When we think about flowers from bulbs, we often think about spring flowers but there are plenty of varieties that will grow in the summer, too. We’re here to talk about when to plant summer bulbs and how to best plan your colorful garden.
When to plant summer bulbs: Summer bulbs like warm temperatures so you should plant them in mid to late spring. Wait until a few weeks after the last frost date in your region. Summer bulbs grow fast so they will still produce flowers in that summer and may even continue to bloom into the fall. Dig your summer bulbs up in the fall as they will rot if left over in winter, and then you can plant them again the following spring.
Planting Summer Bulbs in Different Climates
The problem with a tropical climate is it may be too damp for summer bulbs. They do not like their bulbs getting wet.
If you live in a tropical climate and want to grow summer bulbs, it is best to plant them in a container or a raised bed so you can better control the moisture content in the soil.
Growing summer bulbs in a dry climate are possible, but again, it’s best to plant in containers instead of the ground. These flowers need water on a regular basis although the soil can dry out between water sessions.
A temperate climate is perfect for summer bulbs. You can plant them a bit earlier as spring is milder and they will have a long opportunity to bloom in the summer. Just be careful if the spring is too wet as this can rot the bulbs.
Another climate that does well with summer bulbs is a continental area. You will need to be patient, however, as the planting season won’t happen until at least late May.
Unfortunately, a polar climate won’t be able to support summer bulbs. The soil won’t get warm enough for these plants and instead the bulbs will most likely rot.
What are summer bulbs?
The name can be a bit misleading, so we’ll pause and explain what summer bulbs actually are. First, as their name implies, these flowers bloom in the spring. This can start as early as June and go into September, depending on the variety.
Unlike spring bulbs, which are cool weather plants, summer bulbs don’t usually like cold winters. This means you will most likely have to dig them up and store them over winter before planting them again.
Finally, summer bulbs are indeed a perennial. Even though they take extra work, if you care for them properly, the same bulbs will continue to bloom every year.
Choosing Summer Bulbs
Perhaps the pinnacle of summer bulbs, dahlias come in all colors and sizes. You can have large, plate-sized blooms or small, tight spirals.
This is a nice choice because they can grow in the sun and partial shade. They bloom from late summer to early fall and there are many color choices available.
There are many varieties of lilies you can choose from, including canna lilies and calla lilies. Depending on the variety, they prefer either full sun or partial shade.
Growing up to 5 feet tall, these summer bulbs are a perfect way to add depth to your garden. They attract hummingbirds and come in vividly bright colors.
Even though these are common houseplants, you can still plant them in your garden. The vibrant green or purple color will spread out and makes for a showy border.
How to Plant Summer Bulbs
It’s very important to be patient when planting your summer bulbs. They do not like cold temperatures so you need both the air and the soil to be warmer.
While spring bulbs need to be planted in the fall, summer bulbs won’t tolerate winter conditions, so they need to be planted in the spring. However, you definitely need to wait until after the last frost date. Waiting a few more weeks is recommended if you live in a place with cooler springs.
Where you live will be the biggest factor in when you plant your summer bulbs. Southern areas can plant in mid-March, central parts of the United State can plant in April to early May, and northern parts of the United States and parts of Canada should wait until mid or even late May.
You may be worried about planting flowers so late in the season but summer bulbs usually don’t start blooming until the end of summer. Furthermore, they will grow quickly if the temperatures are warm enough.
If you live in a cooler climate and are worried about a short growing season, there are some varieties of summer bulbs that can be started in containers. You can plant them about four to six weeks before you would normally plant them outside, and transfer them when the temperatures warm up.
Even though you should take care with most plants, summer bulbs especially won’t tolerate pooling water in their soil. Remember that they don’t like winter soil conditions.
Make sure the soil is not compacted and can drain well. Dig the area up and add plenty of compost and even some sand if you need a better texture.
For the most part, summer bulbs love the sun. The more sun they get, the bigger and brighter their blooms will be.
There are plenty of summer bulbs, however, that is fine with partial shade. Be sure to read the growing instructions when you first plant your bulbs.
Most summer bulbs will do well in containers. This is also a good option as you will need to remove the bulbs in the fall, anyway.
Containers also provide more warmth to the bulbs and will help them start growing quicker. Just make sure the containers are large enough and deep enough.
When digging your holes for your summer bulbs, go deep. Aim to dig the hole about three times the length of the bulb.
The depth is important as it will allow the bulbs to branch out and give them enough space for their roots.
Place the bulbs so the tips are facing up. Cover with soil and tamp it down to keep everything secure.
How to Water Summer Bulbs
Watering your summer bulbs is important but you should manage the water to avoid soggy soil. After planting, give the area a good watering to activate the bulbs and to get them growing.
Then, water regularly. However, try to let the soil dry out between waterings.
How to Grow Summer Bulbs
Weeding is important when caring for your summer bulbs. Too many weeds will take in all the nutrients meant for your flowers.
After your summer bulbs start to grow into plants, you can add a layer of mulch to help with weed suppression.
Before you decide if you need to fertilize your summer bulbs, think about how you will grow them. Do you want to keep the bulbs for the next growing season or will you be done with them after just one year?
If you are done with the bulbs after a year, you are essentially growing annually, and you won’t have to worry about fertilizer. However, if you want to continually grow your bulbs, you will need to add fertilizer.
Use a slow-release fertilizer on your plants about once a month. This will not only keep your plants healthy in that year, but it will allow the bulbs to store more nutrients for the following year.
Those that want to keep their summer bulbs for the following year will most likely have to dig them up. Unless you live in an area with very warm winters, the cold will damage your bulbs.
Let your summer flowers grow and wait for the foliage to die down. This foliage will still take in nutrients for the bulbs, so you don’t want to cut them back too early.
However, you do want to remove the bulbs from the ground before the first frost. Even an early frost can kill the bulbs.
Remove the plant from the ground and cut off any foliage. Store them in a cool, dry place, such as a garage or basement.
Just make sure that the temperature in your storage area does not reach below freezing as even in a dormant state this can kill the bulbs.
After the bulbs are dried, which takes about two weeks, you can store them in a box full of sawdust, peat moss, or shredded paper.
How long do summer bulbs take to grow?
Summer bulbs grow fast. Planting them in late spring will still see them flower by that same summer.
Summer bulbs take a bit of extra work but their brilliant blooms are worth it. Plant your summer bulbs in the spring but be sure to wait until there is no threat of cold temperatures and your soil is nice and warm.