Spring bulbs like tulips, daffodils and crocus have long been popular with gardeners. Once established they can reward us with blooms for years. Less familiar but equally satisfying are bulbs that flower in summer including crinums, lilies and rain lilies. Combine these summer bloomers with shrubs, trees, perennials and annuals for nonstop color.
Robust, deer resistant and fragrant, crinums are an old fashioned favorite that have been grown for generations. Crinum x powellii 'Album' has elegant white flowers that rise above large clumps of sword-like foliage. Hardy from Zone 7-10, gardeners in more Northern climates like Minneapolis may want to grow them in containers so that they can be moved to a sheltered location in the winter months. (Bulbs can survive harsh midwestern winters about as well as plumbing in Minneapolis can survive them; they must be kept from freezing.) Once established, crinums form large clumps and are happiest if you don't move them.
There are numerous types of hardy lilies that flower in summer and with some planning you can have blooms until September. A favorite of mine that blooms in June or July is the 'Casa Blanca' lily, a hybrid with pure white flowers atop 3-4' tall stems. The perfume is irresistible but watch out, the orange pollen will stain your nose and your clothes. For a soothing combination I combine this lily with white daisies and the white phlox, Phlox paniculata 'David,' a mildew resistant selection.
Another lily with fragrant flowers is a trumpet type called 'Golden Splendor.' This hardy bulb will grow in Zones 4-9 and is perfect for the back or middle of the flower border as it grows 4 to 6' tall. Let it grow up through other perennials which can also provide support for the heavy stems. It likes full sun and makes a good companion with drought tolerant plants like yuccas.
Sometimes "pass along" plants are the best doers. In my garden this is true with the tiger lilies ( Lilium lancifolium splendens) a neighbor gave me. These lilies grow 3- 5' tall and produce deep orange flowers in summer (for me this is usually in July) with dark red specks. The petals are recurved (bend back to expose the stamens), giving this lily a distinctive look. I pair mine with other red and orange flowering perennials including Crocosmia and yarrows.
Pest proof bulbs with the intriguing common name of naked ladies or surprise lilies, Lycoris squamigera, will bloom for years in your garden. Hardy from Zone 5 to 8, they produce 3" long rose pink lily-like flowers on 2' tall naked stems. The strap-like gray green foliage forms big clumps that look good in winter but messy in spring and summer when it dies back. Although this bulb takes a while to become established, it is well worth the wait.
A small bulb that takes no time to make itself at home in the garden is the rain lily, Zephyranthes candida. Hardy from Zone 7 to 10, this gem produces masses of pure white flowers on 8-10" tall stems and has delicate looking grassy foliage.
What a delight when they pop into bloom in late summer to early fall, often following a rain storm. Tuck them in the border, use them as edging or between stepping stones in a path. They are happiest in full sun but will tolerate part shade too.