Belgian Nursery Blog

April 1, 2024

Spring/Summer Bulbs (Glads, not Daffs)

What do you think of when you hear “flower bulbs”? Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinths, the usual. Now think of “Spring Bulbs” and what comes to mind? Tulips, Daffodils…well, yes, those all flower in spring, but they have to be planted in the fall. We’re talking about bulbs you plant in spring to get the gorgeous blooms anytime from spring through fall, depending on the variety. And while many are tubers, rhizomes, corms, and other non-bulbs, the point is that they’re all oh so pretty! Read on to learn about some of our favourites, which can be found in the Main Store in early spring, depending on availability.

General Tip: Check the packages for individual planting and care instructions. Some will need to keep their foliage after they’re done flowering to absorb enough energy for next year’s blooms. They’ll also need a sunny location (at least 4-6 hours, unless otherwise stated) to generate those blooms, and their tubers/corms/etc will need to be dry before going into winter storage.

Dahlia: The colours! The petals! The pageantry! Sorry, it’s hard not to get excited about these fall giants, what with the massive blooms bursting with nearly every colour and combination a rainbow could think of! They often grow 4-7’ tall (dwarf Dahlietta varieties can be found in our annual selection in May) and are perfect for cutting. Their tubers will need 3” of well-drained soil above their crowns; setting your stakes around their base at planting time will help keep them upright as they grow. You can even start them indoors to get an early start on their gorgeous colour! Pinch the tips once 3 sets of leaves appear, and again in a few weeks, to encourage a strong, bushy specimen. To overwinter, dig them up in fall and brush off any excess soil; place them in shallow trays that are filled with either sand or vermiculite and store in a dry, dark location that stays cool but not freezing, around 4°C. Clumps can be divided in spring. Blooms: Summer into Fall.

Gladiola: No cut flower garden is complete without a rainbow of Glads! These giants can grow up to 6’ tall and are beloved by gardeners and roadside stands alike for their vibrant blooms, available in a wide spectrum of solid colours and combinations. These beauties were made for cutting—even the sword-shaped foliage adds impact to floral arrangements! Keep them protected from strong winds and/or stake their stems to help keep them upright and strong. Plant their corms (a sort of flattened bulb) 4-6” deep and the same distance apart, and feed with a low-nitrogen fertilizer after planting and again once their spikes start to show. Dig the plants up in the fall and store in a cool, well-ventilated area for winter. Blooms: Late Summer into Fall.

Lilium (Lily): A gorgeous and wide-ranging family! There’s the traditional “trumpet” Easter Lilies, the blindingly colourful Asiatic varieties, the intensely fragrant hybrid Orientals (those last two also have the most adorable freckles) not to mention all the unique novelty blooms! All Liliums are excellent for cutting; be sure to cut high up on the stem if you want the bulb to have enough energy to bloom again next year. And be careful of their stamens: they are filled with pollen and will stain everything a bright golden hue! Tall varieties will benefit from staking to protect them from wind damage. Most varieties prefer a sunny but cool location, with 1-2” of soil above the bulb’s tip at planting; heavy mulching or shading from other plants will help the bulbs get through the summer heat wave. Bonus: There’s no need for overwintering indoors—most of these beauties can be treated as a perennial! Blooms: Summer or Fall, depending on the variety.

Calla Lily: Beautiful but a bit deceiving, since it’s not a Lily at all but a Zantedeschia. The graceful, tapered blooms are often pure white but are also available in shades of pink, red, yellow, or even lavender, with lush green foliage acting as the perfect backdrop. Growing up to 3’ tall means they are perfect for adding graceful beauty to borders, and of course they are the classic choice for cutting and bouquets—hello wedding season! The rhizomes should be planted about 4” deep, 12-24” apart, and in light, rich soil. You can even start them indoors for a pop of colour as the snow melts! Dig up your plants in fall after the foliage has died away, and let them dry out for about a week before brushing away the soil; store them in paper bags and keep in a dark location that won’t freeze. Or keep your Callas in pots, and simply stack them on top of each other! Blooms: Spring into Summer.

But Wait! There’s More!
Just like Fall Bulbs are more than just Tulips and Daffs, there’s an ocean of options when it comes to spring-planted bulbs! Add any of these to your collection and you will not be disappointed:

Freesia: Fragrant! These cousins to the Iris family are bright and adorable, growing just 18 inches and bursting in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, or bicolour combinations. Cuttings can last up to a week in the vase. Plant corms 5” deep, pointed ends up, and 1-2” apart. Stake plants to keep them upright. Lift in fall and store in sand or peat moss in a cool, dry, dark location. Blooms: Spring.

Anemone: These cuties look more like a bright Poppy/Buttercup than other Perennial varieties, and are often sold as a mix of white, bright pink, and blue-purple with open blooms, while other varieties offer daisy-like flowers. Whichever you choose, the tubers will have to be soaked overnight before being planted on their sides 4” deep and 6” apart in well-drained soil. Let them dry out after flowering, then lift before fall frost and store the dry, clean tubers in a cool, dry, dark location. Blooms: Spring.

Ranunculus: These are some of our favourites; they look like a Rose and a Poppy had a baby! The silky, fully double blooms come in vivid reds, oranges, yellows, or pinks, and are perfect for cutting. Plant the tubers 4” deep and 4” apart. Let them dry out after flowering. You can either lift them in fall and store the dry tubers in peat or moss in a warm, dry location, or treat them as an annual. Blooms: Spring.

Tuberose: Sweetly fragrant! The striking stalks can grow up to 3 feet and burst with bright white blooms for weeks on end, making them perfect for cutting! It’s actually a member of the Agave family, but prefers moist, well-drained soil. Plant the tubers with no more than 1” of soil above the tips, and 8” apart. Water and fertilize heavily during the summer; use stakes if in a windy location. Lift plants in fall, leaving about 2” of foliage attached, and store in sand/peat moss in a warm, dark, dry location. Blooms: Summer into Fall.

Seed Potatoes, Onion Sets, & Garlic: Okay, technically these aren’t flowers but they do have beautiful flavour! They’re available along with our spring/summer bulb selection; garlic bulbs are also sold in the fall because if you plant them before fall frost, you can enjoy their delicious flower stems (also known as scapes) in spring!

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