Jul 3, 2012

How to Care for Bulbs

Bulbs are some of the most colourful and beautiful blooming plants. Many of the most popular flowers are bulbs including daffodils, tulips and lilies. Shopping for flowers online or in the local florist will provide you with a generous selection of bulbs as they are the most sought after decorative flowering plants. The attractive form, colour and fragrance of bulbs also make them favourites for planting in the garden and in containers. Here are some simple tips on caring for bulbs in your garden.

Types of Bulbs
Bulbs are made up of a series of layered scales joined at the base that enclose and safeguard a central bud. This outer skin is brown and dry. The protective coating allows the plant to collect and store food for next year’s growth and flowering. Flower bulbs are usually shaped like a teardrop, tulips and daffodils are both examples of bulbs.
Similar to bulbs, Corms have a brown outer skin. They are shorter, solid and thick underground stem bases that are used for food storage and survival during dormant times of the year. Corms usually have a flat top and when each corms flowering has finished a new one develops on top and the original one dies. Gladioli and freesias grow from corms.
Rhizomes are swollen stems of a plant that grow horizontally, usually underground, and send out roots from the nodes and send leaves and stems upwards. Sometimes rhizomes are called “creeping rootstalks”. Irises are well known rhizomes.
Tubers are similar to Rhizomes and are also considered bulbs. They have flat, fleshy underground stems or roots that store food and plant energy from which the new plant grows. A swollen bud forms the new plant. Dahlias are examples of tubers. 
Climate Preferences
Bulbs can grow anywhere however it is important to match the right bulb with the local climate. In colder climates choose tulips or hyacinths both these bulbs bloom during the springtime. In more temperate areas daffodils, freesias, lilies and jonquils are good choices. These will also bloom during spring with lilies blooming during summer.
Not all bulbs require sun so if you are planting in a warmer climate area make sure they will have at least some shade during the day. Hyacinth are quite shade tolerant and can thrive without direct sunlight.
Growing Bulbs in the Garden
Mass planting is a great way to get the best visual impact from your bulbs. Planting the same type of bulbs in clusters, for example a group of 20 tulips, 20 daffodils and 20 hyacinths will produce a magnificent colour display during spring.
Bulbs are very easy plants to grow and only require well drained soil and sunlight. Many varieties originate from areas with drought and harsh winters. Full sun to light shade is ideal unless the climate is very warm then more shade is warranted.
Growing Bulbs in Containers
Lots of bulbs can be grown in pots and containers. Daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and jonquils need deep pots and good quality potting mix. Plant bulbs in containers during autumn and make sure the pot is not overcrowded. Keep the container in the shade until the leaves sprout then move the container into the sun.
Pest Control
Snails and slugs are attracted to bulbs and the main pests to watch out for. Also, if the soil is not draining freely, either in the container or in your garden, bulbs can develop fungus. Botrytis on tulips, for example, makes their leaves spot and turn grey. Any plants infected with fungal disease must be removed to prevent the disease from spreading. 

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