By Tina Jepson
Each morning brings a new color or variety of bulb from the community garden located next door to my home. Just today, I noticed that all the pale pink tulips finally popped up. Juxtaposed next to the yellow daffodils and white lily of the valley, these tulips sure do pop!
Contrary to that plush neighborhood plot, my yard looks barren. It seems as though, in the midst of the busy fall season, I forgot to plant bulbs. Does this mean I’m going to spend the whole summer without flowering bulbs? Thankfully, no.
While early spring blooms like daffodils and tulips are usually the result of bulbs planted during the previous fall, you can still enjoy summer and early fall blooms if you plant them now.
Here’s everything you need to know about how to grow bulbs for the summer.
When to Plant?
Walk into any nursery, home improvement store, and even your local grocer, and there’s a big chance you’ll see boxes upon boxes of summer and fall bulbs. These boxes are there for a reason: NOW (spring) is the time to plant them outdoors.
Here’s a rough estimate of the ideal planting months for summer bulbs:
- South: If you live in the very southern region of the United States, you’re free to plant your bulbs outdoors and in the ground any time from February through April.
- Middle: For the middle region, March through May works best.
- North: For the northern region should wait to plan until April through June.
As always, be sure to reference your region’s last frost date using this handy tool courtesy of The Farmer’s Almanac.
Another option you have is to plant your bulbs in pots indoors, which you can do anytime in the spring, as long as you keep the pot indoors until the threat of frost has passed.
Whatever you decide to do, always plant your bulbs soon after you purchase them. Otherwise, they’ll die.
What Species Should I Use?
There are a few reasons I plant summer-blooming bulbs. For starters, they are some of the boldest flower colors and make wonderful additions to cut flower gardens. Ultimately, these flowers are perfect for creating small floral bouquets, tabletop arrangements, and as gifts.
Also, they grow fast. You may find that some bulbs have already “sprouted” before they’re even planted.
Here are some of the most popular summer plant bulbs for sale.
- Ranunculus: With small tufts that look like miniature pom-poms, ranunculus flowers grow upright and strong in a wide variety of colors.
- Elephant ears: These bulbs produce large, veiny leaves and help fill empty garden beds.
- Anemones: Pretty and perky, anemones grow well in most soil conditions, and they’re the perfect flower if deer are an issue in your yard because they’re deer resistant.
- Gladiolus: The stem of the gladiolus grow upright and produce several beautiful flower blooms. These flower stems are quite tall and are great for elaborate floral arrangements.
Planting Bulbs 101
While each species of summer bulbs has slightly different instructions, there are some tried and true tips if you’re interested in learning how to plant bulbs outdoors.
The easiest way to plant bulbs is to follow these steps:
1. Read the directions on the back of your bag of bulbs to determine how deep to plant bulbs and the correct spacing. In most cases, it’s between 2-8 inches deep and around 3-6 inches apart. It’s very important to follow these suggestions or else your bulbs may grow crowded and without ample nutrients.
2. Break up the soil where you intend to plant the bulbs using a small hand rake or trowel.
3. Dig to the desired depth.
4. Grab a bulb and give it a once-over. Do you see all those roots? That part of the bulb needs to face down in the dirt.
5. Cover the bulb with dirt and water thoroughly. Keep in mind that summer blooming bulbs require more water than spring varieties. It doesn’t hurt to water your bulbs every day if it’s not raining.
If you’re wondering how to plant bulbs in pots, then you’ll be pleased to know that the process is almost identical to planting bulbs outdoors. Just keep in mind that you may need to provide your bulbs with extra organic fertilizer and more frequent watering as needed.
Summer blooming bulbs are some of the most beautiful flowers you’ll see. Plant your bulbs soon and, with the right amount of nurturing, you’ll begin reaping the rewards of a plentiful flower bounty come mid-summer. At that point, your garden beds will sure to be the talk of the town.
Images used with permission, courtesy of Tina Jepson and www.shutterstock.com