Summer Bulbs

Brilliant color from tender bulbs


Summer bulbs and tubers include gladioli, tulips, iris, various lilies, caladiums, dahlias, and tuberous begonias. Unlike spring bulbs like daffodil, hyacinth, and tulip, summer bulbs tend to be either relatively small or large. Smaller bulbs often require some massing for effect. The larger bulbs or tubers, such as lilies and dahlias, frequently need to be staked because stems may be long and prone to drooping or breakage.

Summer flowering bulb-type plants are also often more tender than spring bulbs. Tuberous begonias and dahlias, for example, are both susceptible to freezing. Before it freezes in the fall, they need to be lifted, then stored over the winter in peat moss or sawdust. A dry basement or garage is usually fine in all but the coldest climates.

When planting summer blooming bulbs for the first time, order them in the fall for spring delivery, or purchase in the early spring when nurseries start acquiring their summer stock. Buy bulbs when you are ready to plant. Different bulbs are well suited to borders, backgrounds, containers, and hanging baskets.

The following table shows some of our favorite summer bulbs:

Plant name Type Cultivation
Tuberous begonia
  • Tuber
  • From tuber or seed.
  • Different types with various foliage and blossoms
  • Wonderful color
  • Excellent for porch containers and hanging baskets
  • In midspring, sprout indoors in perlite mix at 68 – 75 degrees.
  • Once sprouted, keep in sunny location and evenly moist but not wet.
  • Plant outdoors in garden or containers in shady location after danger of frost is past.
  • Morning sun is ideal.
  • Prefer rich organic loam.
  • Stake larger varieties.
  • Water soil, not leaves or flowers.
  • Disease can be avoided by good spacing, deadheading, and air movement.
  • In fall, remove tubers, dry, then store clean tubers in sawdust at about 40 – 50 degrees.
Lily, Canna
  • Rhizome
  • Tropical leaved, spectacular large plant.
  • Tall; 3–8 ft.
  • Spectacular, showy green or bronze foliage sometimes with stripes
  • Bright yellow, orange, red, pink, and cream flowers
  • Start rhizomes indoors; transplant in late May or early June.
  • Plant in full sun, well drained soil.
  • Compost and mulch well to maintain even moisture.
  • Space young plants 1 1/2 – 2 ft. apart.
  • Heavy feeders: use 5-10-5 after planting and water thoroughly. Fertilize monthly. Water well.
  • Stake if necessary.
  • Deadhead blooms to prompt more.
  • After first frost has killed foliage, dig rhizomes. Dry for a couple days, then store at 45 – 50 degrees indoors. Don't allow to freeze.
  • If in zone 7 or 8, mulch deeply to overwinter in place.
  • Bulb with scales
  • Many varieties including oriental and asiatic
  • Tall; from 3 to 8 ft.
  • Many colors and shapes including maroon, pink, orange, yellow and bicolors.
  • Plant in well drained soil in a sunny location 6 – 8 inches apart.
  • Lilies can be planted any time of year that the soil isn't frozen, though the display may suffer the first year.
  • Keep evenly moist
  • Mulch well
  • Lilies can be left to over winter in the garden in most locations.
  • Taller varieties benefit from staking.
  • Susceptible to aphids and thrips
  • Tuber/rhizome
  • Medium plants grown for heart-leafed foliage.
  • Spectacular, showy foliage
  • Foliage is red, pink, green, whites, and mixed; plant in semi-shade to shade to ensure brightest display of color
  • Plant rhizome indoors in midspring in medium pot. Plant knob side up, 2" deep. Bottom heat is needed to prompt sprouting (75–80 degrees)
  • Transplant to garden or container in May (or after all danger of frost is past)
  • Prefers rich soil in a shady location out of the wind
  • Keep evenly moist but not wet
  • Lightly fertilize with a balanced plant food once a month.
  • Lift tubers and store over the winter in sawdust at 65 –70 degrees (pantry?). No colder!
  • Bug resistant
  • Tuber
  • Medium to tall plants with various sized blooms. Some blossoms are small, others are the size of dinner plates.
  • Spectacular, showy plants.
  • All colors but blue available. Brilliant color, often bicolored.
  • Wonderful cut flowers


  • Plant in May (or after all danger of frost is past) in sunny, well-drained location
  • Feed lightly
  • Mulch well to retain moisture.
  • Water well when hot and dry.
  • Stake
  • Bloom time: July – October
  • Lift tubers and store over the winter in sawdust at 60 degrees (cool garage or basement).
  • Susceptible to aphids, spider mites, etc.
  • Corm
  • Sword-like foliage with single flower stalk of up to 5 ft. tall.
  • Outstanding background plants.
  • Many colors
  • Stagger planting beginning in May over a month to achieve longer bloom period
  • Planting depth is 4 – 6 inches, 6 – 8 inches apart.
  • Mass and stake for effect, if needed but make sure they have good air circulation.
  • Plant in full sun.
  • Mulch well to keep soil moist.
  • Fertilize at planting and as flowers develop with a 5-10-10 fertilizer.
  • Bloom time: July – October
  • Leave several leaves to allow corm to store energy for next season.
  • In late fall, lift and clean corms. Dry, then store in permeable bags in the fruit drawer of your fridge. Don't let them become damp or they will mold.
  • Rhizome
  • Many colors available depending on the variety
  • Long bloom time
  • Many dwarf types for borders and edging as well as backgrounds.
  • Great cut flowers
  • Plant most varieties in full sun, well-drained soil which is slightly acid and amended with organic matter
  • Dutch iris prefer partial shade with well-drained soil
  • Easily over winter in the ground in most locations
  • Need to be divided every 5 years to promote continued bloom
Crocosmia (aka Montbretia)
  • Corm
  • Sword-like foliage with single flower spikes up to 5 ft. tall.
  • Outstanding background plant.
  • Orange, yellow, reds
  • Considered an invasive weed in some areas of the Southern U.S.
  • In spring, plant in sunny location in well-drained soil 4 – 6 inches apart, 5 inches deep.
  • Semi-hardy. In temperate climates, will winter over in the ground.
  • Where the ground freezes, bulbs should be lifted in the fall. Corms should be stored in sawdust or peat moss at about 40 degrees. Garage or cellar is usually suitable.
  • Susceptible to thrips and spider mites.

Setting out a bulb garden can take time. If you need extra help, a professional landscape service can provide seasonal support or regular maintenance. Find a qualified pro at ContactorNexus .

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