The Best Summer Bulbs

Fill your garden with color from these easy-growing summer-blooming bulbs.


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Dahlia
1/17
Dahlia

    Dahlias are one of the most versatile bulbs for the summer garden. Dwarf types reach only a few inches tall; the monster "dinnerplate" varieties grow more than 6 feet (and feature flowers bigger than your head). Dahlia blooms come in nearly every color of the rainbow and a range of flower forms -- from daisy-like singles to more alienesque quilled types.

    How to Grow Them: Dahlias appreciate a spot with full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Stake taller varieties to protect them from the wind. Dahlias are hardy in Zones 8-10; in colder climates, dig the tubers and store them a frost-free place for winter. Or treat them as an annual.

2/17
Oriental Lily

    The lily tribe is a big one, but there's no overlooking the Oriental varieties. The most dramatic lilies, they bear large, star-shape flowers in shades of white, yellow, crimson, and pink. These blooms are ideal for cutting. And many are perfumed with a spicy scent detectable from yards away. Dwarf varieties stay about 1 foot tall; traditional types can grow more than 6 feet.

    How to Grow Them: Oriental lilies grow best in a spot with full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Stake them to keep them standing straight and tall. They're hardy in Zones 5-9.

3/17
Fragrant Gladiolus

    Sometimes called Acidanthera, fragrant gladiolus (Gladiolus callianthus) offers white flowers marked with purple at the throat. The blooms are beautiful, but their best asset is the wonderful, sweet scent. Their grassy foliage is also nice. Fragrant gladiolus grows 3 feet tall.

    How to Grow Them: Fragrant gladiolus prefers full sun and moist but well-drained soil. It's hardy in Zones 8-10; in cooler areas, dig and store them in a frost-free place for winter.

4/17
Calla

    Few bulbs are as elegant as calla (Zantedeschia). The gorgeous blooms appear in a wide range of shades including white, pink, red, orange, yellow, and deep burgundy. Most varieties have great foliage, too: The arrowhead-shaped leaves are often dotted in white. Most varieties grow about a foot tall.

    How to Grow Them: Callas like a spot in full sun or part shade and moist soil. They're frost tender, so in areas that experience freezing temperatures treat them like an annual or dig and store them a frost-free place over winter.

5/17
Canna

    Cannas are some of the most showstopping plants in the garden. Tall varieties tower to 10 feet or more, but if you don't have the space, look for shorter selections that stay under 2 feet. The blooms appear in bold shades of red, orange, yellow, and pink and pair perfectly with the tropical-looking foliage.

    How to Grow Them: Cannas appreciate a spot with full sun and moist soil. They're hardy in Zones 8-10; in cooler areas, dig and store them a frost-free place over winter. Or consider them a bold summer annual.

6/17
Tuberous Begonia

    The most glamorous bulb for shade, tuberous begonia produces gorgeous roselike flowers in a wide range of shades. It grows particularly well in containers such as window boxes and hanging baskets. While the flowers are attractive, the dark green leaves are also great. Most tuberous begonias grow about 12-18 inches tall.

    How to Grow It: Tuberous begonia prefers a spot with full shade and moist but well-drained soil. It is frost-tender; in areas outside of Zone 10, dig and store them in a frost-free place for winter.

7/17
Caladium

    An ideal choice for brightening shady corners, Caladium bears colorful leaves splashed in shades of pink, red, and white. And because it's the leaves that are colorful, you don't have to worry about the plant going out of bloom. Caladium grows 2 feet tall and is great in the ground or in containers.

    How to Grow It: Caladium grows best in full shade and moist, but well-drained soil. Zone 10; in cooler areas, dig and store them in a frost-free place for winter.

8/17
Pineapple Lily

    This plant is aptly named: The blooms bear a curious resemblance to skinny pineapples. The flowers appear in shades of white, cream, green, and pink and come tightly packed on short spikes. They're topped by a burst of festive-looking foliage. Pineapple lilies (Eucomis comosa) typically grow about 2 feet tall.

    How to Grow It: Pineapple lilies prefer a spot with full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Pineapple lilies are hardy in Zones 8-10; in colder areas, treat them like an annual or dig and store them a frost-free place over winter.

9/17
Oxalis

    Also called shamrock, Oxalis regnellii bears clover-shape leaves (which are a stunning purple color in many varieties), and delicate pink or white flowers on a 10-inch-tall plant. Easy to grow, it thrives in sun or partial shade and is an excellent choice for container gardens.

    How to Grow It: Oxalis grow best in full sun or part shade and moist but well-drained soil. Zones 8-10; in cooler areas, dig and store them in a frost-free place for winter.

10/17
Gloriosa Lily

    Gloriosa lily is a perfect plant for growing in a container on a deck or patio. One of the few climbing bulbs, it produces exotic blooms in shades of red and yellow. The flowers are reminiscent of fireballs -- definitely garden showstoppers! They climb to about 6 feet tall and bloom in summer.

    How to Grow It: Gloriosa lily grows best in full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Zone 10; in cooler areas, dig and store them in a frost-free place for winter.

11/17
Butterfly Ginger

    An underused choice, butterfly ginger (Hedychium) offers beautiful clusters of flowers throughout the summer months. Appearing in shades of white, apricot, pink, and cream, these flowers are often delightfully fragrant. The plant bears tropical-looking leaves and can reach 5 feet tall or more.

    How to Grow It: Butterfly ginger grows best in full sun and moist, but well-drained soil. Zones 8-10; in cooler areas, bring it in and grow as a houseplant for the winter or treat it as an exotic annual.

12/17
Elephant's Ear

    You can't beat elephant's ear (Alocasia and Colocasia) for dramatic summer foliage. These plants produce whopping leaves that can reach 4 feet or more in size. The size ranges by type, though; others reach no more than 2 feet tall. Some types even have gorgeous golden or purple leaves.

    How to Grow It: Elephant's ear grows best in part shade and moist but well-drained soil. Zone 10; in cooler areas, bring it in and grow as a houseplant for the winter or treat it as an exotic annual.

13/17
Gladiolus

    Gladiolus has rightfully earned its reputation as a top cut flower. The blooms (up to 40 of them) burst out of an upright spike and hold up as well in the vase as they do the garden. They run the gamut as far as flower color goes -- from bright, bold colors to soft pastels. And they come in different sizes; miniature gladioli stay under 3 feet tall but larger varieties may exceed 6 feet.

    How to Grow It: Gladiolus does best in a spot with full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Stake it to keep it standing straight and tall. Zones 8-10; in cooler climates, dig and store them a frost-free place over winter. (Or replant every year.)

14/17
Asiatic Lily

    The easiest lilies to grow, the Asiatic varieties bloom in early to midsummer in a very wide range of colors on tough, hardy plants. Their star-shape flowers are great in the garden and last a long time in the vase (so grow a few extra to cut and bring indoors). Most types grow 2-3 feet tall.

    How to Grow Them: Asiatic lilies grow best in a spot with full sun and moist but well-drained soil. They're hardy in Zones 3-8.

15/17
Crocosmia

    Crocosmia is an exotic, beautiful plant that's a cinch to grow. Its summertime flowers appear in a cluster like freesias in dazzling shades of red, orange, and yellow. The swordlike foliage is handsome, too. Plus, it's a great cut flower.

    How to Grow It: Crocosmia grows best in full sun and moist but well-drained soil. Zones 6-9.

16/17
Surprise Lily

    A bit of a garden oddity, surprise lily (Lycoris squamigera) sends up foot-tall clumps of blue-green leaves in spring. By summer the leaves die back and the plant rests until late summer when it sends up 3-foot-tall stalks of fragrant pink blooms that are reminiscent of amaryllis.

    How to Grow It: Surprise lily grows best in full sun or partial shade, and well-drained soil. Zones 5-10.

17/17
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