Although the gnarled appearance of dormant summer flowering bulbs like lilies and dahlias looks intimidating, these plants are a quick way to give your garden a lift. When it comes to growing, they are practically foolproof and most will bloom in the first season.
There are a few general tips to keep in mind when preparing to plant bulbs.
If your soil is hard and unforgiving, amend it with plenty of organic matter at least to the depth of your shovel.
Add a source of phosphorus such as soft rock phosphate and potassium such as greensand to the plant area.
Avoid soft, moldy or bruised bulbs and in general, plant with the pointy end up although some tubers and rhizomes have their own rules.
When you cut the flowers for arrangements leave the foliage until it dies back naturally to feed the bulbs for next year’s blooms.
Below are some really easy plants grown from bulbs that I use in my gardens.
Dahlias can hold their own among the most beautiful blooms in a flower border. Fully hardy to zone 8, the hybrids of the species may overwinter in zone 7 with mulch. Dahlias are at their best when grown in full sun in the North and afternoon shade in the South. Plant the tubers about 6 inches deep. Gardeners can get a head start by planting tubers in pots 4 – 6 weeks before the last spring frost date. For exhibition size blooms remove side shoots and allow only one bud per stem to develop. If deadheaded, dahlias will continue flowering until frost. Dahlias make an excellent cut flower. To keep blooms fresh longer place the cut stems in a vase filled with hot water that cools to room temperature.
A very easy bulb to grow and plant, the stately lilies come in many different types. Available in a myriad of colors, different bloom seasons and dwarf sizes, it’s easy to place them wherever you have a space and need a little something extra. Lilies have three main cultural requirements – deep, loose soil; ample moisture year round; and cool roots with sun on the leaves. Planting depth varies according to the size of the bulb but err on the shallow side as lily roots will adjust to proper depth. You can plant them as close as 6 inches apart for a dense, massed effect. If clumps become too crowded dig and divide them in spring or fall.
Pineapple Lily or King’s Flower produces a unique cluster of blooms topped with a crown of leafy bracts giving it look of a pineapple. Mid-summer flowers range in color from white to greenish purple to dark purple and attractive seed capsules follow. The glossy strap shaped leaves are 1 to 2 feet in length. Hardy in zones 8 – 10 (zone 7 with mulch), Eucomis prefers full sun and well drained soil Plant bulbs in spring about 12 inches apart and about 6 inches deep. Keep plants moist during the growing season. Easy, reliable and fun, these bulbs will make an unusual statement in your garden and long lasting cut flowers as well.
Ornamental Onions (Allium)
These statement making flowers are cousins with garlic, onions, leeks, and chives. While their relatives are prized for their flavor, ornamental onions get noticed for beautiful blooms that appear in late spring or early summer. Plant bulbs in fall in a spot that receives full sun with well drained soil. Space them 6 inches apart and bury about 3 inches deep with the pointed end up. Planting in groups of 3 – 5 bulbs creates a full display. The foliage will die back after the flowers fade. Positioning them among showy summer plants will help hide the dying leaves. Over time the bulbs will multiply. You can dig and remove the offset bulbs after they go dormant. Hardy in zones 4 – 9
Arabian Star Flower or Star of Bethlehem in an heirloom plant dating back to 1574. The fragrant, white blooms with showy black pistils open in late spring or early summer. Grow Ornithogalum in full sun to part shade and space them 3 – 6 inches apart in any good garden soil that is well drained. Keep plants moist during the growing season. If left undisturbed the clumps will expand up to 12 inches across over time. As cut flowers the blossoms are easy to care for and will last for 1 to 3 weeks in an arrangement. Where not hardy, use as an annual or plant them in a container. They are hardy in zones 8 – 10.