Summer bulbs make it easy to take your pots and planters to new heights. With their bold foliage and exotic flowers, they are the perfect "thrillers" for container plantings. Simply plant the bulbs in spring at the same time as you're planting annuals. By midsummer, these heat-loving bulbs will be starting to fill out. By late summer, they'll be in their prime and will continue looking great well into the fall.
Here are 11 of the best summer bulbs for pots and planters:
Cannas are tropical plants with big, shiny leaves and brightly-colored, orchid-like flowers that attract hummingbirds. They are excellent container plants. You can give them their own container, or combine them with other annuals or summer bulbs.
With their impressive size and decorative foliage, cannas add a tropical look to patios, decks, entryways, water gardens and pool areas. Learn more about growing cannas HERE.
Calla lilies are known for their unusual flowers and decorative foliage. The flowers come in a wide range of beautiful colors and are popular with florists because they're so long-lasting.
Though calla lilies grow well in gardens, they often grow even better in containers -- especially in cool climates. The flowers last for a month or more, and the foliage is attractive both before and after they bloom. Learn more about growing callas HERE.
Lilies bloom in a rainbow of beautiful colors and many types are wonderfully fragrant. Asiatic and Oriental lilies are the best for containers. The bulbs can be paired with other plants, but they prefer being planted in pots on their own.
Plan ahead for late summer color by planting Oriental lily bulbs in 2-gallon pots. Keep the pots in an out of the way location and then move them into a prominent spot as they come into bloom. Learn more about growing lilies HERE.
Elephant ears are dramatic plants with big, heart-shaped leaves that nod and sway in every passing breeze. Though elephant ears are only winter hardy in zones 9-11, they can be grown anywhere in the U.S. In cool climates, the bulbs grow best in containers. This also makes it easy to bring the plants indoors for the winter months.
The bulbs are about the size of a fist, but by late summer the plants can be 3 to 4 feet high and almost as wide. Be sure to provide a container that will be large enough to support a mature plant. And be prepared to water daily or use drip irrigation. Learn more about growing elephant ears HERE.
Caladiums love heat and humidity. All varieties grow well in full to partial shade, and some are suitable for sun as well. Caladiums are usually considered landscape plants, but they also grow well in containers. The colorful foliage suggests lots of creative pairings with annuals, perennials and other summer bulbs.
Dahlias aren't often thought of as container plants, but there are some that perform very well. Container-grown dahlias will give you lots of late summer color and even some nice flowers for cutting.
For a small to medium-sized container, choose border dahlias or a dwarf variety such as Impression Fantastico. Mid-size dahlias such as H.S. Date (shown here) will grow well in a 5-gallon container. For best results, protect them from wind and be prepared to provide a stake or cage for support. Other good mid-size dahlias to consider for containers are Karma Corona, Karma Choc and Bishop of Llandaff.
Most full size dahlias, including dinnerplates, grow 4 to 6 feet tall. If you want to try growing them in containers, you'll need to provide very large pots and have a good way to support the stems.
Gladiolas are cutting garden classics. Each flower stalk is 3 to 4 feet long and displays 8 to 12 orchid-like flowers that open one by one from the bottom up. Glads are always the stars in summer flower arrangements, and they're equally effective when planted in a large container.
To extend the bloom time, plant gladiolus corms in batches, spaced about 2 weeks apart. The corms typically bloom 70-80 days after planting. Learn more about growing glads HERE.
Eucomis is an outstanding summer-blooming bulb that deserves to be more widely grown. The plants have shiny, strappy leaves and long-lasting flowers that resemble pineapples (the common name is pineapple lily).
Eucomis bulbs can be planted in the garden, but growing them in containers makes it easier to appreciate their exotic flowers. In cold climates, you can bring the pots indoors in the fall and replant the bulbs in spring. Learn more about growing eucomis HERE.
Acidanthera is a cousin to the gladiola. It has the same sword-like foliage, but the flowers are completely different. Also known as peacock lily, acidanthera's fragrant, pure white flowers are borne in clusters of three or four blossoms on slender stems.
To extend the bloom time, plant acidanthera corms in batches, spaced about 2 weeks apart. You can plant 10-12 bulbs in a 12" diameter pot. Learn more about growing acidanthera HERE.
Nerine bowdenii is a fall-flowering bulb with fragrant, candy pink flowers. The bulbs grow well in pots and look best planted in groups of 3 or more. In growing zones 3-7, the bulbs should be brought indoors for the winter months and be allowed to go dormant until spring.
Tuberous begonias are ideal container plants for shady gardens, patios, porches and patios. Their large, waxy flowers resemble roses and bloom in beautiful colors. Choose upright or cascading forms, depending on the type of container you want to fill. Learn more about growing begonias HERE.
To learn more about growing bulbs in containers, read: How to Grow Summer Bulbs in Containers.