomes) during the spring
season youll be missing out on some great summer and fall color.
Delightful dahlias were first grown and hybridized by the Aztecs. Ancient Mexicans used
the decorative blooms as food. Today, dahlias are the darlings of the late summer garden,
blooming from July until the first frosts of autumn. Dahlias offer diverse petal forms and
a variety of colors ranging from white and yellow to pink, red and purple. There are also
numerous choices when it comes to size, starting with the minis that grow to about 24
inches, to the giants reaching heights of over eight feet. Taller varieties will require
Plant dahlia tubers about two weeks before your last spring frost. They like
well-drained fertile soil mixed with plenty of manure or compost. Six weeks after planting
apply fertilizer with a high nitrogen and potassium content to insure strong stems and
good flower color. Enjoy the parade of blooms till frosts turn the foliage black. At that
time youll need to cut back stems, lift tubers from the soil and store them in a dry
area over the winter.
Youll also have to dig up canna rhizomes in the fall but they are well worth the
effort. Flower spikes of cream, pink, yellow, orange or red top handsome plants that grow
from three to eight feet. Start plants indoors in mid-March or plant directly in the
ground in May. Rhizomes should be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart.
Two hundred years ago the gladiolus did not feature the showy flowers weve come
to admire today. So when Linnaeus named the plant he focused on the foliage instead of the
bloom. As a result, the translation of the name means "little sword." In
contemporary gardens glads are the mainstay of the summer bulb border and one of the best
choices for bouquets. Plant the corms as soon as the ground warms up.
Each corm planted will produce one flower stalk. Stagger your plantings over a
two-month period for a continuous display. To keep the tall plants from keeling over,
stake when the plant is about 6 inches tall, then again just before blooms appear. As
everyone knows, glads make fabulous cut flowers. Be sure to leave a minimum of four leaves
when you harvest the blooming stalk. Glads will winter over in some parts of zone 7
through zone 10. Winter-hardy varieties are now available for other areas. Ask your
Growise Center for selection advice.
Easy care, long-lived lilies may be the loveliest of summer flowering plants. They are
prized for the grace and fragrance they add to virtually any garden setting. They make
excellent choices for the border, groupings, containers or woodland settings. Bulbs should
be set out in well-drained, slightly acid soil as soon as the ground can be worked to a
depth of 6 inches. Select a location that offers full sun or partial shade. Plant most
lilies two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall. Generally lilies will not reach
their full height until the second year. Once again, tall species will need to be staked.
Unlike many other summer flowering bulbs, the majority of lilies are considered perennials
in zones 4 through 9.
Last but certainly not least, you might want to consider growing the ornamental onions
known as alliums. With a palette including shades of white, yellow, pink, purple and blue,
you can add an artistic splash of color anywhere in the garden. Alliums look great with
herbs, mounding plants such as bee balm and todays popular grasses. They are easy to
grow and arent too fussy about soil conditions. Choose taller varieties for the
middle of the perennial border. For example, Allium Giganteum can soar up to five feet in
height. Now thats a summer bulb that truly stands above the crowd!