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Bulbs to Plant in Spring for Summer Blooms

Flower bulbs are not just a spring thing. Keep on blooming with these summer-flowering bulbs.

Most of us associate flower bulbs with fall planting and spring blooms, but many flower bulbs bloom during the summer months. In fact, some of our favorite summer blooms like dahlias, cannas, and gladiolas grow from bulbs or similar plant structures. Spring is the right time to plant bulbs that bloom in the summer months and beyond.

A Word About Bulbs
The word bulb is used here generically to represent any underground plant storage structure including corms, rhizomes, tubers, and bulbs. All these structures are commonly called “bulbs” in garden centers and plant catalogues. While they vary in structure, they all serve the same purpose: storing energy during the dormant season. They also make the perfect package for planting.

Favourite Summer Bulbs
Many of our long-time garden favourites, including dahlia, gladiolus, tuberous begonias, and canna grow from a bulb or similar storage unit. These tender perennials can be planted in late spring once the soil has warmed and the threat of frost has passed. You can start bulbs in containers indoors about one month before planting outdoors to get a jump on the season. Depending on how cold your winters are, you may have to dig these bulbs in fall and store them indoors over the winter.

Lilies Grow from Bulbs
Lilies come in all shapes and sizes, and a wide array of colours. They make excellent cut flowers and often steal the spotlight in the garden. Some are quite hardy and can be planted as perennials in the garden, while others are tender and must be dug and stored over the winter. Lilies grow from a true bulb, a fleshy storage structure with overlapping scales connected to a basal plate (like garlic). The flower stalk grows from the centre. Plant lily bulbs after your last spring frost.

Bulbs for Tropical Flowers and Foliage
Many of our tropical foliage and flower plants grow from bulbs. These plants tend to be sensitive to cold temperatures. Depending on where you live, they may need to be dug from the garden and stored indoors over the winter. The bulb serves as an ideal storage unit during the winter months and contains all the energy the plant needs to get a good start on the new season. Bulbs to plant for tropical foliage include elephant ear (Colocasia and Alocasia), caladium, and banana. Several tropical or tropical-looking flowers are grown from bulbs and many of these also produce fabulous foliage. Pineapple lily (Eucomis), crinum lily, and agapanthus have long strappy leaves, while calla lily, butterfly ginger, and curcuma produce broad, lush foliage.

Other Summer-Flowering Bulbs
A number of plants with large summer blooms contain the word “lily” in their name but are not true lilies. These include glory lily (Gloriosa superba), Peruvian lily (Alstromeria), and surprise lily (Lycoris). These beauties are planted from bulbs in the spring, much like true lilies. Other summer bulbs include the heavenly scented tuberose and the stunning crocosmia.
When selecting summer-flowering bulbs for the garden consider your winter hardiness zone. Decide if you want to dig bulbs for winter storage or prefer to find plants that are hardy to your region so you can leave them in the ground year-round. Flowering bulbs also make great container plantings, which makes it easy to bring tender bulbs indoors over winter. Because many flowering bulbs produce compact plants, they are great for tucking into gaps between established perennials in your garden beds.