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Brandies: Summer bulbs will brighten your garden

Canna species, hybrids and cultivars can grow from 2 to 8 feet tall. Some are grown as much for their foliage as for the flowers.
Canna species, hybrids and cultivars can grow from 2 to 8 feet tall. Some are grown as much for their foliage as for the flowers.
Published May 30, 2016

Many of the bulbs, corms, and tubers we grew up north won't grow in Florida.

But there are many more that we can enjoy with less work. We don't have to dig any of them up in the fall and keep them in the basement until spring. The ones we can grow here will stay in the ground year round.

These plants have the flower already formed within the bulb and it is surrounded with a sure food supply. Some, like amaryllis, are so well primed to grow that when they begin, change is visible from day to day.

Gardeners can plant bare bulbs outdoors or buy them already pre-started as bedding plants from garden retailers. In either case, it is not too late to add them to our summer gardens.

Cannas were one of my favorites in Iowa and have become the same here. I had problems with the leaves curling around caterpillars at first. Once I moved them from the container to the ground, this problem went away. Insects attack stressed plants, and mine usually get less stress in the ground.

I still get some spent and ugly leaves, especially during dry times. Cannas like plenty of water. But now I just cut off any ugly parts, clear back to the ground if necessary, and the new shoots of lovely red, green or striped leaves soon replace them. Cannas also respond well to fertilizer. They need full sun.

Caladiums are another of my favorites. I inherited a pink one in a container several years ago that has made for a lovely year-round addition on my father's patio. As a rule, they go dormant in the winter. One of the most striking caladium plantings I've seen was a group of almost pure white foliage standing just above a lawn of dark green mondo grass under a live oak tree.

Some caladiums thrive in sun if they have sufficient water. All do well, mostly without much watering in partial to full shade. They have inconspicuous blooms that you can keep if you want, but if you cut them off, you will get more leaves.

Gladiolus were grown on Florida farms and sent all over the country when we had a flower shop in Ohio long ago. We got a big box of cut flowers about every two weeks. Blooms come in red, lilac, salmon, yellow, green, violet, rose or white. They still grow nicely here. You can plant them now.

For a succession of bloom, plant a few bulbs each week for bloom three months later. Be sure the soil is well drained so they will be reliably perennial. They need partial to full sun. When they start to multiply, you can lift the plants after bloom and sort them for size. Any over an inch in diameter should bloom. Smaller bulblets can be grown on until they are large enough.

Spider lily, Hymenocallis latifolia, is a native perennial that is easy to grow and has lovely white flowers in summer. The grasslike leaves get 2 to 3 feet tall and plants will do well in wet places but also will tolerate drought and salt and prefer alkaline soil. Give them light shade to full sun and propagate them by seeds, bulbs or division.

Clumps slowly spread with a medium growth rate and bulbs may need dividing every few years. They combine well with ferns for a contrasting texture or with dwarf chenille plant or purple queen. They are poisonous, but there is not much to tempt a child.

There are also Lilies-of-the-Nile, Crinum lilies, Freesias, Gloriosa lilies, Eucharis or Amazon lilies, blood lilies and more. Try them. You'll like them.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, author of 12 gardening books. She can be reached at monicabrandies@yahoo.com. Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.