Minor tender summer bulbs

linnea56(z5 IL)March 7, 2010

Or borderline tender. IÂd like to know what is worth trying that I might have overlooked. I know that few if any will be hardy in my zone. So IÂm willing to dig up and store over winter, or buy new each year, if the impact is worth it. IÂd like it if someone could tell me which are worth it, and which are too hard, or require much jumping through hoops to ensure success. (Spring is busy enough without all that hopping around.)

So far IÂve done dahlias and tuberous begonias: so far, so good. Both are pretty easy, in my opinion, and the impact is a good return for the labor. Glads are ok. Did not bloom the last 2 years so IÂm going to give them a rest. Last year I tried callas. Those grew fine but were not impressive. I will try again with a different variety. Tried Crocosmia Lucifer. Some sprouted (maybe a third) but none bloomed.

I tried caladiums a few years ago: those were a bust. Used a heat mat and everything. One uninteresting one sprouted out of 50.

In the stores I see tuberoses, Ixia, De Caen Anemones, and Sparaxis. Those are just the ones that come to mind. I know nothing about those.

Go to it, enablers!

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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

It's hard for me to believe that you failed with caladiums. They are right up there with zinnias for ease of culture. Perhaps you got some inferior bulbs??? In your climate, I bet they could take morning sun too.

I have grown the anemones. They are truly gorgeous when they bloom, but, at least here, the blooms are short lived and they have to be replaced every year. Ditto with Dutch Iris (gorgeous, of course). I'd advise you to try zephryanthes candida. They are easy, bloom many times through the summer, and are lovely. I grow them in the ground, of course, but I bet others here could tell you how to keep them in pots over the winter.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 6:26PM
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Linnea, you probably don't have a long enough growing season for tuberose.
Poppy-Flowered Anemones, Ranunculus, Ixia, Sparaxis, Babiana, Crocosmia, and Freesia are all likely candidates. Store them warm and dry over the winter.
Rain Lilies, Tigridia, Calla, or Aztec Lily might work, too. Store them cool and dry.
Maybe Bletilla striata? That may even be hardy in your area.
Chasmanthe or Watsonia?

Probably others that I can't think of, right now.

Kevin : )

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 6:28PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

So, Donna (or others) Âwhat is the trick with caladiums? I just came back from a store that had some pretty ones. I put them in the cartÂthen put them back on the shelf! Thought IÂd better find out more first. I can always go back. Because our springs are cold and wet, and I know caladiums need warmth to sprout, IÂd start them indoors. But how? When I last tried I put the corms in a flat of potting soil, and put that on a heating pad turned on low and with a thick towel in between to keep it from getting too hot. Over a month later, nothing had happened. When it warmed up outside I put the tray on the black asphalt driveway in the day, and took it in at night. The only one to sprout did it after I had given up and thrown the whole tray, soil and corms, into the vegetable garden. Then in July I found a little caladium plant.

Kevin: which of these are hard, and which easy? What special techniques would I need? I looked at the anemones a few days ago: they all look so shriveled and dry. I did try the blanda variety that are hardy in my zone a few years ago. Those were shriveled too. I soaked the corms, but only one or 2 ever grew.

Is there a word that describes being gun-shy when it comes to tricky bulbs? : )

    Bookmark   March 7, 2010 at 8:09PM
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iris_gal(z9 CA)


Freesias have bang for the buck. Buds along the stem open in sucession for a longer show (than daffs, tulips, etc) in early spring. Multiply easily and would likely store well. Pink with yellow throat are really nice. The golden yellows seem to multiple the fastest.

I think ranunculus are drop dead gorgeous but they too are spring bloomers. I have not had success with out of the ground storage. Perhaps stored in fast draining soil, moistened every 2 months?

Ixia are graceful with long arching narrow stems loaded with fat buds along the last 6+ inches. Late spring. Have never tried storing. Need to plant in same hole for great effect. Lovely.

Babiana have rich jewel colors - over quickly and plentiful foliage is slow to ripen. Late spring. I only keep them because of the colors (in a vy large pot with chives).

Sparaxis are easy. I think the purply ones are the prettiest. I tired of the red quickly.

Trigridias have a larger flower than sparaxis; open to show the interesting mottled contrasting centers. Easy. Didn't combine well in my garden.

I have had lousy luck with anemone blanda. De Caen anemones do great (bloomin now with the daffs) & very showy. Don't know about storage.

Summer blooming semi-tropical bulbs/tubers are scant. I think you have the best with dahlias & tuberous begonias. A showly glad is Wine And Roses (I think) but it must be staked. The prettiest don't seem to be offered online.

Watsonia needs to be in the ground for 2 or 3 years for a good show. Deep rooted - not a good subject for pots. Mature clumps 4+ feet tall. Devil to dig out established ones.

Milk & Wine Crinum Lily - a want
Scarborough Lily aka Vallota speciosa - love it.
Sprekelia - very exotic looking. Mealy bugs get into mine.
Homeria - seldom seen spring bloomer. Long wiry stem with canteloupe colored, tubular bell flowers - charming. My more flamboyant gardening friend saw mine & loved. Also in yellow if I remember correctly.
Dutch iris - a spring must for me in medium lavender.
Bletilla striata - love these. Finally found a spot where they're happy with morning sun only. Don't see foliage yet - maybe the huge weed crop obscures?
Cyclamen florist type. Easy spring.

Sorry so many are spring.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 12:03AM
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I've tried various of the lesser summer flowering bulbs - Tigridia, Watsonia, Ixia, freesias, etc. IME, most are not worth the effort :-) Although hardy for me, ranunculus and De Caen anemones just require too specific growing conditions and if I just have to have them, I purchase already started plants.

Bletilla striata should be hardy for you, as should Crocosmia masoniorum, or what is commonly called montbretia. The hybrid forms of crocosmia (C. x crocosmiiflora) are less hardy but could very well overwinter in very well draining soil and a good muclh cover. Anemone blanda should also be hardy - it prefers a woodland setting and is considered a spring ephemeral (goes dormant in summer). Spreads rapidly to become a large colony. Ditto Anemone nemerosa.

You might want to try some of these bulbs in containers - they can be started earlier than inground plantings, you can more closely control any drainage issues, the soils in containers heat up faster and stay warmer than inground soils (which is often desirable for semi-tropical bulbs) and they are much easier to attend to for winter storage. I grow all my dahlias and any begonias in containers for just these reasons :-)

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 11:50AM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Thanks for all the help!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2010 at 3:22PM
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marquest(z5 PA)

I grow all my summer bulbs in pots on the patio.

Since we have such a short growing time I start my bulbs in February. It has always taken my caladiums 3-4 months to start. So please understand my recommendations are listed because I start them in February and get good results.

Tuberouse the fragrance is to die for.
Dahlia - lot of bang for the buck when they start to bloom they do not stop until frost.
Glads - again start early.
Dutch Iris
Black Magic Elephant Ear

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 11:34PM
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linnea56(z5 IL)

Marquest, can you tell me more? Dahlias I do already: I think those are easy. Glads I'm not doing this year. But I did buy the Black Magic Elephant Ear and Caladiums. Anything special other than, put them in dirt in front of a window?

    Bookmark   March 12, 2010 at 11:45PM
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