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Planting gladiolus and other summer flowering bulbs


When we think about bulbs, we tend limit ourselves to the delightful spring bloomers we plant in the fall. Now that we are being treated by the shows of Daffodils, Tulips, Bluebells, Grape Hyacinths, Fritillaria and many others, consider adding to your bulb collection by planting summer flowering bulbs.

Some of the familiar summer flowering bulbs that can be treated essentially the same as perennials include Iris, Lilies and Lily of the Valley, to name just a few. A few unique specimens to try would be the many varieties of Allium or ornamental onion, Eremurus or Foxtail Lily and Hemerocallis sp. or the many varieties of Day Lilies.

Summer flowering bulbs that are planted in the spring and brought in for the winter include Gladiolus, Tuberous Begonias, Dahlias, and Canna Lilies. These bulbs will not survive the frost so need to overwintered indoors. The spectacular flower displays make the extra effort well worth it.

Gladiolus bulbs, properly called corms, are outstanding cut flowers which come in many colours. They are excellent additions to the vegetable garden as well as companions to the medium sized perennials in the perennial garden. Gladiolus will thrive well in almost any soil. They can be planted about two weeks before the frost free date and will flower 8-10 weeks after planting. Staggering the planting every two weeks until mid-summer will provide cut flowers through most of the summer and fall. Fertilize the corms at planting time with a high phosphorous fertilizer and again with a high nitrogen fertilizer 7-8 weeks after planting.

Tuberous begonias are one of the few highly colourful plants which can be grown in partial shade. Northern or northeastern exposures are generally well suited for their growth. They can be grown in pots, hanging baskets or directly in flower beds. They require a soil which is well drained and rich in organic matter. Tuberous begonias generally bear three flowers per flower stem. The large, central flower is the male blossom which is surrounded by two smaller females.

Canna Lilies are a unique inclusion in the garden and well suited as companions to the taller perennials or as a centrepiece to any bed. The large, rubber plant like leaves give a tropical appearance to the garden. Canna Lilies are typically red in colour with green or bronze leaves. More colours, like yellow, salmon and peach, continue to be introduced. Old tubers of Canna Lilies should be divided in the spring with a sharp knife, allowing a bud to each piece. Plant the pieces 4-5 inches deep with the bud facing up. Leave 12"-18" between companion plants.

Few flowers offer the variety, form and colouring as the Dahlias. They are the type of flowers which will stop you in your tracks to admire both the flower and foliage. There are many different types of Dahlias available such as tall-growing varieties suitable for the rear of the perennial border, dwarf types for the annual garden and many varieties which are ideal for the cutting garden. Dahlias require full sun and thrive the best on a sandy loam soil with good drainage.

Dahlias should be planted when all danger of frost has passed. The tubers are produced in clumps and should be divided so that one tuber is allowed to grow on its own. The bud will develop on the neck of the tuber. Plant the tubers 5-6 inches deep and allow 3 feet between plants for the large varieties and 18 inches for the smaller varieties. Insert a stake which to the flower stem at the time of planting and place it close to the neck of the tuber. The flower stalk can be trimmed to a single stem, for maximum flower size, or can be allowed to be multi-stemmed. Dahlias should not be allowed to dry out. They should be fertilized at time of planting, and every 4-5 weeks until mid-summer. Place a mulch around the base of the plant to protect the roots. Dahlia stems are hollow and fragile and need to be secured to a stake to prevent stem breakage.

The process of over-wintering summer bulbs begins when the risk of heavy frost occurs in the fall. A future garden tip will give the detailed steps involved to properly save your summer bulbs for future enjoyment.


Daisy Moore, 1999.



Other spring garden tips:

(click on the tip you want to read)


Designing Gardens

Fertilizing the Garden
Ready for Spring
Starting Seeds Indoors
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
Dormant Spraying
Planning the Vegetable Garden
Planting Early Vegetables
Early Season Care of Perennial Beds
Plants for an Early Spring Show
Cut Flowers for the Home Garden
Growing the Perfect Potato
Lawn Care in Early Spring.....GRUB DAMAGE!
Spring Lawn Care
The Garden in May
Gardening with Native Plants
Sources of Native Plants
Shade Gardening
Planting Gladiolus and Other Summer Flowering Bulbs
Weed Control
Thatch in Lawns
Weeds or Wildflowers
Improving Your Soil
Marvellous Mulch
Selecting and Planting Shrubs
Planting Trees and Shrubs
Window Box Gardening
Growing Tomatoes
Fertilizing the Vegetable Garden



Home  |  Garden designs  |  Naturalized gardening  |  Help with your garden  |  Garden Tips Spring  Summer  Fall  | Contact Daisy


Daisy Moore 2005