Plant fall blooming bulbs in summer

This article has been updated. Please check our website for the most recent story.
Last Updated: 
July 31, 2007

CORVALLIS, Ore. - Spring isn't the only time to enjoy a fresh flush of color from bulbs planted months before. Many bulbs are sold and planted during the summer that will bloom from late summer through fall, says Neil Bell, Consumer Horticulturalist for the OSU Extension Service.

Although spring crocuses are often the first sign that winter's on its way out, some crocus species are fall bloomers. Blue, lavender or mauve-flowered Crocus speciosus has showy blooms in early fall and propagates by seed and corm division. C. kotschyanus is lavender or lavender-pink and also blooms in early autumn. Fall-blooming crocuses can be planted as late as August and still bloom the same year. Like spring crocuses, they do best if divided every few years.

The bulb commonly known as "autumn crocus" is actually not a crocus at all, it's Colchicum autumnale, also called meadow saffron. Its large pink, purple or white flowers emerge from the soil in the fall, long after the leaves of the plant have sprouted in spring, stayed green for a few months, and died away.

Cyclamens are most familiar as potted florists' plants, but some species are hardy and some of the hardy species bloom in the late summer or fall. Cyclamen hederifolium has light green variegated leaves and pink flowers. Several white forms are also available. Hardy cyclamens self sow. Cyclamens are originally Mediterranean and require no summer water after they're established.

Sternbergia lutea, also known as winter or fall daffodil or yellow autumn crocus, produces yellow blooms and slender green foliage in September and October. Another Mediterranean plant, it's dormant in the summer and does poorly if it's in an area that's watered. It can be planted in pots and moved to a dry summer spot in the garden. These plants bloom more profusely when their roots are somewhat pot-bound.

Amaryllis belladonna, also known as belladonna lily or naked ladies, grows best without summer water. A native of South Africa, it forms a foot-high clump in the winter and dies back in the late summer. Its trumpet-shaped fragrant pink flowers appear in August and September without green foliage and are fragrant. Give sufficient thought to its placement in your garden – it might not bloom for several years after being transplanted.

Fall bloomers perform best in cooler areas, where they can tolerate full sun or bright shade. Dry, intense heat can shorten or prevent fall bulbs from blooming. So if you live in the interior of the state, they'll do best in a site that is wind-sheltered, has afternoon shade. Give them plenty of water.

Author: Davi Richards
Source: Neil Bell