ASK THE MASTER GARDENERS
When should I plant summer bulbs?
Summer bulbs that are hardy perennials, such as crocosmia and Oriental lilies, are planted in the fall of the previous year. These overwinter and then will bloom in the summer.
Crocosmia are a magnet for hummingbirds. AP photo.
Summer bulbs that are not hardy to our Hudson Valley climate are planted in the spring, after the cold weather subsides (roughly May 15 to Memorial Day, depending on the tenderness of the specific bulb). In this group we find many lovely plants, including dahlias, gladiolas, cannas and tuberous begonias.
Our Ricky Flores shot this dahila at Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers.
Most tender bulbs require eight hours of sunlight, well-drained soil and adequate moisture while in active growth. Remove faded blossoms to stimulate a greater amount of additional blooms.
You may expedite the flowering of slower-growing summer bulbs by starting them indoors in containers in potting soil (garden soil is too heavy). This permits them to start their growing season where it is warmer and watering is more controlled. If the plants remain in the pots for the summer, fertilize them regularly during the growing season.
A dahlia in Pepe Maynard’s Bedford garden. Tania Savayan.
Many tender bulbs should be removed from the soil in preparation for winter dormancy. It is easy to remove them from pots at your convenience indoors. Store them in vermiculite or newspaper in one layer in a box that allows for air circulation. Keep the bulbs in a dry, cool area, protected from freezing.
For more information on caring for summer bulbs, contact your local Cooperative Extension.
Krys Mernyk, master gardener with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester