5 Summer Blooming Bulbs To Plant This Spring

Dated: April 19 2021

Views: 306

These fast-growing bulbs will brighten your garden this summer

By Marianne Lipanovich - Houzz

Fall gets all the glory as the time to plant bulbs, but some favorite summer-blooming bulbs prefer to be planted in spring (especially for gardeners in cold-winter climates). Here are five easy-to-grow bulbs, from familiar favorites like calla lilies and gladiolus to sturdy natives such as blazing star to plants like canna that add a lush, tropical look to your summer garden. 

Get the basics on these bulbs and how to grow them. As spring draws closer, look for bulbs at your nursery or garden centers.

1. Calla Lily

(Zantedeschia spp)

The sculptural “flowers” (which are actually bracts that hold a flower spike) of this South African native are equally at home in the garden or a flower arrangement. The common calla lily (Z. aethiopica) is the familiar white flower, which does well in the slightly colder temperatures of USDA Zone 8 (find your zone). Choose a spot for your calla lily that will receive light shade, though it can handle full sun where summers are cool. Common calla lily is evergreen or semi-evergreen, so they cannot be dug up and stored.

Plant rhizomes horizontally in well-amended, rich soil in early spring, setting them 4 inches deep and about a foot apart with the roots facing downward and the eye (growing tip) facing upward. After planting, feed them with a lower-nitrogen fertilizer following recommended directions to promote bloom. Keep the soil moist throughout the growing season.

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Calla lilies in shades of cream, off-white, orange, pink, lavender and purple are usually hybrids or more delicate species, growing in Zone 9 and above. Plant them in a spot that receives full sun, or light shade in the hottest summer areas, with well-draining, slightly acidic soil. 

Plant the rhizomes horizontally about 2 inches deep and between 8 and 12 inches apart. Feed with a lower-nitrogen fertilizer following recommended directions after planting to promote bloom. Provide regular water. Dig and store bulbs in colder climates once the leaves die back. 

Origin: South Africa

Bloom season: Spring to summer

Where it will grow: Between 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 12 to minus 16 degrees Celsius, depending on species (USDA Zone 8 and above; find your zone); grow as an annual elsewhere

Mature size: 1½ to 4 feet tall

Water requirement: Regular to ample moisture, depending on species

Light requirement: Full sun to filtered partial shade, depending on species and climate

Bulb type: Rhizomes

When to plant: February to June, after the danger of frost has passed


Brooklyn Botanic Garden

2. Canna

(Canna spp.)Image title


Grow cannas for their tropical foliage and stunning flowers. They feature leaves in a range of colors, from green to red, with newer varieties in bronze to almost black. The flowers are equally stunning in shades of white, yellow, orange, bronze, pink, red and bicolor. Most canna lilies will reach 3 to 6 feet tall, but dwarf varieties will top out at around 2 to 2½ feet.

Plant cannas in full sun with rich, well-draining soil that is out of strong winds. Set rhizomes horizontally about 2 to 4 inches deep and 1½ to 2 feet apart. Add a slow-release fertilizer at planting time and plan to feed again in midsummer. Provide regular water (C. glauca prefers wet soil). 

Cut back stems after blooming to encourage more flowers. Divide clumps every three to four years in spring. In colder climates, dig and store canna bulbs or grow as an annual.

Origin: American tropics and subtropics

Bloom season: Summer to fall

Where it will grow: Hardy to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 17.8 degrees Celsius (Zone 7 and above)

Mature size: 3 to 6 feet tall; some dwarf varieties reach 2 to 2½ feet tall 

Water requirement: Regular to ample water while growing and blooming 

Light requirement: Full sun

Bulb type: Rhizome

When to plant: In spring after the danger of frost is past and the daytime temperature is at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 degrees Celsius; in cold-winter climates, start indoors six weeks before the last frost

3. Dahlia

(Dahlia spp.)Image title

There’s something for everyone when it comes to dahlias. They can grow from 1 foot to over 7 feet fall, and flower forms are even more diverse, ranging in size from 2 to 10 inches across and in shapes from balls to pompoms to spiky orchid-like or novelty forms. Colors also run the gamut, from white to orange to purple.

Planting dahlias takes some preparation. Choose a spot in full sun, except in the hottest climates. A few weeks before planting, dig to about 1 foot and amend the soil with organic matter, such as compost.

When it’s time to plant, dig a hole 1 foot deep and 1½ feet wide for taller dahlias (over 4 feet) and 9 to 12 inches wide for smaller ones. Add about ¼ cup of low-nitrogen granular fertilizer to the bottom of each hole, then add 4 inches of soil above that. Place the roots in the hole with the growth bud pointing up. Add stakes for taller varieties at this time. Cover with 3 inches of soil. Wait to water until the first green shoots emerge above the soil to avoid rotting.

As shoots appear, fill in the hole. Water regularly to about 1 foot deep. Apply a light layer of mulch around the edges of the planting hole (not against the plant itself) to conserve water and prevent weeds. Add extra mulch to protect plants in winter. In cold-winter climates, divide and store bulbs in late fall. 

Tip: The best time to cut dahlias is either first thing in the morning or in the evening. Immediately place the cut stems in 2 to 3 inches of hot water. Keep the stems in the water for several hours or overnight as the water cools, then add them to arrangements.

Origin: Mexico and Central America

Bloom season: Midsummer to the first frost in fall

Where it will grow: Hardy to 20 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 7 degrees Celsius (Zone 8 and above); elsewhere, dig and store or grow as an annual

Mature size: 1 foot to 4 feet wide and 1 foot to 7 or more feet tall, depending on variety

Water requirement: Regular

Light requirement: Full sun to light shade in hottest climates

Bulb type: Tuberous root

When to plant: Mid-April through May, once the soil has reached 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or 15.6 degrees Celsius

4. Blazing Star

Blazing star, also known as gayfeather, is native to the east and central U.S. and is a reliable, easy-to-grow bloomer that reaches from 2½ to 5 feet tall. Spikes of small flowers in shades of white, rose, red and purple appear in summer, attracting butterflies.

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Paintbox Garden

Plant blazing star in a location with reasonably fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Set plants about 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart in a random drift or clumping pattern. 

Water after planting if the weather is dry. Although they can handle drought, they prefer regular water in summer. In winter, when they’re dormant, they like drier soil. Divide every few years in spring if they become crowded.

Origin: The east and central U.S.

Bloom season: Early July to late September

Where it will grow: Hardy to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius (zones 3 to 9)

Mature size: 3 to 4 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Water requirement: Regular

Light requirement: Full sun

Bulb type: Tuberous root

When to plant: Early spring


5. Garden Gladiolus

(Gladiolus hybrids)

Gladiolus, or “glads,” have graced gardens for generations, thanks to their spikes of colorful tubular flowers that reach from 3 to 6 feet tall. Use them to anchor the back of a garden bed, where their blooms will attract hummingbirds, or cut the blooms to bring indoors. To get a full season of blooms, plant corms every two weeks until summer.

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Choose a spot in full sun with well-draining sandy loam soil. Set corms 4 to 6 inches deep (larger corms should be deeper) and 6 to 10 inches apart. 

Once the plants reach 6 inches tall, build the soil up around the base of the plant to provide support, and add a stake for added support.

At this time, feed with a full-strength balanced liquid fertilizer, applying it about 6 inches away from the base of the plant. Water regularly and add mulch. Feed again when you start to see color on the stalks. Deadhead spent flower stalks but leave foliage in place.

Origin: South Africa

Bloom season: Late spring and summer

Where it will grow: 0 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 17.8 degrees Celsius (Zone 7 and above); elsewhere, dig and store or grow as an annual

Mature size: 3 to 6 feet tall

Water requirement: Regular 

Light requirement: Full sun

Bulb type: Corm

When to plant: About two weeks before the last expected frost date: January through March in warm-winter climates; April through June in cold-winter climates and November to January in the warmest climates

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Denise Rhodes

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