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Past Articles Library | Flower Bulbs | How to Grow and Care for 8 Popular Summer Flowering Bulbs


While summertime does not lack color, summer flowering bulbs can add a touch of texture and color to unused spaces.  They can also help add that wow factor that sets your container garden or hanging basket apart from the store bought varieties. 

Although bulbs can be intimidating, do not avoid planting them even if you are a beginning gardener.  There are many types that are beginning gardener friendly.


Cannas are a beautiful, tropical addition to any landscape.   While their foliage can be either green or bronze, their flower colors can range from white to red, yellow, pink and even orange.  They do well in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 8 to 11 but some individuals can have success in zone 7 with a little care. 

Cannas require full sun and a soil that is well-drained.  They are not particular about soil type.  While cannas are listed as bulbs, they actually are started from rhizomes. 

To plant cannas, one needs to first prepare the garden space.  This means loosening up the soil down 12 to 15 inches.  Once that is done, add a 2 to 4 inch layer of compost and mix well.  After that is complete, dig a hole that is 2 to 3 inches deep.  Next, place the rhizome in the hole so that the eye(s) is up.  After that is done, cover up the rhizome with soil, gently tap down and water in.  Repeat the process, making sure that each rhizome is space 1 to 4 feet apart.  Once all the rhizomes have been planted, top the garden space with mulch. 

Once the rhizomes are planted, you will need to monitor your local rain amounts.  Cannas need one inch of moisture a week.  If your area is lacking in this amount supplement the area with water.

As the cannas grow, you may find that you need to stake up the flower stalk.   After the flowers are spent, cut off the stalk.   This will keep the cannas looking their best and encourage them to bloom again.

In the fall, your cannas will need to be dug up but do not do this until the foliage has turned black.  Once that has happened, pull up the plant, cut the foliage and flower stalk away from the rhizome, and place the rhizome in a container of slightly moist peat moss.  Repeat the process with all the rhizomes but make sure that they do not touch in the peat moss.  Place the processed rhizomes in a basement or in a location that does not freeze. 

In the spring, remove your rhizomes from their peat moss slumber and divide them up so that each rhizome has one eye.  Repeat the planting process described above.  

Tuberous Begonia

This type of begonia is one that has a vast number of uses in the landscape.  It can be found growing in hanging baskets solo or as a combination plant in a container garden.  The tuberous begonia can also be found planted in the landscape alongside ferns and impatiens.   


Caladiums are a cousin of Elephant Ears but unlike Elephant Ears they do not like direct sunlight.  Instead they thrive in filter lit areas and shade.  Just like any bulb, they do not do well in wet soils but soil type really is not a concern.  Once you have found a location that meets the light requirement and is not wet, you will need to add organic matter.  The reason for this is the fact that caladiums love nutrient rich soils.

Once the soil has been prepared, it is time to plant.  Caladiums are grown from tubers not bulbs but common terminology states that they grow from bulbs.  After you get our bulbs, you will need to plant them.  To do this, dig a hole that is 1 ½ inches deep and place the tuber in the hole so that the pointed end is up.  Next, fill in the hole with soil.  Prior to planting your next tuber, measure off 8 to 14 inches and mark this spot.  This is the appropriate spacing for this bulb.  Continue with this process until all the Caladium bulbs have been planted.

After all the bulbs have been planted, water in.

In the fall, dig up the tubers and remove the leaves along with the roots.  Allow to set out and dry for a couple of days.  Once dry place in a cardboard box that is filled with peat moss and store in a room that is kept between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit.   

Elephant Ears

Elephant's Ears are a great addition to any landscape design as long as you have the room.  They come not only in green but also a deep purple that looks black.  They can be combined with spring blooming bulbs, ornamental grasses and/or other summer blooming bulbs.  You can also take advantage of the shade created by the large leaves by planting shade loving annuals, such as impatiens underneath the Elephant’s Ear. 


Oxalis can be found in many nurseries and floral shops in March for Saint Patrick’s Day.  But did you know that you can plant them in your landscaping?  Well, you can and little green or purple leaves with pink or white blooms are a welcome site when mixed in with more traditional looking annuals.

When you get your oxalis bulbs, they really do not look like a bulb but more like a rhizome.  Unlike other rhizomes, the oxalis will grow any way you plant it as long as it is planted at a depth of 1 to 1 ½ inches and spaced 3 to 4 inches apart.  In doing so, this is the perfect “bulb” to start with if you are a beginning gardener. 

Once planted in the early spring, water the bulbs in and in a few weeks leaves will begin to appear.  Flowers will appear 6 to 8 weeks after the bulbs have been planted.

While the oxalis will grow in a shady location, it really shows off if planted in a sunny spot.  


Gladiolus or glads are grown from bulbs called corms.  Just like any other bulb, the moisture level of the soil is one of the most important factors when it comes to bulbs.  Your location needs to be well-drained and in full sun.  If the sunlight is too good but the soil is not, do not worry.  You can amend the soil with seasoned manure, compost, peat moss, and/or ground bark.  Once the soil has been prepared, the next step is to get ready to plant your corms. 

Corms have a pointed side and a flat side.  When planting glads, you need to make sure that the pointy side is up.  Next, it is time to dig your holes but since these bulbs need to be planted 6 to 7 inches deep, consider using a bulb auger.  This tool will drill a hole into the soil.  While the auger itself is normally not marked, you can just place a piece of tape at the 7 inch mark.  This will provide you with a mark of depth.

Once you get your first hole drilled, place your bulb in the hole so that the point is facing up.  Fill in with soil.  Next, measure off 6 to 8 inches and plant another bulb.  Continue with this process until all the corms have been used.  Keep in mind though, that you get a bigger visual impact if glads are planted in mass. 

Water in once all the bulbs have been planted and in 6 to 8 weeks you should have blooms.  If you live in an area where gladiolus does not make it through the winter, dig up the corms after the first frost.  Cut away all the vegetation except 2 inches.  Clean off the soil and allow to dry for a few days out in the open.  Once they are dry, place in a paper bag or box filled with peat moss and store in a basement. 

Surprise Lily

The Surprise Lily or Naked Lady is another beauty that not only adds a flush of color in the summer but its growth habit is unique, which makes this bulb a fun one to grow. 

Looking to learn how to grow this beauty, read Who is Naked in the Garden? The Naked Lily.

Pineapple Lilly

The Pineapple Lilly gets its name from its flower stalk, which resembles a pineapple.  This is another easy to grow bulb that has very few if any pest problems.

Once you get your bulbs, scout out a well-drained location that receives a lot of sun.   After the location has been found, prepare the soil by mixing it up and adding well-seasoned compost.  Next, measure off the area so that your bulbs are planted the correct distance apart.  In this situation the bulbs need to be space 5 to 7 inches apart.  Once that is done, dig a hole that is 6 inches deep and place the bulb in the hole so that the pointed end is sticking up.  Fill in the hole with soil and water in. 

In a few weeks, leaves will appear and then will be followed by pineapple like flower stalks.

Regardless of which bulb(s) you choose to plant there are a few hints to follow.  First, monitor the weekly rain amounts.  If they do not reach an inch, you will need to add water to your bulb bed.  Also, once the blooms are finished never remove the leaves.  Bulbs need this vegetation to produce food for the bulb that will be stored for next year.  If you do not like the leaves of the bulbs lying around, tie them together using the leaves or secure in a decorative knot with garden twine or raffia.


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