How to Grow Bulbs
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When it comes to producing color early in the season, you can't beat spring-flowering perennial bulbs. If cared for properly, they'll come back year after year from a single fall planting, providing many blooms for your investment.

For midsummer color, you can plant tender bulbs of tropical perennials such as gladiolas, cannas, and dahlias. You need to dig up these tender bulbs and store them in the fall, then replant them after the danger of frost has passed in the spring. Each year they multiply, so you have even more to plant the next year.

Bulb is a term that loosely describes a variety of fleshy, underground organs that some plants use to store energy over winter to fuel growth in spring. Plants that use these special organs are sometimes called geophytes. They include:

  • True bulbs - Energy stored in modified leaves, called scales. Examples include onions, lilies, daffodils, and tulips.
  • Corms - Energy stored in a modified, swollen stem. Examples include crocus and gladiolas.
  • Tubers - Energy stored in thickened underground stem. Examples include caladium, and (in the culinary world) potatoes.
  • Rhizomes - Energy stored in underground stems that grow horizontally through the soil. Examples include bearded irises, lily of the valley, and orchids.
  • Tuberous roots - Energy stored in large, fleshy roots. Examples include dahlia and anemones.

Bulbs have many advantages:

  • Spring-flowering bulbs are the earliest plants to bloom, with snowdrops and winter aconites flowering in early March in much of New York.
  • You can plant a variety of spring-flowering bulbs to flower from very early to late spring, providing a nearly continuous sequence of bloom. Snowdrops and aconites are soon followed by crocuses, scillas, and chionodoxas. Then come hyacinths, daffodils, and tulips. You can plant tender bulbs or other annual flowers to fill in spaces left after the foliage of spring-flowering bulbs dies back to the ground.
  • Centuries of breeding have provided many bulbs with exceptionally showy flowers.
  • Bulbs are versatile. There is a type for any almost any location. You can make mass plantings in solid beds or plant drifts of bulbs around perennial borders or rock gardens. Bulbs are attractive along paths and walks, around pools, or in front of foundation plantings. Many spring-flowering bulbs can be naturalized in woodlands, fields, or even lawns.
Introduction to Bulbs