8 Exotic Summer-Blooming Bulbs

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exotic summer-blooming bulbs

Here are a few exotic summer-blooming bulbs you may buy now. Get them already potted, or bare-root to pot up and grow indoors in a warm, well-lighted area, keeping the soil barely moist — and then put out in the garden after night temperatures stay in the mid-50s (there’s an exception, see below):

Alocasia

The huge green leaves of Alocasia macrorrhiza look like the ears of elephants and have to be seen to be believed as they wave skyward on 2- to 6-foot stems.

But there’s also Alocasia ‘Hilo Beauty,’ with cream-spotted, parrot-green leaves. And ‘ Alocasia Frydek’ has deep, velvety-green leaves accented with silvery-white veins. Alocasia takes shade or part sun.

Amaryllis Belladonna

Naked Lady is the nickname for this bulb, which sends up straplike leaves that die back in summer and make way for 2-foot- tall bare stems with multiple pink (or the new ‘Alba’ white) blossoms on top.

In USDA Hardiness Zone 7 and farther south, these come back year after year and need very little water. Here, in Zones 5b/6a, try planting them in a hot, south-facing space with extra mulch in winter for a return.

Anemone Coronaria

Here’s an exception. Plant these tubers outside now — as early in spring as possible — for a brilliantly colored, early summer display of 12-inch-tall plants with poppy-like flowers. They take full sun to partial shade.

Caladium

Great for something different in the shade, these tuber-grown plants with elephant-ear or angel-wing foliage have been bred in Florida for more substance and thicker leaves.

Look for the white, pink, and magenta leaves of ‘Florida Fantasy’ or the speckled chartreuse leaves of ‘Miss Muffett.’ And among the newest are the Gingerland series of dwarfs, at 6 to 8 inches tall, with particularly showy leaves in red, pink, white, and green.

Canna

This 2- to 10-foot-tall tropical, with lance-shaped leaves and big, multicolored flowers, might be what started the tropical revival. The red Canna ‘President’ was a hot seller last year.

This year it may be the equally red ‘King Humbert,’ the lemon-yellow ‘Picasso,’ the bright yellow ‘Richard Wallace,’ or the brilliant orange ‘Pretoria,’ the latter complete with yellow-and-green striped foliage. The rhizome-grown plants like full sun.

Colocasia

This tropical thrives in St. Louis’ heat and humidity. Look at ‘Black Magic’ or the newer ‘Black Runner.’ And don’t miss the black- over-lime-green ‘Illustris’ or the vast, cream-on-green leaves of ‘Nancy’s Revenge.’

Dahlia

Some garden centers haven’t carried dahlias for years. Now they’re back, in big dinner-plate sizes, standing 3 to 4 feet tall. They are semi-hardy here in mild winters but need to have their tuberous roots dug up and stored indoors in winter.

Collectors are going for the massive flowers of the Dahlias ‘Hawaii’, ‘ Le Baron’, or ‘Bishop of Llandaff.’

Lilium

The white ‘Casa Blanca’ and red ‘Star Gazer’ lilies are very common- but expensive to buy as cut flowers. So grow them in your garden. Also, look at the lavender ‘Aruba,’ the hot pink ‘Kissproof,’ and the new ‘Golden Star Gazer.’

They start as scaly bulbs but produce upright stems with narrow, lance-shaped leaves and, in early summer, fragrant, funnel-shaped flowers.

Use them to fill empty, sunny spots in your perennial beds or to make striking centerpieces in containers with companion plants. Be sure that the soil or potting medium drains well.

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