When many of us think of planting bulbs, the usual suspects come to mind – tulips, daffodils, crocus and the rest of the spring flowering beauties that help usher in warmer temperatures and sunnier days. But, there are a number of other bulbs that, if planted now, add pops of vibrant color to the summer landscape as well, and will serve as a welcome pick-me-up later when perennials may be flagging. Following are six outstanding choices to get your summer garden growing.
Dinner Plate Dahlias
My favorite of the summer flowering bulbs are the striking and multi-petal dahlias. Available in various heights, colors, and sizes (even a so-called ‘Dinner Plate Dahlia’), dahlias are easy to grow and bloom consistently from summer right through into the fall. They are an excellent addition to the flowerbed, and an absolute must for a cutting garden, as they are dazzling in bouquets and arrangements. Bulbs, or tubers, can be planted as soon as the danger of frost has passed in a sunny and moist, but well-drained, location. Taller varieties should be staked to prevent wind, heavy rain, or even a hefty bloom from breaking the stem.
Native to South Africa and originally, and aptly, known as “sword lily,” gladiolus is another bulb that can be planted in spring for show-stopping drama later in the season. Instantly recognizable with its tall spiky stalks covered in blooms, gladioli come in a wide range of colors and add height (stems can reach 4 – 6 feet) to the back row of perennial beds. It has high impact when used as focal point, as well. Bulbs should be planted in full sun, and prefer well-drained, sandy loam soil. Don’t be afraid to cut them! Glads look spectacular when grouped in a vase, and are great mixed with other flowers in an arrangement.
Hardy Caladium (Elephant Ears)
Have a tough-to-fill shady spot in the garden? There’s a bulb for that! Not only are caladiums hardy and easy to grow, they are known for their elegant foliage that provides consistent visual interest while the flowers come and go in the rest of your landscape. Caladiums are available with streaky pinks, whites, or reds running through their billowy, heart-shaped leaves. Bulbs perform best when planted in well-drained soil, though some varieties will tolerate sun with a bit of extra watering. Plant after the danger of frost has passed, or start them indoors to get a jump on the growing season. And, try massing caladiums in pots for a different, but lovely, take on container planting.