How-To

Tips for Working With Summer Bulbs

Fine Gardening – Issue 206
Photo: Michelle Gervais

Adding bulbs, corms, and tubers to garden beds is a little different from planting typical perennials or annuals. Here are a few tips to help ensure a bountiful summer-bulb display.

martagon lily bulbs
Photo: Stephanie Fagan

1. Make the most of your martagons. Plant martagon lily bulbs in groups of three or more to give the planting an established look rather than waiting years for a single bulb to create a small stand.

bulbs in bag
Photo: Carol Collins

2. You’ll be glad you saved them. If you live in a cold climate outside of the hardiness range of these bulbs, corms, and tubers, you will need to lift and store them for winter. Your goal will be to keep them cool, dark, and relatively dry until it is time to plant again
next spring.

tuberous begonias in plastic pots
Photo: Carol Collins

3. Get tuberous begonias off to a good start. At least a month before your average last frost date, plant each begonia tuber in a 4- to 5-inch pot, barely covered with a peaty indoor soil mix. I make my own mix that is 50 percent dry peat moss, 25 percent perlite, and 25 percent vermiculite. Shift the plants to larger clay pots when the leaves reach 4 inches in length. 

Leave two-thirds of the stem behind when cutting flowers.
Photo: Michelle Gervais

4. Cut with care. When you are gathering orienpet lilies for a cut arrangement, be sure to leave at least two-thirds of each stem behind. The leaves that remain intact will help recharge the bulb for next year’s show.


Thomas Hobbs and his partner, Brent Beattie, own and operate Southlands Nursery in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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