Plants to Know and Grow: Spring Bulbs

The first snowdrop, daffodil or crocus that pops out of the ground always makes me wish that I had planted more bulbs last fall. However, spring is the time to plant bulbs that will bloom through the summer, such as gladiolus, lilies, and dahlias. The majority of these bulbs/corms will need to be lifted out of the ground in the fall for replanting next year but some of them can be treated as perennial.

These bulbs can all be planted in pots and started inside right now. Grow them in a sunny, warm location and plant them out after last frost. Planting depths and other specific care requirements may be found on the package.

Crocosmia, sometimes known as Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora), will add a punch of colour to any garden. It is grown from a corm, which is a fibrous, hairy or scaly underground root stem that is planted like a bulb. The variety ‘Lucifer’ is a vivid, scarlet-red tubelike flower that grows on a long, arching stem to a height of 2’-3’ (60-90cm). The strap-like foliage grows best in a sunny, well drained location. This plant is marginally hardy on PEI and will overwinter in the ground in sheltered areas or close to foundation wall. It’s also a magnet for hummingbirds!

Oriental lilies (Lilium orientale) are a true perennial on the Island. Growing 3’-4’ (1m-1.25m) high on a solitary stem, the highly fragrant flowers in pinks or white are 6” (15cm) wide or more. Oriental lilies bloom in mid-July and make a beautiful cut flower.  Brides like these as much as the butterflies do.

Gladiolus (Gladiolii sp.) are both a garden and cut-flower favourite.  This lance of flowers was named after the spears of Roman gladiators and were hurled into the ancient arenas to celebrate the victor.  Reaching a height of 3’-4’ (1m-1.25m), glads may also be directly planted into the ground around the end of May.  Subsequent weekly plantings will guarantee a supply throughout August and September.  Whether planted in rows in the vegetable garden or as specimens in the flower bed, glads offer height and colour to the late summer garden.

Dahlias are an old-fashioned favourite that have made a great comeback over the last few years.  Planted from a tuber similar to a potato, dahlias hail from Mexico and were once served as a food source to the ancient Aztecs.  The dahlia flower is one of the showiest ones around with some of the dinnerplate varieties reaching over 1’ (30cm) in diameter.  The tubers multiply through the growing season and, if lifted and overwintered inside, will add to your collection the following year.

All of these bulbs and many more are now available in the garden centre.

Garth Davey

March 2021

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