We often think of planting bulbs for spring color, but there are many summer flowering bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers that add color and a touch of the tropics to the peak season garden. Most summer bulbs are semi-tropical perennial plants. It can be more common to see these flowers used in warmer climates, where most of these flowering bulbs can be left in the ground all year and some will even naturalize.
Even gardeners in cooler climates can enjoy these summer blooming bulbs, though. While they are not hardy enough to leave in the ground, they can either be grown as annual plants that are allowed to die off at frost and replaced each year, or they can be dug out of the ground in the fall and stored for the winter, to be replanted when the weather warms in the spring.
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Bright blue or white flowers bloom in mid-summer along tall stalks that can reach 4-5 feet. Where hardy, to USDA Zone 9, Agapanthus can remain evergreen throughout the winter. In colder zones, the bulbs will need to be dug and stored. Agapanthus is very drought resistant and prefers full sun to partial shade.
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The saturated intense colors of tuberous begonias will quickly light up any shady corner. The foliage looks almost succulent and makes them attractive even when not in bloom. Tuberous begonia's long blooming flowers make them a great choice for containers. They are hardy only to USDA Zone 9, so the tubers will need to be dug and stored for the winter, in cooler climates.
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Caladium (Caladium horulanum)
Caladiums are grown for their large, colorful leaves. Splashed or swirled with greens, whites, reds and pinks, caladiums add a touch of the tropics to a shade garden. They are only hardy to USDA Zone 10, but many gardeners grow them as annuals, either digging and storing them for winter or bringing them inside as a house plant.
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Cannas have really come into their own recently, with the introduction of so many exotic and colorful varieties. Tall and showy, there’s no mistaking their tropical appeal. In areas cooler than USDA Zone 8, cannas will need to be dug and stored. If you garden in a climate warmer than USDA Zone 8, you may even be able to naturalize your cannas.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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You almost have to look for lily-of-the-valley to actually see the flowers, but the intense scent will guide you where to look. These dainty plants are hardy down to USDA Zone 4 and will naturalize and form a carpet in colder zones, especially in slightly acid soil. Caution, Lily of the Valley will spread. It is often listed as a ground cover, so make sure it has room to grow.
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This is a huge family of very diverse flowers, popular for competitions. The smaller varieties are often grown as annual bedding plants, but dahlias are hardy to USDA Zone 9 and elsewhere, the tubers can be dug and stored for the winter.
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It would be hard to find more popular cut flowers. The trumpet-shaped flowers on long stalks are a sure sign it’s summer. The tall types are only hardy to USDA Zone 9, but there are smaller varieties, Gladiolus colvillei, that are hardier and the corms don’t require digging and storage.
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There’s an iris to please every gardener. The tall bearded iris is a traditional favorite. There are also the delicate Siberian iris, the dainty iris cristata and the water-loving flag iris. Most are pretty much self-sufficient and hardy to Zone 5. Some varieties are even hardier.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Lilium is a large and diverse group of trumpet-shaped flowers. You can find almost every color and heights from about 2 feet to over 6 feet. Most are hardy down to Zone 4 and will require little care once established.
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The calla lily is another tropical-looking summer bloomer that is hardy to Zone 8. The cup-shaped summer-blooming flowers are typically white, but also come in yellow, pink and red. They are generally grown as annuals in cooler climates.