You Can Grow That! April 2012: Tender, Summer Bulbs
For many gardeners, summer bulbs are as mysterious as the exotic places they come from.
Most bulbs that bloom in summer look different than their spring-blooming relatives. Many spring bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, have flat bottoms and pointy tops. Summer bulbs are more likely to look like a sprawling creature from the deep.
The term summer bulb includes corms (gladiolus), rhizomes (daylily) and tubers (begonia). Gardeners seem to be most familiar with cannas, caladiums, elephant ears (Alocasia or Colocasia), gladiolus and dahlias, which already are staples in perennial beds. But interest is on the rise for the less familiar summer bulbs, such as pineapple lily (Eucomis) and rain lilies (Zephyranthes).
Summer bulbs, from their ornamental foliage to fragrant flowers, have shot up in popularity because people are spending more time in their gardens and there’s more interest in cutting flowers to bring them indoors for enjoyment.
Summer bulbs tend to bring a lush, tropical feel to the garden, which some people have a hard time working into their landscape. However, gardening should be experimental. There’s nothing wrong with trying new things and moving plants around to get the look you want. Summer bulbs also are wonderful space fillers with perennials or, when planted in a pot, a focal point in the garden.
Many summer bulbs are tender, such as dahlais, and need to be dug after the first frost and wintered over. Others are perennial, such as lilies (Lilium), which winter over fine in the Indiana garden..
A drawback to planting tender summer bulbs may be confusion about when to dig them up if you plant to store them for the winter. Inexpensive tender bulbs should be treated as annuals and discarded at the end of the season.
Other, more valuable tender bulbs, can be grown in pots that are sunk in the ground and raised after the first frost for storage in a cool place that will keep them from freezing, but not too warm so they don’t sprout. Others plant the tender bulbs right in the ground and dig them up after the frost.
In general, tender bulbs should be dug after the first frost kills back the foliage. Brush off the soil and cut off the foliage that has been killed by the frost. Store the bulbs in dry peat moss, wood shavings or similar product, or just place them in a paper bag that remains open. Circulation is important. Check the bulbs periodically and remove any that are soft or mushy.
You Can Grow That! appears the 4th of the month. It was started by C.L. Fornari at Whole Life Gardening.