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5 Bulbs To Plant In Spring For Summer & Fall Beauty

For the flower gardener, spring-planted bulbs which bloom in summer and fall are absolutely next level. These amazing plants bring it all to the table, award winning giant blooms, unique styles, forms, and memorable enchanting scents.

These are not your everyday annuals that grow, bloom, and die all in one season bringing color and interest to the garden. Nor are they the steadfast, trustworthy perennials that show up year after year, with their timely blooms, forms, and functions.

These are the garden giants of summer and fall flowers and plants.

They have names that haunt the ambitious flower gardener. Gladioli. Dahlia. Oriental Lily.

Found at high-end florist shops, and in special, life-event celebrating bouquets. Imagine growing dinner-plate sized dahlias or oriental lilies that people can smell a block away. It is not only possible, but so worthwhile!

Here are a few secrets, tips, and tricks to get started.

Spring Bulb Planting Tips

The Investment

Yes, if you are breaking into the market of spring-planted bulbs, you will notice the price tags. A single bulb can be $15 to $25 dollars each. (By the way, our favorite place to buy flowering bulbs online is Nature Hills Nursery here.)

What’s worse, some bulbs are listed as annuals hardy only in zone 9 to 12.

The trick? In the fall, when the plant has finished its incredible blooms, and the plant has started to die back, but before any freezing weather, you dig up those bulbs and save them for planting next spring. And, those bulbs will have grown in size for an even more spectacular show next year.

Here’s a guide for saving tender summer bulbs.

Getting Started

With a little practice, it is easy to see where the obsession, collections, and dedication to this florist’s hobby comes from.

One approach to getting started could be buying a variety of totally different types of plants to see which one you like the best. Another approach could be starting with a color theme, say all white, and choosing the best white-flowered bulbs.

Yet one more way might be focusing on just one type of plant, going all dahlia, gladioli, or curcuma, for example.

A flower bed filled with dahlias.

Many nurseries have curated collections of bulbs for spring planting which can be an excellent way to begin your collection.

Dedicating the Space

Having a perennial border with some open, protected spots to play with spring-planted bulbs is the perfect way to get started.

Choosing an area where you can dig in spring and fall without harming other more permanent plants is essential. An annual bed works wonderfully because you are digging and cleaning the area each spring and fall anyway. There may be other annuals that you might be able to save and overwinter too. Begonias and geraniums come to mind.

Planting Spring-Planted Bulbs in Containers

Many spring-planted bulbs do great in containers. This makes it super easy because instead of digging the bulbs out, you might get away with just moving the whole container into a protected space that won’t get to freezing temperatures such as a garage or basement.

Overwintering Bulbs

Dahlia tubers lifted for overwintering.

In general, keep bulbs at a consistent temperature of about 45° to 50° F (7° to 10° C). Not too wet and not too dry is the trick. Using a leak-proof container to keep the bulbs protected from drying out and burying them in sand, dry potting soil, or straw are often successful methods. Check on them periodically throughout the winter to make sure they are firm, not drying out, or rotting.

5 Spring Planting Bulbs For Summer & Fall Beauty

1. Oriental Lilies (Lilium orientalis)

Stand Out Feature: Gorgeous giant flowers with enchanting fragrance in mid to late summer.

Special Care: Many hardy options can be left in the ground and grown as perennials. Oriental lilies are incredibly spectacular in containers as well.

Top Varieties:

Stargazer Lily is pink, grows 24 to 36 inches tall, in full sun to partial shade, preferably in hardiness zones 3 to 10.

Muscadet Oriental Lily is speckled white, grows 24 to 36 inches tall, in full sun to partial shade, preferably in hardiness zones 3 to 10.

Curly Sue Oriental Lily is speckled pink, grows 36 to 48 inches tall, in full sun to partial shade, preferably in hardiness zones 4 to 10.

2. Dahlia (Dahlia)

Stand Out Feature: Huge variety for the dahlia obsessed with 18 styles of flowers and over 60,000 named varieties in a span of colors that make the rainbow jealous.

Special Care: Plant in full sun, nutrient rich, slightly acidic soil in an area with little competition. Pinch back plants for bushier growth. For larger flowers, pinch off second and third flowers that appear on side shoots on main flower stems.

Top Varieties:

Mystery Day Decorative Dahlia blooms purple and white summer to frost on 30-to-42-inch plants in full sun in hardiness zones 8 to 10.

Myrtle’s Folly Dahlia blooms orange summer to frost on 40-to-48-inch plants in full sun in hardiness zones 8 to 10.

Star Elite Cactus Dahlia blooms pink summer to frost on 30-to-42-inch plants in full sun in hardiness zones 8 to 10.

3. Gladiolus (Gladiolus)

Stand Out Feature: Want more color? Gladioli will not disappoint! Each flower spike blooms from the bottom up with color lasting up to two months. Gorgeous in the garden and beautiful in bouquets.

Special Care: Gladioli prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil in full sun. Plant out in the garden in soil that has reached at least 55° F (13° C).

Top Varieties: Most gladioli are hardy in zones 8 through 10 and grow 48 to 60 inches tall. There are some hardy miniature hybrids that survive in zones 5 to 10 and grow 18 to 24 inches tall. All gladioli love full sun and they come in the brightest whites, pinks, corals, reds, yellows, purples, and bicolor.

4. Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta)

Stand Out Feature: Massive, up to 2 feet long, heart-shaped leaves provide a tropical flare and gorgeous backdrop in the backyard.

Special Care: Moisture loving, this plant thrives in partial shade in rich humus soil high in organic matter. A frost tender perennial hardy in zones 8 and above.

Top Varieties:

Hawaiian Punch Elephant Ear is a small variety reaching 3 feet tall and wide with glossy green leaves with striking red veins and stems.

Jumbo Elephant Ear reaches over 5 feet tall and wide with extra-large, lush leaves perfect for use as a screen and creating a feel of the tropics.

Black Magic Elephant Ear has enormous 2-to-3-foot leaves which are purple to black grown on plants that grow 5 to 6 feet tall.

5. Curcuma (Curcuma)

Stand Out Feature: Stunning, exciting flowers on this tropical, heat loving plant.

Special Care: Moisture loving plant that performs in warm temperatures in the garden or in containers.

Top Varieties:

Banrai Red Curcuma blooms pink to red all summer and grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches tall in hardiness zones 8 and above.

Siam Curcuma blooms white to pink all summer and grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches tall in hardiness zones 8 and above.

Sweet Memory Curcuma blooms light pink all summer and grows to a height of 18 to 24 inches tall in hardiness zones 8 and above.

Okay, now we know the rules of the game. Plant in spring. Enjoy spectacular growth, showstopping blooms, and the occasional jealous neighbor and admiring friend. Followed by digging up and protecting the precious bulbs through unsavory weather, AKA winter.

We are ready to try out some phenomenally gorgeous plants to procure for growing, loving, and establishing garden-expert status in the neighborhood.