Many people associate bulbs with spring, but there are plenty of flower bulbs and tubers to grow in summer too. What’s more, it’s easy to squeeze a few summer-flowering bulbs into your garden - they take up very little space, and reward you with bursts of colour from spring until autumn.
Plant your summer flowering bulbs, corms and tubers just as the weather starts to warm up in spring. As a rule of thumb, most bulbs should be planted at 3 times their depth, but there are a few exceptions so it's worth reading our 'How to grow bulbs' article for more information.
Here are 10 of our favourite summer-flowering bulbs for inspiration…
Airy spheres of purple blooms are followed by extraordinary architectural seedheads - if you can resist cutting them for a flower arrangement! Use large groups of allium bulbs to bridge the gap between late spring and high summer. Their upright stems will add plenty of structure to sunny, well drained borders. Let lower growing perennials cover the old foliage when it becomes unsightly and dies back later in the season.
Flamboyant blooms and a sensational fragrance make the oriental lily instantly recognisable. From tall tree lilies to short ground cover lilies, there's one to suit every garden. The large exotic blooms are surprisingly easy to grow. These stars of the summer border are best grown in containers, waiting in the wings until their big moment. Move them into the limelight as their blooms begin to open and then return them backstage as they fade.
Tuberous begonias are the most glamorous bulbs for adding a bright colour accent to shady patios. They produce beautiful flowers over an incredibly long period, from summer all the way through to the first frosts in November. These are perfect candidates for a window box or hanging basket - choose a cascading variety such as Begonia 'Apricot Shades Improved' to hang close to doorways where you can appreciate them at their best.
A fabulous cut flower, Freesias produce beautifully fragrant blooms on strong arching stems. Freesias are half-hardy and best grown in the greenhouse or conservatory in most parts of the UK, but in very mild areas it's worth the risk of growing them outside to enjoy these beauties in the garden.
These flamboyant summer bulbs were considered a bit old fashioned, but modern hybrids have brought the gladiolus bang up to date. Take a look at the bright colours and ruffled blooms of Gladiolus 'Tango'. Their majestic flower stems look fabulous at the back of a border - even better in a vase indoors! If elegant simplicity is more your style, try growing the exquisite species Gladiolus murielae.
One of the most fragrant summer bulbs you'll find! Polianthes tuberosa is highly prized as a cut flower for its beautiful stems of waxy blooms. It requires a minimum temperature of 15°C (59°F) so it's best grown in a heated greenhouse or conservatory. This unusual bulb is not the easiest to grow but it's well worth the effort once you get a sniff of its extraordinary perfume.
No need to fuss over these fast growing corms - they will quickly multiply and wander through your borders all on their own. The upright, strap-like foliage, and arching stems tipped with starry flowers in red, orange or yellow, makes crocosmia an exotic-looking addition to summer borders. The vibrant blooms also make lovely cut flowers for a fiery coloured flower arrangement.
These classic cottage garden tubers are deservedly popular for their beautiful ruffled blooms and sturdy strap-like foliage. Many have a lovely light fragrance too, which makes them perfect for adding to summery flower arrangements. With so many colours available, it's hard to choose just one bearded iris - never mind, they look best planted in groups anyway! To get the best from your bearded iris, choose a sunny, open spot where the tubers can bake in the sun without being shaded by other plants.
Magnificently architectural, dahlias are ideal for cutting and adding to summer bouquets. They have real presence in sunny herbaceous borders, creating a showy and distinctive focal point. Make use of the vibrant colours to create a tropical planting scheme, or choose quietly understated pastels for an elegant display. Dahlias are drought-tolerant plants that will flower long into autumn with regular deadheading.
Also known as Harlequin Flower, the exotic-looking Sparaxis ‘Red Reflex’ produces red funnel-shaped flowers, each with a contrasting black and yellow centre. These eye-catching blooms emerge above sword-shaped foliage from midsummer through to early autumn and are held on sturdy stems which are ideal for cutting. Plant Sparaxis 'Red Reflex' in groups for the most dramatic display.
We hope this has provided plenty of inspiration for your summer planting scheme. Still can’t decide which to choose? Try our summer-flowering bulbs collection to enjoy a little of everything. For all you need to know about growing summer flowers, head on over to our summer flowers hub page.