For summer bulb blooms, plant in spring
By JIMMY WILLIAMS
Special to The Messenger
Bulb planting is usually thought of as an autumn activity. Most of the time we think of spring blooming flowers when bulbs are mentioned. To wit: daffodils, crocuses, tulips and so on.
Of course spring flowering bulbs are rightly planted in fall, to lie underground for several months before springing forth with the first moderate days of spring.
Right here on the first full day of spring, however, we may logically turn attention to another whole class of bulbs, those that bloom in summer and fall and are planted in spring.
Incidentally we are, often as not, referring to corms, tubers, enlarged roots and other underground bases for the top foliage and flowers, as well as true bulbs. Among true bulbs are lilies and onions, while such as crocuses and gladioli are corms.
Summer flowering bulbs are generally set in spring. Some can be planted at intervals over several weeks to provide a longer flowering period when the bulbs come to fruition.
Gladioli, for instance, which are grown from corms, will give weeks of bloom when their corms are planted over a period of time. Groupings of corms may be set each week for long-term show.
Most glads are tall plants, growing to three feet or more before putting forth their flowers up and down one side of the stem. Since they grow so tall, they invariably flop in bad weather. Each one may be staked to prevent such an occurrence, but it is an aggravating task. Better is to grow shorter varieties that are more apt to stand upright.
Lilies are on the market now, and they should be planted as soon as they can be purchased. Most lilies aren’t cheap, so you want every advantage. Start with fresh bulbs. Gladioli corms, on the other hand, may be kept for weeks before planting and, in any event, it is still way too early to plant them.
Canna “bulbs” are often advertised, but they are nothing but enlarged roots that are sold with one or more eyes, or growing points, where shoots will originate when the ground becomes warm. If starting with new cannas, or roots from a friend, it is well to wait until warm, settled weather is a regularity before planting them.
Cannas are winter hardy here most years, but it is good insurance to dig a part of your clumps for storage in a sheltered area, leaving the bulk of them in the ground.
Glads, on the other hand, are mostly treated as annuals, or dug in fall for keeping during the winter, stored in sawdust or dry peat. Occasionally some will live during winter in the ground if much protected.
Don’t be in any hurry to buy caladium tubers. They are extremely sensitive to cold — even cool — and the tubers will rot if planted in cold soil or other planting medium. Let the merchants take their chances with them until time to set them out in May when the soil is thoroughly warm. Then buy yours.
Caladiums needn’t be set deeply, since they are not hardy and must be dug up in fall or thrown away after a single season, treating them as annuals. They do appreciate fine soil with lots of nutrients, in which case the size-able leaves will be even larger.
Editor’s note: Jimmy Williams is production superintendent at The Paris Post-Intelligencer, where he also writes this column.
Published in The Messenger 3.25.08
Garden Path, Jimmy Williams