Brighten any space with containers of summer flowering bulbs

Brighten any space with containers of summer flowering bulbs

Cana Short Rosetta

Add unexpected beauty to your patio, deck or porch with summer blooming bulbs. You may have planted elephant ears, lilies, dahlias, tulips, and caladiums in your garden, but did you know that they also thrive in containers? Some summer bulbs grow better in pots than in the garden. These include the exotic-looking flowers of Abyssinian lilies, calla lilies, pineapple lilies and spider lilies.

One reason these bulbs do so well in containers is that you can be sure they get warm soil, consistent water, and plenty of nutrients. Tall plants such as tulips, lilies, dahlias, cannas and elephant ears are ideal thrillers for larger containers. The bold foliage and extravagant flowers are sure to steal the show. Simply plant the bulbs in the spring along with other annuals. As temperatures rise, these heat-loving bulbs will begin to fill out and soon burst into bloom providing extra texture and color from late summer through fall.

You may find that summer-flowering bulbs such as pineapple lily (Eucomis), calla lily and Hymenocallis fragrantica perform better in their own containers because there is no competition with other plants for space, nutrients and moisture. Before the bulbs begin to flower, their foliage provides an attractive backdrop for other container plants that bloom earlier in the season. Once flowering begins, you can move the pots front and center to fully enjoy the display. In cold climates, growing in containers also makes it easier for the bulbs to overwinter. Simply move the pots indoors to a cool, dark place until it is time to replant them the following spring.

Combine plants of different sizes and shapes to create visual excitement. Containers filled with tall plants such as tulips, cannas, tall varieties of dahlias and large elephant ears provide stunning vertical accents. Shorter plants such as caladiums, pineapple lilies and triangular lilies (Brodia) can be placed in front of larger pots. Add a few planters filled with your favorite annuals to maintain color all season long.

Many summer-flowering bulbs are wonderfully fragrant. Growing these plants on your patio, deck or balcony ensures you don’t miss out on their wonderful fragrance. Late summer evenings are even sweeter when surrounded by containers filled with oriental lilies, spider lilies and acidanthera.

Small bulbs can grow into huge plants, so choosing the right sized container is important if you want your summer bulbs to reach their full potential. Longfield Gardens provides helpful tips in its article on the best summer bulbs for containers (

Most medium-sized dahlias will grow well in a five-gallon container. Dahlias taller than three feet need a larger pot as well as sturdy stakes for extra support. Cannas and elephant ears are thirsty plants and can develop a very large root system in just a few months. For these tropical beauties, the bigger the pot, the better!

Extend the blooming time of tulips and their cousin the Abyssinian lily by planting the bulbs in batches about two weeks apart. Each of these summer bulbs has sword-like foliage that provides vertical interest while waiting for beautiful blooms. If you love cut flowers, plant a few extra pots of tulips so you can include them in your summer arrangements.

Calla lilies are easy to grow in pots, even for gardeners in cold climates. Choose from a rainbow of beautiful flower colors, from white and yellow to peach, red and almost black. The flowers last for a month or more, and the green foliage remains attractive throughout the season.

Extend the season into early fall with the exotic-looking flowers of Nerine Bowdenii. Plant three or more bulbs in each container and look forward to the fragrant candy-pink blooms in September.

Let the unique flowers of pineapple lilies (Eucomis) shine by planting them in their own container. The long-lasting flowers feature a green topknot that makes them resemble a pineapple. As with nerens, callas, and other non-summer hardy bulbs, Eucomis plants can overwinter indoors and replant in the spring.

The possibilities are many. No matter which summer bulbs you choose, planting them in containers is a sure way to spice up your patio, deck, porch or entryway.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including the recently released Midwest Gardener’s Handbook, Second Edition and Small Space Gardening. She hosts the “How to Grow Anything” instant DVD video series The Great Courses and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV and radio show. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine, and was commissioned by Longfield Gardens for her expertise in writing this article. Her website is

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