Brighten Your Garden with Summer and Fall Bulbs

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner


Lycoris squamigera

With a few exceptions, summer is not a time when I typically think about bulbs blooming in my garden. 

Last year, during the month of July, I found myself lusting after a mass planting in my neighbor’s yard of Lycoris squamigera, also known as naked ladies or surprise lilies.  The common names make reference to the way the flowers seem to magically pop out of the ground on 2 to 3’  tall bare stems.  Members of the Amaryllis family, the funnel-shaped pink flowers are tinged with lilac and number four to seven per stem. When you site these bulbs, keep in mind that the strappy gray-green foliage emerges in spring and disappears in summer. As it ripens off (much like daffodil foliage) it turns yellow and then brown. If you plant them in combination with evergreen groundcovers, this will help mask the bulb foliage during this awkward stage. Another plus, rodents don’t seem to bother Lycoris.  Hardy from Zone 6 to 7, these heirlooms have been around since 1889.


Lycoris radiata


Another species of Lycoris, with bright red-orange flowers, Lycoris radiata, also known as spider lily, lights up the woodland in later summer to early fall. The flowers have a spidery look to them.   These bulbs make perfect companions for evergreen groundcovers, even English Ivy (which I don’t recommend planting but if you inherit some just make sure to pull back the ivy from the stems of the plant.) You can also combine Lycoris with hostas, ferns and hellebores. 


crinum x powelii


If you garden in a region that is Zone 7 or warmer, and have room for them, Crinum lilies, also called milk and wine lilies, make a dramatic statement with their bold evergreen foliage, and deliciously fragrant trumpet-shaped blossoms. Some bloom in summer and others continue well into fall.  As they mature, clumps can easily measure three to five feet across with flowers appearing on stalks two to three feet tall. These adaptable bulbs tolerate a wide range of soil types but resent being moved, so make sure you site them where they will have room to grow. In more Northern climates, grow them in large containers with colorful annuals and tropicals. This will make it easier to store them in a basement during the winter months. 


crinum walter ho


Among the hardy lilies – there are dozens of types to choose from – the old fashioned Formosa lily, Lilium formosanum, produces large white trumpets in late summer atop stems that are five to seven feet tall. And, except in the richest soil, you shouldn’t need to stake them. 


lilium formosanum


Even the smallest gardens have room for a few rain lilies, like Zephryanthes candida. Hardy to Zone 7, they produce lovely white flowers in late summer to fall.


zephyranthes candida


Tuck them into the flower border or use them to edge a path. For colder climates, fall blooming crocus and Colchicums offer color when few other bulbs or flowers are blooming.