In addition to their charm and beauty, the large and diverse group of plants known as bulbs have a lot going for them: they come in neat little packages, are just about 100 percent guaranteed to bloom the first year they are planted, and are surprisingly pest- and disease-free. The biggest challenge for home gardeners seems to be in remembering to plant them in fall so they’ll bloom the following spring—or in the case of summer-flowering bulbs, remembering to plant them in early spring. Some of the best known and loved spring-flowering bulbs include anemone, crocus, freesia, frittilaria, grape hyacinth, hyacinth, iris, lily, lily of the valley, narcissus (which include daffodils), ornamental onion (Allium) ranunculus, and tulips.
In any gardener’s inventory of beauty, the group of plants known collectively as “summer-flowering bulbs” may be the least known and most underused of them all. Every gardener has at least a passing awareness of spring-flowering bulbs, but ask even an accomplished gardener to list more than three summer-flowering bulbs, and you’ll probably hear a lot of stammering and stuttering. Too bad.
Composed mainly of exotic species from foreign lands, summer-flowering bulbs can lend impressive amounts of color and beauty to the summer and late-summer landscape, for very little effort or expense. And, if you choose them right, many have the added benefit of becoming permanent residents in your garden—not only returning every summer, but actually multiplying in the process (in regions with cold winters, most gardeners dig the bulbs in fall and store them over the winter in a cool, well-ventilated location).
Summer-flowering bulbs require the same basic planting and care as given for spring-flowering bulbs, only they are planted in spring instead of fall. Summer-flowering bulb favorites include achimenes, begonia, caladium, calla lily, canna, dahlia, gladiolus, lily, and lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus).
Planting and enjoying the beauty of bulbs is one of the most straightforward propositions in all of gardendom. Following the tips below should practically guarantee success, even if you’re a first-time bulb planter.
National Gardening Association Editors