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Springtime flowering bulbs get a lot of attention, but there are bulbs that bloom in summer and autumn, too. Flowering bulbs, which are planted individually and may be annuals, biennials, or perennials, produce a wide variety of blooms and foliage. Bulbs work beautifully in flower beds or containers, and can be used to accent other plants or make a stunning statement when grouped together. Choosing the right flowering spring, summer, and autumn bulb for your yard is now even easier: The Better Homes and Gardens Plant Encyclopedia allows you to search bulbs by size or season, as well as problem-solving uses. Information for each bulb will help you learn about hardiness zone, sun or shade requirements, other special features, and planting suggestions. View a list of bulbs by common name or scientific name.
garden plans for bulbs
Alliums may be in the onion family, but these top-notch garden plants are anything but utilitarian vegetable-garden residents. Among the most carefree bulbs you can grow, alliums bloom in a wide range of colors (including shades of yellow, white, pink, and purple), seasons, and sizes (from inch-wide heads to volleyball-sized bloom clusters).
Alliums offer whimsical structures and great textural contrasts unique to the late-spring bulb garden. Clustered florets in a globe-shape flower head are held aloft on a thick stem. In the species, loose bouquets of flowers sprout from clustered, hollow stems. The larger allium flower heads are fun focal points for dried arrangements. Plant alliums in any well-drained garden soil in full sun. The smaller types are especially well suited for growing in rock gardens. Plant a few larger hybrids in a pot for a flowering surprise in early summer.
Alstroemerias are best known as cut flowers, where their rich colors and lovely veining grace many a vase, where they'll last for as long as two weeks. But they can also be grown in the garden, where they do best in light, well-drained soil. They bloom freely through the summer and come in almost all shades of the rainbow except true blue.
Where they're perennials, in the warmest parts of the country, deadhead flowers when they are done blooming to prevent them from spreading too much by seed.
Amaryllis is an easy bulb to grow. Its enormous cluster of trumpet-shape blooms may require staking to keep them upright, but blooms may last for up to 6 weeks. Keep the plant cool (60-65 degrees F) while in bloom but slightly warmer at other times when it is actively growing. It needs bright light and evenly moist soil, except when it is dormant. Force the bulb to go dormant in late summer or early fall by withholding water and placing it in a cool, dry location for a couple of months. Resume watering and move it to a warm spot to force new growth.
Anemones naturalize easily in good garden soil, spreading their early-spring cheer in the ephemeral garden under bare trees and shrubs that later leaf out. These daisylike blooms feature thin, silky petals that quickly disperse in the breeze after flowering. A color range of white, sky blue, pink to the velvety reds and purples of poppy anemones provide jewellike tones for early in the season before the tulips open.
Soak anemone corms in warm water overnight before planting to speed sprouting. These hardy Mediterranean natives flourish in a well-drained, lighter soil in full sun to partial shade.
This uncommon perennial is grown for its unusual black berries that form in clusters when its seedpods split open in fall. They are fascinating to behold in the garden and often brought indoors for arrangements.
In summer, this easy-care iris relative bears small orange or yellow flowers dotted with red. Plants are short-lived, but self-sow to replace themselves.
Providing color pizzazz in dim places where flowers can't, caladiums have come into their own recently with the craze for tropical plants. The clumping, heart-shape leaves are available in a variety of veined patterns in colors from cream to neon pinks, reds, silvers, and greens. Newer introductions bring caladiums out of the shade. The more substantial leaves of the Florida series, with greater heat tolerance, give the splashy caladiums their place in the sun. Plant caladium tubers shallowly in pots, and water sparingly until sprouts appear. They begin to grow vigorously once the weather warms in late spring to early summer.
Funnel-shaped white callas represent a simple cool elegance in the garden, but the colored callas add a new dimension to the plant. Now available in a rainbow of hues including lavender, purple, orange, yellow, and peach, these South African natives perk up container gardens and borders. The plants go dormant in colder winter areas of their hardiness range and do not emerge until temperatures warm up in late spring. Outside of their hardiness range, store the rhizomes in a frost-free place for winter.
Camassia is a perfect plant for extending the spring bulb season. It produces spires of beautiful purple or blue flowers in late spring and early summer -- right alongside favorites such as allium, peony, and iris. There are a handful of varieties available; give your garden a boost by selecting one with variegated foliage.
Camassia does best in full sun or part shade in moist soil. In fact, it tolerates clay and wet conditions better than most other spring bulbs. Camassia is native to areas of North America.
Cannas bring tropical splendor to gardens in all regions. These bold plants feature clustered, flaglike blooms in a brilliant color array on tall stems. Recent flower breeding has created canna foliage that is even showier than the petals, with variegated leaf combinations of orange, yellow, and greens that glow in the summer sun. Dwarf cannas are also available for container gardening and other small spaces. Cannas are usually grown from tuberous roots but some newer varieties can also be raised from seed, with flowering guaranteed for the first year.
Cannas provide architectural interest in summer borders and they also flourish along the damp margins of a pond. If you garden in a climate colder than Zone 9 (7 for the hardier types of cannas), you'll need to dig canna plants up and store them bareroot for the next season or overwinter potted specimens indoors. A destructive mottling virus has threatened canna stock in nurseries across the U.S., so be sure to buy your plants from a reputable source.
Chinese ground orchid is the perfect name for this little beauty, which actually is a true orchid. Its lavender-pink flowers resemble that of its larger, showier cousin, the Cattleya.
It grows best in partial shade with moderately moist soil. Where summers are cool, it can take full sun. In ideal conditions, it spreads gradually, forming a large clump over time.
Delightful colchicum is a dramatic plant for adding a burst of fall color to your garden. It bears big flowers that look like crocus in shades of pink and white. The flowers rise about 6 inches above the ground and appear seemingly overnight, so plant it near a path or other spot where you're sure to see it.
Like crocus, this bulb blooms year after year, getting bigger and better with age. And also like most crocus, it produces foliage in spring -- so don't be surprised to see the long, strappy leaves among your tulips and other early season bulbs. The leaves gather energy for the blooms, then disappear by midsummer.
One note: All parts of the plant are poisonous -- so be sure to keep it away from children who might be tempted to eat its candy-color blooms. Because it's poisonous, however, it's typically ignored by even the hungriest deer, rabbits, and other critters.
It's hard to find bright color for shade, so it's a puzzle that brightly colored corydalis isn't more widely planted. It's is an outstanding shade plant. Blooms are small, but they appear in clusters. Leaves look similar to those of fringe-leaf bleeding heart. Plants self-seed readily, but excess seedlings are easy to remove. Provide the plant with moist, organic soil for best growth.
Shown above: Yellow corydalis
Spidery, sweet scented crinum flowers dangle from a central stem, brightening late-summer gardens. The huge leafy plants spring from giant bulbs. The native Southern swamp lily depends on summer rain to set its perfumed flowers in motion. In colder climates, crinums are a botanical curiosity to show off on a summer patio, and then bring indoors to overwinter.
No late summer flower garden is complete without crocosmia's vibrant wands of scarlet, red, orange, and yellow. They offer a late pop of color when many gardens are languishing in the dog days. Their narrow, bladed foliage provides vertical accents much like gladiola leaves. The tubular blossoms beckon hummingbirds, and the seedpods that persist into fall also attract feathered visitors. Plant crocosmia bulbs in well-drained soil in fall or spring.
Often poking up through the last drifts of snow, crocuses are one of the opening acts of the spring-bulb show. Their large cup-shape blooms suddenly appearing in tufts of grasslike foliage seem magical. Plant crocuses in masses under trees and shrubs or in lawns for a dramatic early spring start in your garden. They thrive in any well-drained soil in full to partial sun.
Narcissus bulbocodium is also called hoop-petticoat daffodil because the cup, or corona, is much larger than the petals, so each flower appears to be mostly a cup with a fringe of petals surrounding it. The plant usually bears a single flower per stem. Native to western France, Spain, Portugal, and Morocco, it grows best in areas that have warm, dry summers. It is a bit less cold-hardy than many of the larger hybrid daffodils. However, like its larger cousins, it is deer- and rabbit-resistant.
Cyclamineus daffodils received their name from their short-necked flowers, which are sharply angled toward the stem, resembling cyclamen blooms. Many of these daffodil varieties feature petals that flare back away from the cup, creating even greater similarity to cyclamen. Their flowers are usually borne singly on each stem and may be yellow or white with a cup of the same or a contrasting color.
These easy-care spring flowers are resistant to deer and rabbits, and grow best in dry summer conditions.
Double daffodils are the show-offs of the daffodil world. Not content with a single row of petals, they have multiple rings of petals or tufted cups full of frills. Flower colors may be yellow, white, peach, pink, bicolor, or mixed. Many are so packed with petals that they almost look like miniature peonies.
As with single daffodils, the plants are deer and rabbit resistant and easy to grow. Double varieties do have a drawback, however: The flowers are sometimes so heavy that the stems have difficulty holding the blooms upright. You may need to stake individual stems or harvest fallen flowers for bouquets.
Although the terms jonquil and daffodil are often used interchangeably, jonquils are technically only one type of daffodil. Jonquils have one to five flowers per stem and are usually quite fragrant. The petals may be spreading or reflexed. As with other types of daffodils, jonquils are reliable spring bloomers, resisting damage from rabbits and deer. Bulbs increase by natural division, making them great for naturalizing.
Large-cup and trumpet daffodils are nearly no-fail spring bulbs. Deer and rabbits avoid them, and they bloom reliably each spring, often increasing in spread and amount of bloom from year to year. The varieties classified as large-cup or trumpet daffodils usually have one flower per stem, and the cup (or corona) is about one-third the length of the petals. In trumpet types, the cup is longer than the petals.
While this group has some of the largest daffodil varieties available, it also includes miniatures with large cups relative to petal length.
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