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When Lilies Take You By Surprise

As a kid, when I saw the naked ladies pop up in the yard, it was always bittersweet.  Their bold presence always made me smile, but I also knew it was almost time to go back to school. The ever-present surprise lilies, also known as spider lilies, naked ladies or naked lilies, were a sad reminder that summer was coming to an end. They are “naked” because the blooms arrive before the foliage and their stems are bare.

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Paperwhites with Heart

This Valentines’ Day give paperwhites with “heart.” Follow these three easy steps to decorate potted paperwhites with a pussy willow stem heart.

Materials

  • Paperwhites planted in a 6-inch container
  • (2) fresh pussy willow branches (available at florists)
  • Wired green floral stick (available at florists or craft stores)
  • Red ribbon
  • Decorative container

Directions

    1. Insert the wide ends of the pussy willow branches into the soil at an angle so they make a V.

Paperwhites for Valentines

  1. Draw together the upper ends and tie with the wired floral stick.
  2. Pull the floral stick all the way down to the pot and push it into the soil. Insert it at an angle to make it secure.
  3. For a pop of color wrap the willow stems in red ribbon.
  4. That’s all there is to it!

Tabletop Spring Garden

Welcome spring into your home with a tabletop garden planted with spring blooms from your local garden center or grocery store.

Materials:
Potted flowering plants
Plastic baggies
Decorative container
Sheet moss

Directions:
Remove each plant from its pot and slip it, soil and all, into a plastic baggie. This is optional. If your decorative container is large enough to accommodate the plants in their pots, simply slip them into the container. Otherwise the plastic baggies make it easier to arrange the plants.

Once the plants are in the container cover the bags or pots with sheet moss to conceal. That’s it!

For the longest life, place your tabletop garden in a spot away from source of heat. Water the soil with a spray mister.

For this arrangement I used pots of forced ‘Tete-a-tete’ narcissus, primroses and variegated ivy. After the blooms fade I’ll plant the ‘Tet-a-tete’ in the garden. This variety is a prolific multiplier.

Tulip-Filled Planter Box

Tulip Filled Planter BoxThis trio of dark green dwarf Alberta spruce creates a rhythmic backdrop for an array of colorful spring flowers. You can pot up this combination this fall for winter interest and a beautiful display next spring when the tulips emerge. If you live in a region where winters are severe, place the planter in a sheltered area to protect the bulbs from freezing. Although the ajuga and creeping Jenny will die back in the winter they are both cold hardy to zone 3 and will return next spring.

This planter box is sensational placed against a bare wall decorated with a single eye-catching architectural feature, such as a mask, hanging above it.

(1) Faux lead/resin trough – 33" long x 17" wide x 14" deep

(3) 1 gallon Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ?Conica’)
(4) 1 qt. Golden Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia ?Aurea’)
(4) 1 qt. ?Bronze Beauty’ Ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Bronze Beauty’)
(12) plants or (2) six packs Viola (Viola cornuta)
(20) Elizabeth Arden Tulips

Tulips are real knockouts in this planter box, emerging from a sea of violas. Be generous when filling in the center of the planter, setting bulbs "shoulder to shoulder." Creeping Jenny and ajuga join in the cozy display and spill over the sides of the container, softening the planter’s edge.

This arrangement sustains its beauty beyond the spring season. After the tulips fade, replace them with a series of pink dianthus or salmon geraniums. The ajuga and creeping Jenny stay on to become more lush as the season unfolds.

Things to keep in mind:
Invent your own similar recipe if these plant varieties aren’t available in your area.

Alberta spruce can be substituted with another conical evergreen, creeping Jenny could be replaced with a golden variegated ivy, and if tulips aren’t available, try other spring flowering bulbs such as daffodils or hyacinths. Even the violas can be substituted with pansies or purple nemesia.

Make sure the stand-ins require the same water and light conditions.

Unusual Summer Bulbs

Summer “bulb” is a general term that covers more than bulbs; there are rhizomes, corms, and tubers too. With all these options it’s no surprise that the category of summer bulbs includes a lot of variety and goes well beyond the usual canna, dahlia and lily. Here are 5 interesting summer bulbs that I grow in my garden with uncommon beauty.

Colchicum speciosum, agrippinum or autumnale

Also known as Meadow Saffron or Autumn Crocus, Colchicum species will add sparks of color to your late summer or fall garden. These bulbs produce flowers similar to crocus in appearance, but they are actually members of the lily family.

Excellent hybrid varieties to try include ‘Autumn Queen’ with deep violet flowers; ‘The Giant’, which has pinkish-mauve blooms on a white base; ‘Waterlily’ which is double flowering and lilac colored; ‘Lilac Wonder’ that is pinkish-lilac; ‘Conquest’ is violet; and ‘Violet Queen’ has purplish-mauve flowers and a white center.

Plant corms in late summer or early fall 2 to 4 inches below soil level; 6 inches apart. Choose a location in full sun to partial shade with good, well-draining soil. Good planting sites include the filtered shade of large trees and shrubs, rock gardens or low growing groundcovers. Allowing them to naturalize under low growing, carpeting plants makes a nice backdrop for the flowers. Perennial in zones 4 through 9, colchicums get bigger and better with age.

Good to know – Corms that do not get planted on time will bloom anyway. And you can force them to flower once indoors by setting them upright on a bed of pebbles in a bowl of water up to their base.

Crocosmia X crocosmiflora (Montbretia)

This member of the Iris family has been a favorite for generations in the South, where you can find them flowering in old gardens and home sites. The red, orange or yellow flowers typically bloom mid-summer to fall adding splashes of color to the late season garden during the dog days of summer. Even when they are not in bloom the spikey foliage offers contrast and texture.

Crocosmia is easy to grow in hardiness zones 6 – 10. Set out the corms in early spring when the danger of frost is past. Plant in full sun or partial shade in hotter climates. Plant 3 to 5 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart and group a dozen or more together for the best effect.

There are several cultivars worthy of a primary spot in your garden. ‘Lucifer’ is definitely worth planting with its 4 foot flower stalks and brilliant scarlet flowers. Others are ‘Emily McKenzie, orange with maroon splotches; ‘George Davidson’, lemon yellow flowers on 2 foot stems; and ‘Solfatare’, apricot-yellow flowers with bronze leaves.

Liatris spicata, aspera, pycnostachya

Also known as Blazing Star or Gayfeather, these native perennials endure heat, cold, drought and poor soil. With an extended summer bloom period, the long stems emerge from grassy tufts showcasing rosy-purple bottle brush blooms. These hardy plants return yearly and oftentimes reseed to create colonies of colorful clumps.

Excellent for cutting, drying and beautiful in the border these plants thrive in full sun or part shade and well drained even dry soil with a wide range of texture and fertility. Best grown in as much sun as possible to produce a strong plant.

Plant corms in early spring or in late summer to early fall 1 inch deep and 6 to 8 inches apart, further apart in humid environments. Keep adequately spaced for good air circulation. Water them regularly to establish the plants but DO NOT overwater. The number of days before blooming is about 70- 90 days. Sometimes support is needed as the stems elongate in windy areas or if the flower spikes topple over if overly fertilized. Dry by hanging upside down in a dry area. Varieties that are worthy to grow in the garden are ‘Kobold’ which is a deeper purple, ‘Silver Tips’ with silvery lavender blooms and ‘Floristan White’ which is an excellent flower for cutting.

Good to know – Growing from corms the ones that are 2 to 7 centimeters long produce the greatest number of flowering stems and as the day length increases the number of flowering stems per corm decreases.

Lycoris squamigera

Call it what you like – Magic Lily, Surprise Lily, Naked lady or Resurrection Lily – Lycoris squamigera is the easiest to grow in the Lycoris family. The pink trumpet shaped blooms provides a real show in the garden. The foliage appears in the early spring, disappears around mid-summer, and then the flowers pop up in early fall. Surprise!

Surprise lilies easily adapt to most growing conditions and are dependable in both the landscapes and containers. Hardy in zones 5 – 11, this is the cold hardiest of the species. It thrives in full sun or partial, open shade and various types of well-drained soil. Plant bulbs about 4 inches deep, 6 inches apart in the fall and then don’t disturb for several years. They will gradually spread over time. Water moderately and apply a liquid fertilizer monthly until the leaves die down.

Good to know – When potting in a container, set them with the tops exposed. And don’t use too large of pot as these bulbs bloom best with crowded roots.

Polianthes tuberose

With good drainage and ample mulching, these Mexican exotics are quite rewarding. They are prized for their tall sprays of pearly white, tubular, very fragrant flowers. Plant them near a patio, walk, deck or other living space to enjoy the spicy-sweet fragrance.

‘The Pearl’ is a double flowered variety and most widely known, but the single flowered types make the longest lasting cut flowers.

Hardy in zones 7(with protection) – 10, grow tuberoses in organically rich, well-draining soil. Plant the rhizomes 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart in spring after the threat of frost is past. Provide consistent moisture throughout the growing season.

Good to know – Don’t forego tuberoses if you live in an area where they aren’t hardy. Just treat them as an annual. Start pots indoors in early spring and move them outdoors to a sunny location after the threat of frost has passed.

Start your Potted Daffodil Garden

It’s hard to believe when summer comes to an end that it’s already time to start planting bulbs for spring bloom. All of our favorite bulbs – such as hyacinths, tulips, and of course, that symbol of spring itself, the daffodil – are now available in garden centers and nurseries.

I suppose the daffodil would have to be my favorite because of its simple beauty and reliable nature. You can just about always depend on it to return each spring. And while I can’t imaging my garden without those bright blooms, I know that once the flowers fade I need to leave the remaining foliage in place for almost six weeks so the bulb can be recharged to bloom again next year.

Pot of Daffodils
Though it’s not hard to disguise their long green leaves with other emerging plants, there is a way to enjoy the flowers without the problem of the remaining foliage. All you have to do is plant the bulbs in nursery pots and then bury them in the garden. Once the blooms fade, just lift the pots and set them aside.

This project is easy to do in a weekend. Start by finding an area where you’d like to enjoy a spring bulb garden. I’m always hungry for some early color in my vegetable garden, so my raised beds were ideal, but you may have an area near your front door or in an established flower bed. The best locations are well-drained soil with full sun, but even partial shade will do. Avoid wet, marshy spots.

Next, collect several plastic nursery pots. They don’t have to be the same size. I use containers that range from 6 to 8 inches in diameter and from 5 to 8 inches deep. Then pick out the daffodils you want to use. This may be the hardest part because there are so many choices.

While daffodils will grow in most areas of the country, some varieties perform better than others depending on the climate. With more than 13,000 hybrids to choose from, you’ll want to check with your local garden center or other gardeners to find the bulbs best suited for your area. You’ll find that daffodils have been developed to bloom in early, mid or late season, so you can extend the length of the display by choosing from each category.

Prepare the area by loosening the soil with a shovel. Then put about an inch of loose garden soil in the bottom of the containers, and place the bulbs shoulder to shoulder, pointed tip up. Add another inch of soil, and slip in a few more bulbs. Layering bulbs in each container gives you a bouquet. Fill the containers to the top with more soil. If you like, add a tag identifying the varieties. Next spring, you can note which ones performed the best.

Buried BulbsOnce all the pots are filled, water well. Then dig a hole in the bed, deep enough so the pot’s lip sits about an inch below the surface of the soil. Place the containers in the ground and fill in more soil around them. Lightly tamp down the area.

In my mid-South garden, winters are relatively mild, so I like to over-plant my bulb beds with violas and pansies. These plants thrive in low light and cool temperatures and provide a spot of color through the cold months. Or, you can add these plants after the daffodils begin to emerge in spring. Both violas and pansies can survive a frost and rebound in bright color.

Now sit back and dream of the beautiful display you’ll enjoy next spring. An added bonus of this potted-bulb method is that once the flowers are up, you can lift a container from the bed and bring it inside to enjoy. Simply slip the plastic container into a more decorative pot, add a few more pansies, and cover the top in sheet moss. It’s a quick and easy way to enjoy your flowers a second time as a spring centerpiece.

My Daffodil Picks:
For potting success, try these varied cultivars. Just make sure that you plant your bulbs before the ground freezes in the North, and after it cools down from summer in the South. Check a zone map to see which of these daffodils is best suited for your garden.

‘Topolino’ – white petals with a creamy yellow trumpet; it is dwarf in size and resembles the little trumpet naturalized throughout the Southeast; great for rock gardens, forced in pots, and in patio containers; 8 to 10 inches tall; early to midseason; zones 4 – 8.

‘Jenny’ – a small charmer that opens white and yellow but matures to a clear white; 10 to 12 inches tall; midseason; zones 3 – 8

‘Pipit’ – two to three luminous yellow flowers per stem, but the cup quickly turns white; superb garden perennial and show winner; American bred; 14 to 16 inches tall; midseason; zones 4 – 9.

‘Lemon Drop’ – two to three large, teardrop-shaped flowers per stem standing with reverence in the garden as it bows its two-toned head; American bred; 12 to 14 inches tall; midseason; zones 4 – 9.

‘Jack Snipe’ – cyclamineus miniature with a white perianth and yellow trumpet, great for rock gardens; 12 inches tall; early; zones 3 – 8.

‘Quail’ – long-lasting floriferous American-bred selection with deep bronze-yellow, multiple flowers; 12 to 13 inches tall; midseason; zones 5 – 9.

Storing Summer Bulbs for Winter

How do you prepare summer bulbs such as calla lilies for the winter?

Zantedeschias or calla lilies are tender perennials grown from tubers and like other summer bulbs, they should be dug from the garden and stored when planted in cold winter climates. Callas are marginally cold hardy in my zone 7 garden so I choose between two methods; sometimes I plant them in pots and store in my lathe house over the winter or I treat them as an annual and let nature take its course.

Here is a list of summer bulbs, including calla lilies that require winter protection with details on how to store them.

Begonias
Hardy in zones 9 to 11. In fall, once the flowering ceases and before the first frost, bring in begonias for the winter. Leave them alone until the stems dry and pull off easily. Store “as is” in pots or dig up the tubers. Dug tubers should be allowed to dry for a few days and then stored in layers of slightly moist vermiculite or sawdust. Keep in a room that stays at approximately 40 F to 55 degrees F.

Alocasia
Hardy in zones 9 to 10. Treat as an annual or dig and store the bulbs for winter. If growing in a flower bed, dig the bulbs after a frost has killed the foliage and store them in saw dust or mulch. If grown in containers, move the container indoors and allow the plant to go dormant.

Caladium
Hardy in zones 10 to 11. Treat as an annual or lift them after the first frost. Allow the tubers to dry thoroughly, and then layer the tubers in dry peat or vermiculite and store them in an area that remains around 50 to 60 degrees F. Check the tubers occasionally to make sure they are plump but dry.

Calla Lily
Hardy in zones 7 to 10. In northern gardens, after the foliage has been damaged by a frost, cut off the tops about 2 inches above the soil line. Dry the calla rhizomes in a warm, dry location for one or two weeks. Then bury the rhizomes in vermiculite, sawdust, or peat moss, and store them in a cool (45 to 55 degrees F), frost-free area. Callas can be started indoors ahead of time in late winter to early spring, and then moved to the garden after the threat of frost has passed. Callas grown in pots can be brought indoors before the first fall frost to continue growing over winter as houseplants. Move them outdoors again in spring, once frosts are passed and night temperatures remain above 40 degrees F.

Canna
Hardy in zones 7 to10. After first fall frost has blackened the foliage, or the foliage begins to wither, cut the stems back 4 to 6 inches. Store cannas grown in containers as is, with no further watering. In ground rhizomes should be dug and stored. Allow the fleshy stem stubs to dry before them packing the tubers in slightly moistened sand, vermiculite or peat moss. Keep in a cool location (40 degrees to 50 degrees F). Check on them periodically to make sure they do not dry out.

Colocasia
Hardy in zones 8 to 11. Treat as an annual or bring them indoors to overwinter. Dig the bulbs after the plant has died back and store them in sawdust or mulch. If grown in containers, move the container indoors and allow the plant to go dormant.

Crocosmia
Hardy in zones 6 to 10. The variety ‘Lucifer’ is cold hardy up to zone 5 if given a protective layer of mulch. In colder zones, before the first fall frost, dig the corms and store them on a tray in dry peat moss in an area with temperatures between 40 degrees F to 48 degrees F.

Dahlia
Hardy in zones 8 to10 and often in zone 7 with a heavy layer of mulch. Store potted dahlias in their containers. In ground bulbs should be lifted. Be careful not to break or cut the tuber “necks.” Do not wash the bulbs to remove soil. Store them away from drafts at 40 degrees F to 50 degrees F in a paper bag or box filled with peat moss or dry sand. Check them frequently for shriveling or decay.

Eucomis
Hardy in zones 7 to 10. These bulbs are best grown in containers that can be brought indoors for winter protection. Cease watering and leave bulbs undisturbed.

Gladiolus
Hardy in zones 7 to 10. Dig after the foliage browns. Cut the stems back to 1-inch above the corm. Dry, and then remove the excess debris and store them in paper bags. Keep the bags in an area safe from mice at a temperature between 35 degrees F to 45 degrees F. If gladiolus were grown in pots, bring them indoors, stop watering and store them in their containers until spring.

Oxalis
Hardy in zones 8 to 10. This plant can be treated as a houseplant indoors or it dig up from the garden and dry it with the soil attached. Plants grown in containers can be dried and stored “as is.”

Tuberose
Hardy in zones 8 to 10. Dig up before the first hard frost. Cut the foliage back to 2-inches and store it in peat moss at 60 to 65 degrees F. Check frequently for shriveling.

How to Grow and Care for Dahlias

Several years ago, I visited a dahlia farm in Holland and was able to see these festive flowers blooming on a massive scale. The fields of cheery, bright colored dahlias were breathtaking. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that the growers were actually lopping off the blooms, leaving behind stems and foliage. It turns out that this practice makes for better dahlias for our gardens because removing the blooms shifts the plant’s energy inward producing big, healthy tubers.

Although the farm I visited was in Holland, dahlias actually hail from Mexico. They love warm weather and abundant sunshine typical of their native land, but they can be grown just about anywhere for summer color. After all Holland and Mexico are diverse climates.

Choices, Choices

There are so many varieties of dahlias available I don’t know where to begin in describing all the choices. They can range in height from dwarfs, only 15 inches tall, to the giants that reach 6 feet or more. Bloom shapes include anemone, ball, cactus, orchid, decorative, collerete, single, waterlily, pompom and fimbrated, which has delicately forked petals. There is almost every color under the sun save blue and flower sizes go from giant dinner plates to miniatures. Whew! That’s a lot to choose from!

Planting Dahlias

Plant dahlia tubers after the last frost date in your area and soil has had a chance to warm up. I plant them about the same time that I plant tomatoes. Select a place with full sun. Dahlias aren’t fussy about soil, but they don’t like “wet feet” so it’s important that the area drains well. Amend heavy clay soil with sand or grow your dahlias in containers. Dwarf dahlias are perfect for pots and you can get the soil just right.

Plant the tubers about 6-inches deep and about 24-inches apart. Add some compost and a spoonful of bone meal or soft rock phosphate to the planting hole and place the tuber horizontally with the eye pointing upward. Backfill the hole with soil and water lightly. Once the green shoots emerge from the ground,give the area a good soak.

If you selected a variety that grows over 3 feet tall, set up supports at planting time.

Caring for Dahlias

Give you dahlias a deep soak once a week, more if this weather is especially hot and dry.

When dahlias are about 12 inches tall, feed with a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen. Too much nitrogen will cause plants to produce weak stems and fewer blooms. Apply as directed on the package. Pinching back the stems at this time will make the plant full and compact.

About a month before blooms appear start a routine of feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer high in phosphorous every 7 to 10 days. Continue this until plants die back in autumn.

Dahlias will bloom from late summer until the first frost. Removing faded flowers helps keep the blooms coming.

What to Do With Dahlias in Winter

Dahlias are perennial in regions where winters are mild. Simply cut them back in fall and cover with mulch.

If you live in a part of the country where cold winters and hard frosts are the rule, it’s important to lift dahlia tubers from the ground and store them. I suggest digging them with a one-foot diameter root ball, lift soil and all and put them in a cool, dark, dry place. Cover them with dry sand or sawdust until you are ready to replant them in the spring. The way I see it, these flowers are worth any extra trouble you may have to go through to keep them from one year to the next.

Warm Climate Bulb Planting

I’m in California, do spring flowering bulbs need to be pre-chilled in the refrigerator? When should I plant?

In most areas of the country you can plant your bulbs anytime during the fall. In my zone 7 garden, I start planting in October and often continue as late as Thanksgiving.

However, in warm gardening zones, you will need to take special measures. Tulips should be grown as annuals in your area, as is the case in most parts of the country.

First, with the exception of the daffodils and narcissus, you need to cool your bulbs in the refrigerator for about 6 weeks.

Place bulbs in a ventilated bag (best choices: paper bags, mesh bulb bags, or new open weave vegetable baggies) in a refrigerator at the usual fridge temperature of 40 degrees F to 45 degrees F for a minimum of six to eight weeks. Don’t worry if you bought the bulbs early in the season and need to store them for several months before planting: keep them chilling – even up to 12 to 16 weeks if necessary, until it is time to plant.

Remove any fruit (especially apples) in the refrigerator, for the ethylene gas given off by all ripening fruit will kill the flower inside bulbs.

Keep bulbs in the refrigerator until planting. Take them directly from the fridge to your planting site.

Be sure to select a planting area that drains well, as standing water can rot bulbs.

Plant the bulbs three times their height. For example, if the daffodil bulb is approximately 2 inches tall, dig a hole 6 inches deep. Once covered with soil, a two-inch thick layer of mulch is optional to help retain moisture and keep the bulbs cool. Just remember that if you do plan to add mulch factor it into your planting depth.

Water the garden after planting to help the establish root growth. If you live in a dry area, be sure to water the garden about once a week.

Fantastic Foliage from Summer Bulbs

Do you have a blank spot that needs filling or a border that needs a little pizazz? Tropical summer bulbs are a quick fix. Corms and tubers planted in spring will grow by leaps and bounds during the summer bringing color, pattern and texture to the garden.

Many summer bulbs have lovely blooms, but look at the foliage too. The patterns, textures, and sizes create interest without much maintenance.

Rex Begonia – One of the most interesting plants when it comes to fabulous looking foliage. Available in shades of greens, white, burgundy, red, pink, silver and deep maroon-black.Rex Begonia The patterns are almost endless. There are spirals, concentric circles, dots, stripes and shields. In addition to these variations there are different leaf shapes, textures, and stem colors. With names like Escargot, Iron Cross, Fireworks, Denver Lace, Capricorn, Miami Storm, Fire Flush and Mimi Boston how could you go wrong?

Hardy to zones 10 and 11, these plants prefer shady, humid conditions and rich, aerated soil with plenty of organic matter. Too much water and fertilizer and you will have a very unhappy plant. Soggy soil will lead to rot and high fertilizer will burn the foliage.

Yellow Calla LilyCalla Lily (Zantedeschia)– Grown mostly for its Art Deco style flower that blooms white, pastels, vibrant red, purple or yellow with a very narrow red margin. While the flowers are quite beautiful, the upright glossy leaves are what I am drawn to. In addition to bright green some varieties boast foliage with white centers, polka dots or green and yellow stripes.

Hardy to zone 9 an ample layer of mulch applied in the fall can get these plants through winter in zone 8 or possibly zone 7 where the temperature is not likely to fall below 10 degrees F. Otherwise dig the rhizomes when frost threatens and store them indoors or bring in the plant to grow as a houseplant. Calla Lilies like a moist, almost wet soil and warm temperatures and will grow in full sun (partial afternoon shade in the South.)

CannaCanna – With its large, majestic stature and foliage, the beautiful blossoms of these plants almost go unnoticed. The tropical looking foliage with its large leaves, upright growth and interesting colors make a huge statement in the garden. Look for foliage that is purple, purple with green veining, yellow and green stripes and one of the most striking I have seen has burgundy, green, yellow and red/orange stripes. A few varieties I like include ‘Tropicana’, ‘King Humbert’, ‘Pretoria’ and ‘Black Knight’.

Hardy to zone 7, cannas grow from a rhizomatous rootstock that allows it to spread slowly outward from where it is planted. They prefer full sun in most locations but partial shade in regions where sunlight is intense may help keep the flowers from bleaching out or the foliage tips from burning. Cannas prefer a rich soil high in organic matter that drains well but stays consistently moist. They are heavy feeders. If your cannas begin to look ratty, it’s a sure sign that it needs to be fed or that the soil is too dry. You can grow cannas in containers but the containers will need to be large. As they become pot-bound they become weak and need to be divided and repotted. Cannas are root hardy in places where the soil does not freeze and can survive in air temperatures down to 0 degrees. In areas where the temperature may drop below 10 degrees, adding deep mulch will help protect the roots by keeping the soil surface from freezing.

Elephant EarsColocasia, Alocasia, Xanthosoma – Collectively known as elephant ears, these plants have large, fleshy leaves in solid green or purple/black. Many varieties have interesting variations in color with splotching and veining patterns of green, white and purple/black. Reaching anywhere from 2 to 6 feet or taller some show a distinctive, upright growth pattern while others are more spreading. Look for names like ‘Black Magic’ (burgundy-black foliage), ‘Chicago Harlequin’ (green foliage randomly blotched with lighter green), ‘Illustris’ (green foliage overlaid with black with lime green veins and margins) or ‘Lime Zinger’ (chartreuse foliage). Elephant ears can be planted in a summer border or grown in containers on the porch or patio.

Elephant ears are sub-tropical or tropical plants but some are hardy as far north as zone 7b. They prefer a bright, indirect light or partial shade. The leaves may scorch in full sun or become too green in deep shade. They generally thrive in hot, humid conditions as long as they receive consistent moisture. They prefer a moist, rich, deep, organic soil. Be sure to feed them often as they are heavy feeders.

OxalisOxalis – A favorite plant of many, commonly called the Shamrock plant because of the clover-like leaves. Oxalis is available in green, white/silver, burgundy or purple. You can select oxalis solid colors, interesting patterns or variegations. The flowers range from white, yellow, pink, orange and red. Oxalis can be tucked into your flower borders, grown in containers on the porch or patio and also as a houseplant on a sunny windowsill. Their diminutive size fits easily into smaller spaces and in the front of borders where they will show off throughout the summer. These little bulbs will bloom on and off from spring until fall.

Fairly petite in size oxalis range from two to 16 inches tall and depending on species they are tender, half-hardy or hardy perennials to zone 6. Oxalis can grow in full sun in temperate climates. If you garden where summers are hot give it some afternoon shade or plant it in light, dappled shade. These little bulbs have a preference for well-drained soil that is a little on the acidic side. They are drought tolerant but do water them during extended periods without rain.

CaladiumsCaladium – Gardeners choose caladiums for their long lasting, colorful foliage that adds interest to lightly shaded areas. Color combinations include various shades of red, pink, white, green with colored midribs and contrasting margins. The leaves are heart shaped and many have contrasting patterns. They are a mid-sized plant perfect for planting in clumps in a border or in containers. Look for the varieties ‘White Christmas’ (white leaves with green veins), ‘Pink Beauty’ (pink leaves with dark pink veins and green margins), ‘Frieda Hemple’ (red leaves with green margins)or ‘Brandywine’ (deep red leaves).

Growing 18 – 24 inches tall, caladiums perform best in moist, well-drained soil in partial shade. They enjoy warm weather but do not tolerate dry conditions. Caladiums are only hardy in zones 10 to 11. Everywhere else they should be treated as an annual or dug up after the first frost. If you choose to dig up your caladiums allow the tubers to dry thoroughly, and then layer the tubers in dry peat or vermiculite and store them in an area that remains around 50 to 60 degrees F. Check the tubers occasionally to make sure they are plump but dry.