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Summer-Flowering Bulbs

Add a touch of extra colour to a summer garden with these summer-flowering bulbs that can be planted in October.

Crocosmia

Easy-to-grow and free-flowering crocosmias are a good choice to add some bright colourful blooms to a bit of garden shade. The star-shaped, orange to dark red flowers are the inspiration for the common name of falling stars. Crocosmias are indigenous to the eastern regions of South Africa and as such prefer warmer climates, but they can be grown everywhere if mulched to keep them warm in the cold. Prepare the soil with plenty of compost and a handful of bonemeal and make sure the soil drains well. They will also grow in a sunny position and need moderate watering. Once they are in the garden they can stay there. Simply cut off the stems once they have yellowed and died down and they will pop up again in spring. Every 3 – 5 years they can be divided and replanted in compost-rich soil.

Cyrtanthus

There are indigenous Cyrtanthus species that flower in winter and others, like Cyrtanthus falcatus, that flower with narrow pendulous blooms in summer. It is easy to grow in the garden and makes an excellent container plant. Preferring light shade or morning sun, watering once a week in the growing season and well-draining soil with added compost, this species is happy to make lovely clumps that can be divided every 5 years or so. In the wild they are known to cling to tiny spaces between rocks or peek out from grasslands, so are tough and hardy in warmer regions.

Gladiolus

The American National Gardening Bureau has declared 2022 the year of the gladiolus. It’s no wonder that these beauties make the cut thanks to their tall spikes of flowers in amazing colours that perform well in the garden as well as in containers. The flowers reach around 1m in height and may need staking in windy weather. Start planting glads in late spring and then every 10 days to extend the season of flowering into autumn. For better blooms, plant in full sun and leave enough space between them for good air circulation. Prepare the soil with plenty of compost to be well-draining and slightly acidic. Keep well-watered during the growing season, never allowing the soil to dry out.

Cut the flowers when there are one or two open flowers – the rest will open in the vase. Retain at least four leaves on the stems to feed the corms if you are planning on lifting them to plant the following year. They can be lifted at the end of autumn.

Begonias

Tuberous begonias have big, colourful blooms that are perfect for containers and make a beautiful splash in the garden. They are often used as indoor plants because they can do with less light that other bulbs. They require bright light but not direct sunlight (or a few hours at most), and in the garden do better growing in the dappled shade of trees. Plant in mid-spring when the temperatures are higher for blooming through the summer until autumn. The soil for these tuberous types should be rich loam that drains well because they do like regular watering, but their tubers cannot sit in water or they will rot. They also like good air circulation. For the best blooms, feed weekly with liquid plant food at a quarter strength.

Dahlias

From dainty to dinner plates, there is a dahlia for every occasion and in every colour imaginable. Making a big comeback in the garden, dahlias are very rewarding to grow, although the taller ones will need staking. The more you cut the flowers, the more the plant will produce, making them the ideal cut flower for the vase. Plant in rich, composted soil that is well-draining, and water deeply once a week. Give them space to grow and feed every two weeks with a food high in potassium for the best flowers. Look out for slugs and snails on new growth. Dahlias do not like the cold and the tubers need to be lifted and stored before the soil gets too cold.

READ MORE: Learn how to story your dahlia bulbs over winter.

Bearded iris

A fantastic array of iris colours and combinations of colours will enhance any sunny garden, and they are very easy to grow with a few conditions. Make sure the soil is well-draining and enriched with plenty of compost and sit the rhizomes just below the surface of the soil with the roots in the soil or build the soil up over the roots and keep the rhizome exposed. Plant in spring and divide the plants every 3 – 5 years when they become crowded – late summer is the time to do so, when they have died down. When planting, give them a good soaking of water and then only water if the weather is very dry with no rain forecast. The blooms start at the top of the stem and move downwards, each lasting 2 – 3 days. Deadhead the spent blooms regularly.

READ MORE: Learn about different irises in this article.

Crinums

There are several species of crinums indigenous to South Africa that can also be enjoyed in garden settings with plenty of water and a little dappled shade. Multiple flowers form on tall spikes, depending on the variety, in colours that range from white to dark pink and even candy-striped. In fact, a species like Crinum macowanii will hold up to 25 large flowers on one stem, and it’s one of the easiest to grow in the garden. Plant in rich soil. Look out for the varieties available in nurseries and plant according to the packet instructions for that particular variety.

Oriental lilies

Stately flowers for the summer garden start with oriental lilies, which are very easy to grow despite looking serious. They provide height, reaching 2.5m, but need plenty of sunshine, at least 6 – 8 hours a day, to keep upright and not grow towards the sun as well as to produce vibrant, colourful blooms. Plant in well-draining soil with added compost to make a friable and nutritious bed for the bulbs. Water well often but don’t waterlog. Mulch to keep the soil moist.

When cutting for the vase, only cut a third of the stem so that the rest of the foliage is available to feed back into the bulbs. Let them die back completely before cutting the stems back. The bulbs can remain in the soil but should be lifted and divided every 3 – 4 years.

Amaryllis

Often grown just in time for the festive season, amaryllis have beautiful blooms in colours including white, pink, yellow and the festive red. They are perfect pot plants but can also be grown in the garden in rich composted soil that drains well. For potted bulbs, simply sit a hydrated bulb on top of compost in a pot that is snug and fill in with extra compost, leaving half the bulbs exposed. Water well and position in bright light. Pot a few extra to give away as gifts. You can expect it to flower in 6 – 8 weeks. The bulbs can be kept in their pots after flowering and fed with a general fertiliser. Stop watering and store in their pots until the following season, when a little water will bring them back to life.

Eucomis

For a spectacular show of tall ‘pineapple-looking’ stems of star-shaped flowers in late summer, the Eucomis varieties are a winner.

Colours range from green to pale cream and purple, with foliage arranged in a rosette of broad, strap-shaped leaves. The leaves are smooth with wavy edges and are coloured light green, sometimes flecked with purple. The flowers of some species are sweetly-scented but some have a distinctly unpleasant odour. Nevertheless, they are beautiful planted in garden beds that get morning sun and afternoon shade. Enrich the soil with plenty of compost and keep the soil moist during the growing season.

Images from iBulb.org

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