Plant bulbs reap colorful blossoms through September.
Alas, by mid-May, cheerful spring tulips, hyacinths and daffodils have faded. But don’t despair. Summer bulbs can add a new wave of color to your garden that will last all season.
Planted in late spring, summer species such as gladioli, dahlias and begonias come in an array of sizes and colors. Besides, they are easy to grow and make wonderful additions to containers and flower beds.
While these more tropical plants are not hardy enough to leave in the ground throughout the year, they can be dug up in the fall, stored during the winter and replanted the following spring. Alternatively, they can be replaced every year.
- Gladiolus is a top summer choice. Its six-inch blossoms appear approximately 100 days post-planting and come in white, pink, red and orange with a blooming period of about two weeks. When buds appear, their stems can be cut and placed in a flower arrangement. To extend gladiolus season, bulbs can be planted in two-week intervals.
It is best to plant gladiolus bulbs in an area with full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Staking may be necessary and digging and storing in a frost-free dry location during the winter is necessary.
- Dahlias are one of the most versatile bulbs for summer gardens. Dwarf types can measure two-inches in diameter while varieties called “dinner plates” can be as wide as a foot. Though dahlias have been known to grow as tall as 10 feet, most plants stand between three and four feet in height. Some of the dahlia’s most popular flowering varieties are daisies, cactuses, balls, pompoms and peonies.
Dahlias should be planted in an area with full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Stake taller varieties after planting them in the ground. Dahlias are sold in a clump. Their stems, where the eyes (tiny bumps from which sprouts grow) are located, will form new flowering stems.
Dahlia bulbs can be planted inside in a cool area around mid-April or placed directly into the soil in May. Place four inches of potting soil in the bottom of the container or planting hole and place dahlia bulbs on top of the soil. Add more soil until the bulb is covered.
As the stem grows, add more soil. At the end of the season, gently uproot dahlias; cut their stems to six inches; wash off any soil and allow bulbs to dry. Wrap the bulbs in newspaper for winter storage. Next April or May, divide the bulb with a piece of its stem and begin the process again.
- Begonias are another summertime favorite. In spectacular tropical hues such as red, orange, yellow, pink and white, the begonia’s blossoms can be single, double and ruffled. The plants’ leaves, which range in color from gold and purple to green and burgundy, are almost as pretty and colorful as its flowers. Begonias are a perfect accent for shaded spots and well-suited for containers, window boxes and hanging baskets.
Start growing your begonia bulbs indoors in late April or early May. When nighttime temperatures consistently reach the 50s, it’s time to transplant them into the garden. Begonias thrive in moist soil, filtered light to light shade and grow as high as 1½ feet.
Plant begonia bulbs just beneath the soil surface. A slow release fertilizer should be added after planting and once a month thereafter. Stop fertilizing in September.
To use begonia bulbs again next summer, uproot them when their top growth starts to yellow; wash them off; dry them, wrap them in newspaper and store them in a cool place until next spring.
Rebecca Brown began her career as a horticulturalist more than 25 years ago and studied at the New York Botanical Gardens. She has been a University of Maryland, Baltimore County master gardener for five years and is a backyard beekeeper.
Norman Cohen is a retired chemist. He has been gardening for 38 years and has been a University of Maryland, Baltimore County master gardener for 10 years. Cohen also provides gardening education to the public at local farmers markets.