How To Make The Most Of Summer Bulbs

Summer bulbs are very versatile, colourful and flamboyant additions to the border, great for filling space or planting in containers. There is quite a choice and David Hall says you can achieve magnificent colour all summer long.

Created by David Hall on Wednesday, 2nd of September, 2015.
Updated on Thursday, 6th of June, 2019.

summer bulb

Oriental Lilies are very dramatic and combine marvellous colour with a superb fragrance. Ideal for cut flowers, there's a large range of different sizes and colours to choose from including the pollen free 'China Girl'.

Tuberous Begonias flower beautifully all through the summer and also possess lovely dark green foliage. They are perfect for hanging baskets and window boxes.

Gladioli have an old fashioned image but are very bright and colourful bulbs that can make great cut flowers with their elegant long stems.

Crocosmia can look fabulous, they are fast growing and easy to look after. Quickly multiplying these bulbs have beautiful orange, red and yellow flowers that bring great vibrancy to the garden.

Cannas are fantastic plants with some varieties reaching 10ft, although there are others much shorter. They are easy to grow from rhizomes and their bold colours and exotic leaves are a revelation.

When And How To plant

Think about planting them outside in the spring when the soil is warming up, ideally at least 13C / 55F or the bulbs may rot instead of grow. 

Inspect the bulbs carefully, checking that each one is firm and in good order. 

If planting in the garden, the soil type isn't too important but bulbs hate to be waterlogged, so if you have heavy soil, dig deep, and add grit together with organic matter to improve the drainage. 

The depth that the bulbs are planted is important as they might not flower if it's too shallow. Use a dibber or create a shallow trench, don't push them into the earth. As a rule they should be planted to a depth that is at least double their size and about two or three times their width apart.

It might sound obvious but also make sure the bulbs are the correct way up with the growing point pointing skywards. Generally speaking summer bulbs aren't particularly picky about the type of soil and most enjoy a warm sunny position. However, some like Oriental Lilies do prefer acid soil while others such as Begonias don't mind dappled shade.

Alternatively plant in pots and other containers. The advantage is that containers can be moved around the garden or onto the patio, so that the plants can be displayed at their best or moved to fill empty spaces.

Use a free draining peat free compost with added grit. Plant about one bulb width apart at three times their depth. Keep watered and feed with a fertilizer high in potassium (tomato feed is ideal). With Begonias, make sure the concave side faces up and plant one corm in a pot that is only slightly larger.


Summer bulbs can be hardy or tender. Of my favourites, Lilies and Crocosmia can be left in the ground through the winter perhaps with a mulch. 

Cannas can also be left in milder areas of the country covered with a mulch, however you can also lift and store them in slightly moist sand or bark in a frost free shed or garage. 

When frosts arrive, Begonias and Gladioli will need to be lifted. Clear away any soil and leaves, dry and then store in paper bags or netting.

Related Articles

Summer Bulbs - Easy to Grow for a Marvellous Show

Summer Bulbs - Easy to Grow for a Marvellous Show

There's always enough time to plant summer flowering bulbs to create a superb show of dramatic colour. Here is a selection of David Coton's favourites among the many that are available from your Garden Centre.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Monday, 1st of June, 2015.

Container Gardening

Container Gardening

If you have a small garden, courtyard, or no garden at all, container growing might be the perfect way to fill your outside space with some of your favourite plants. David Coton considers timber and stone containers and how best to use them.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Monday, 11th of May, 2015.

comments powered by Disqus


David Hall David Hall

View Profile


View RSS Feed

Follow Us!

Recent Articles

Henri Studio Water Features Arrive At GardenSite

Henri Studio Water Features Arrive At GardenSite

It's been quite a while since the last delivery of the highly popular Henri Studio cast stone water features was unloaded at our garden centre, that's why the fully laden truck that arrived recently was so well received as it was packed full of these best selling products.

Author: David Hall

Written by David Hall.
Published on Tuesday, 7th of April, 2020.

Gardening TV Programmes, What's On and When?

Gardening TV Programmes, What's On and When?

There's no doubt that television provides gardeners with inspiration, sound advice and good ideas, that's why we're all looking forward to new programmes and the return of old favourites during 2020.

Author: Martyn Loach

Written by Martyn Loach.
Published on Tuesday, 13th of February, 2018.

Supporting the NHS: Donating £1 For Every £50 Spent

Supporting the NHS: Donating £1 For Every £50 Spent

In a new initiative to show how much we value the tremendous work done by the National Health Service in these unprecedented times, GardenSite has decided to give £1 from every £50 you spend online to the NHS.

Author: Robert Hall

Written by Robert Hall.
Published on Monday, 6th of April, 2020.

Barlow Tyrie Layout Range Awarded The Prestigious Red Dot

Barlow Tyrie Layout Range Awarded The Prestigious Red Dot

Barlow Tyrie is a brand which is synonymous with high quality design and manufacture using only the finest materials. This insistence on 'only the best' has now been recognized by their Layout range of garden furniture becoming a prestigious Red Dot award winner.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Monday, 6th of April, 2020.