Dahlias planted now bloom in summer.

Like something of bad science fiction, they are back. The earliest of spring bulbs that were so discourteously buried in shallow graves last autumn are making their presence known. Even before the weather gets noticeably warmer, their foliage emerges above the surface of the soil. Daffodil, narcissus, crocus and snowdrop are already blooming. Hyacinth, tulip and anemone will be next.

We know them as spring bulbs, or alternatively, as hardy bulbs. However, in this climate, many bloom through late winter, so are finished by spring. Also, many are technically not really bulbs. They might be corms, rhizomes, tubers or tuberous roots. They are hardy bulbs because they want to be planted through autumn so that they can get a bit of chill through winter before their early bloom.

Some spring bulbs require a bit more of a chill than they get in the locally mild climate. They bloom very well in their first season because they are pre-chilled before they are sold. Once dormant, they get dug and chilled in refrigeration to entice them to bloom well for subsequent seasons. That happens much later in the year though. For now, long before spring, we get to enjoy their bloom.

Summer bulbs, which are not so hardy, are what gets planted about now. Their planting is delayed, not just because they do not need chill, but also because they dislike it. If their foliage develops too early, it can be damaged by late frost. Once established, summer bulbs are more resilient to minor frost damage of premature foliage. They can therefore remain in the garden for many years.

Canna, dahlia and big old fashioned white calla are the simplest of summer bulb-like perennials to plant now. Those that are already established can be divided if crowded. The smaller and more colorful callas can be a bit more finicky. Gladiolus and various lilies are spectacular, but bloom only once annually, rather than throughout summer. They are also unlikely to establish as perennials.

Bulb-like perennials that bloom only once might be planted in phases to prolong their potentially brief bloom season.

4 thoughts on “Bulb-Like Perennials For Summer

  1. This is food for thought for the garden, but I need to figure out the vegetables tout de suite as later in February I’ll start with the cooler weather crops. I can’t grow Dahlias, but I have grown different varieties of callas before.

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    1. Have dahlias just not done well there, or are they not recommended for the region? I have been surprised by some of the places they do well in the Pacific Northwest. They look as good there as they do here.

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      1. Well, I think they’re something I don’t know how to take care of. A gardener a few plots over has fabulous ones every year in multiple colors. I love the peachy ones. But I think they require more attention in heat and dry weather than I give them.

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      2. They like to be watered rather regularly during warm weather. They do very well in the Santa Clara Valley, where the air is rather arid. However, it does not get very hot in summer.

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