Most flower gardens are at their best during the first half of the growing season. By late summer, many annuals and perennials are starting to fade. To keep the color going strong, your garden needs to include plants that are at their best during the second half of the growing season.
Some of the best flowers for late season color are summer-blooming bulbs. These heat-loving plants typically maintain a low profile during the first part of the season, but by midsummer, they are flourishing and blooming their heads off. Since there’s no need for these plants to set seeds or begin preparing for winter dormancy, they can continue growing and flowering with abandon, rushing headlong right through the fall.
Having a garden that stays colorful month after month is all about picking the right plants. Here's a selection of summer-blooming bulbs that you can count on to bloom right through late summer and fall.
Dahlias are dependable, high-energy plants that put on a spectacular show from July through October. The flowers come in all colors and the plants come in sizes that are suitable for containers, landscaping, flower beds and cutting gardens. When you plant dahlias, you never need to worry about running out of flowers.
Caladiums are tropical foliage plants with brightly colored leaves. They love heat and humidity, so they stay fresh and attractive in weather that makes other plants wilt. Caladiums grow in sun or shade and can be planted as a ground cover, as edging for a pathway, around shrubs and trees, and in containers.
With leaves that can measure up to 3 feet across, elephant ears are always a “wow”. The warmer the soil and the hotter the weather, the bigger and more impressive they get. Elephant ears will grow in sun or light shade. Leaf colors range from emerald green to almost black. Some, elephant ears, such as Hilo Beauty, have variegated foliage.
Canna lilies are bold plants with a big presence. They can grow up to 5 feet tall and have big, glossy leaves as long as your arm. Cannas start flowering in mid to late summer and continue blooming and growing ever taller until they get nipped by frost. They are good anchor plants for the back of a perennial border and grow well in containers. Canna lilies are also very effective planted against a fence or used to screen out unwanted views.
Calla lilies are surprisingly easy to grow and their late summer flowers are a welcome addition to gardens, containers, and bouquets. Most calla lilies have attractive, variegated foliage that complements the elegant, funnel-shaped flowers. Colors range from white through pink, lavender, yellow, red, burgundy and black.
Eucomis are exotic-looking plants with wide, strappy leaves and late summer flowers that resemble pineapples. Each bulb produces several flower stalks and the blossoms last for many weeks. Depending on the variety, the flower color can be white, pink or burgundy. Eucomis grow well in pots and the flowers attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.
These elegant flowers are members of the amaryllis family. They bloom from late summer to fall and are always a surprise because the flowers emerge so quickly and so late in the season. The fragrant, spidery blooms are displayed in clusters on 2-foot stems. Nerine are a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds and will thrive in pots on a sunny deck or patio.
These elegant flowers are members of the gladiolus family. Sometimes called peacock orchids, their fragrant, snow-white blossoms have a deep maroon star at the center. The long, straight stems are excellent for bouquets. Acidanthera can be planted in beds and borders or containers. They bloom in late summer or early fall, 80-100 days after planting.
These big, amaryllis-like bulbs are rugged plants that can live for generations. They are grown as perennials zones 8-11, but in cooler climates, they grow well in containers. Crinums are drought tolerant and known for their wonderful fragrance. Flower colors range from white through dark pink, with many bi-colors.