Spring, that highly anticipated time of year, has finally come. While we shake off the remnants of winter, we now get to look forward to dusting off the gardening gear, amending our garden soil, and planting our flower beds—and a good place to start is with bulbs.
It’s possible that you’ve already been delighted with glimpses of daffodils, crocus, or tulips pushing up through the melted snow. However, other bulbs—such as lilies, dahlias, and caladiums—are meant to bloom later in the growing season during the full heat of summer, which means they need to be planted early to mid-spring.
Follow this simple guide to learn everything you need to know about planting summer-blooming bulbs this spring.
Types of Summer-Blooming Bulbs
If you’ve never planted summer-blooming bulbs before, you’re probably wondering what exactly they are. To make it as easy for you as possible we’ve outlined a list of our favorite bulbs to plant in spring.
Agapanthus is a unique plant with small star-shaped flowers often in colors of either indigo or white. The foliage remains short around the base of the long flower stalks, and the flowers themselves tend to grow in a globe-shaped cluster.
Begonias are a classic summer-blooming plant with a genus involving over 1000 varieties. These varieties can include flower colors in yellow, orange, red, pink, and white, while the foliage can vary from dark burgundy to dark green. Begonias tend to prefer to be planted in shaded areas.
Caladiums are a showy plant that produces large, papery leaves in all sorts of unique colors and patterns. Similar to the begonia, caladiums also prefer to be planted in shaded areas.
Calla Lilies produce elegant flute-shaped flowers that come in colors such as pink, white, purple, yellow, and even a deep, nearly black color. The foliage is light green, and the leaves are long and spear-shaped. These bulbs also prefer to be planted in shaded areas.
Canna Lilies are showy and tropical in appearance and truthfully don’t look much like a lily at all. Their flowers sit in a cluster atop tall stems and often come in bright colors like red, yellow, or orange. The foliage is also quite striking and, depending on the variety, can be dark burgundy in color or variegated.
Dahlias are gorgeous flowers with delicate, tightly bunched petals that come in an array of colors, sizes, and shapes. Whether you are looking for something large and showy or petite and modest, there will certainly be a dahlia variety to meet your needs!
Elephant Ears are a fun plant that accurately lives up to its name. Also known as colocasia, this plant can grow 3-5 feet tall with leaves that can span over a foot in width. Elephant ears are an excellent choice for adding a leafy dramatic flair to your garden but should be planted in partial shade.
Gladiolus grow lengthy stalks and produce clusters of star-shaped tubulous flowers. This plant can come in any color you can imagine, from bright and vibrant to pale pastels, and loves full sun.
When to Plant Summer-Blooming Bulbs
It’s safe to plant summer-blooming bulbs once temperatures have risen high enough that there is no longer any risk of frost. We recommend planting your bulbs in the ground usually around the second week in May.
If your plan is to plant tropical bulbs, such as elephant ears or caladiums, you can always start by planting them in a container first and monitoring them indoors. We suggest doing this in either late March or early April, as this will allow the bulbs to get a head start on growing. Once outdoor temperatures are more acceptable, you can transplant them into your garden.
Of course, don’t forget that different bulbs require different care. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and research the care requirements of any bulbs you intend to plant.
Check Your Soil
Before you can even think about planting, you’ll first want to check your soil. Chances are you’ll need to amend it with additives to replenish the nutrients that were used up during the previous growing season.
Amending your soil is a simple and necessary step to maintaining and getting the most out of your garden. Add any kind of nutrient-rich organic matter, such as compost or manure, to your soil and you’ll soon see the benefits. Plants grown in proper soil are often far more lush, healthy, and abundantly produce flower blooms—which is exactly what you want to see in the summer.
Overwintering Your Bulbs
It’s important to note that summer-blooming bulbs must be dug up in the fall as they will be unable to survive the cold temperatures of our Illinois winters. Before storing them, be sure to dry the bulbs to prevent disease or infection. Some bulbs may only take 1-3 days to dry, but others such as callas or gladiolus can take up to 3 weeks to dry sufficiently.
It’s best to store your bulbs in a breathable medium such as peat moss, coconut coir, or vermiculite at a temperature of 40-50 degrees. Make sure your bulbs don’t touch each other in the event that rotting occurs. We also strongly recommend that you label your bulbs, so you know exactly what you’re planting the following season.
You are now armed with the knowledge you need to successfully plant and grow summer-blooming bulbs this spring. However, if you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call at (309) 762-6226; we’d be happy to discuss things further with you.