Summer bulbs are a great edition to the garden for the striking blooms and ease to grow. In cooler climates, bulbs need to be dug up and stored every winter, which means you can change your garden design from one year to the next without the extra cost of bedding plants. In warm growing zones, bulbs only need to be dug to be divided and can stay in the ground through the winter months. A garden center or cooperative extension office can give you advice on choosing and growing summer bulbs appropriate for your particular growing zone.
Canna is a tropical rhizome that grows in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 to 10. It can reach 3 to 6 feet tall, with some dwarf cultivars that stay around 2 feet. Cannas should be planted no earlier than mid-May, once the threat of frost has passed, in full sun. Mix soil with compost or peat moss to ensure a light mix that drains properly. Cannas are available in a variety of colors, including white, red, pink, yellow, orange and cream. Their striking foliage in shades of green and bronze. Once the first frost kills off the tops of the foliage, carefully dig up rhizomes and wash off soil. Cut off foliage with sharp, clean scissors. Store in a cool area, such as a basement. Do not allow to freeze. In tropical climates, cannas do not need dug except to be moved.
Gladiola, hardy in zones 4 to 10, is the perfect background plant to add height and striking beauty to a border garden. Gladiola produces a line of blooms, stacked on top of one another in various color combinations. They can grow from 1 to 5 feet tall. Gladiolas need support by staking. Plant corms after the threat of fall and dig up in the same manner as cannas in the fall. Gladiolas will bloom all at once, so stagger the blooms by planting corms over a period of months. Gladiolas make good cut flowers. When cutting back to save corms, leave at least four leaves to protect from disease as they dry out.
With more than 80 varieties, the lily bulb offers great diversity in color, size, bloom time and sun requirement. Lilies are hardy from zones 4 to 10. Blooms come in white, red, yellow, pink, orange, maroon and bicolor. Lily bulbs are fragile and need to be handled with care when planting. Lilies need to be planted deep--4 to 6 inches in the ground--after the threat of frost and mulched to help with water retention. Remove fading blooms to prevent seedpod formation and to prolong bloom time. Store lily bulbs in a cool location, digging them up after the leaves begin to die.