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Time to break out the summer-blooming bulbs

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Jessica Walliser
An oriental lily

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Friday, May 10, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

Once the danger of frost has passed (usually around May 15 in Western Pennsylvania), it's time to plant bulbs. That's right, bulbs! While spring-bloomers like daffodils, tulips and crocus are best planted in the fall, there are many other bulbs that are planted in the spring. These summer-blooming bulbs produce many gorgeous flowers during the heat of the season and should be a part of every garden.

Lilies are, by far, my favorite summer-blooming bulbs. Now, I'm not talking about daylilies, which are members of the genus Hemerocallis; I'm talking about true lilies, in the genus Lilium. There are several types of true lilies and some of them are incredibly fragrant. They are best purchased as bulbs and planted 4 or 5 inches deep in full sun. Lilies are separated into several d categories, including Oriental, Asiatic, Martagon, Trumpet and Orienpet lilies. Most true lilies are winter-hardy.

For the shade, my favorite bulb is the caladium. With a staggering array of foliage colors, caladiums are loved for their bold, showy leaves, not for their flowers. Their large, heart-shaped leaves grow from corms rather than true bulbs and come in various combinations of white, green, pink, red, purple and burgundy. Caladiums look absolutely beautiful in combination with shade-loving annuals like angel-wing begonias, impatiens, torenia and others. Caladiums are grown as annuals, and the bulbs must be dug up and stored for the winter.

Gladiolus are another lovely bulb plant. They are not officially hardy in Western Pennsylvania but often return when mulched heavily. While the tall, heavy flowers of gladiolus hybrids are real show-stoppers, I also love the smaller-statured species, including G. primulinus and G. nanus. These species are grown as annuals, and the bulbs should be dug up and stored in a box of peat moss for the winter.

While I have struggled to grow calla lilies, many gardeners have great success with them. Members of the genus Zantedeschia, these bulbs are tropical plants that bear vase-like flowers in shades of white, pink or lavender. The foliage of some varieties is mottled or variegated, adding a bit of extra interest to the garden. They enjoy damp, semi-shaded conditions, and many species may overwinter here with a bit of extra mulch. Look for hardier varieties for the best performance.

Check your local nurseries this spring for a good bulb selection. Online sources include www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com and www.whiteflowerfarm.com

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to tribliving@tribweb.com or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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