Bulbs are the type of structure that bulbous plants have, that is, those herbaceous and perennial plants that have underground nutrient reserve organs. So, when we talk about bulbs, we are actually referring to that underground organ that serves as a food supply.

Onions, garlic, tulips, or the fire lily are some of the best-known bulbous plants, although there are many more. If you want to have some plants of this type in your orchard or garden, pay attention to the following article. Below we explain how to plant bulbs, how to care for them, and how to differentiate the types that exist. Take note!

Types of bulbs and differences

Bulbous plants, instead of having roots under the stem, have bulbs, an underground organ whose main function is to store the nutrients that plants need for optimal development and flourishing. One of its main characteristics is the flowering cycle, so we can find:

  • Autumn bulbs: they are those that are cultivated in autumn and flower during the spring and until the first days of summer. Among these bulbs we find the tulip, the ornamental garlic, the ranunculus, the hyacinth, and the lily, among others.
  • Spring bulbs: These are grown after winter and flower in late summer and fall. This type of bulbous species does not survive the winter, so it is recommended to plant them indoors. Among the best-known spring bulbs are begonias, dahlias, and gladioli, among others.
  • However, when we talk about the different types of bulbs, we must also mention that these plants are classified into different types according to the structure of their storage organ since dahlias are not the same as tulips or gladioli.
  • True bulbs: these are the bulbs themselves. They are composed of five parts, which are the basal disc, the stem, the fleshy scales, the lateral buds, and the tunic. Here we find the tulip, the lily, the ornamental garlic, the onion, or the daffodil, among others.
  • Corms: the main characteristic of the corm is that the base of the stem is protruding; this is how the storage tissue is formed. Some corms produce two different types of roots, normal fibrous roots or contractile roots, thicker and responsible for pushing the rhizomes toward the ground during growth. Among the corms are plants such as gladiolus, crocus, or freesia.
  • Tubers: differ from true bulbs in that they are generally more rounded and do not have a basal disk where the roots are generated. The shoots, for their part, are on the surface where the shoots and roots develop. There are two types of tubers, stem and root.
  • Rhizomes: Their stems function as a root and grow horizontally below the surface, that is, parallel to the ground. Among the main rhizomes, banana, iris, lily of the valley or ginger stand out.
  • Tuberous roots: This type of underground nutrient-accumulating organ forms as a cluster from the crown to where the stems arise. Among the plants with tuberous roots, the peony and the yellow lily stand out.

In addition to this division according to the morphology and function of the bulb, we can also differentiate the bulbs according to their use. In this sense we find edible bulbs (such as garlic and onion) or flower bulbs, which are ornamental (tulips or lilies).

When to plant bulbs?

There is no correct answer to the question of when to plant bulbs, as this will depend largely on the type of bulb you want to work with. What you should keep in mind is that depending on the planting calendar, it will be better to plant spring bulbs or summer autumn-bulbs.

  • Summer-Fall Blooming Bulbs: Spring-planted flower bulbs that bloom between summer and fall. The best months for sowing are from March to May. Some examples of bulbs of this type are those of the dahlia, the gladiolus, or the cyclamen.
  • Spring-blooming bulbs: These bulbs are planted in the fall and bloom in the spring. The best months to plant them are October and November. Examples of bulbous plants of this type include the lily, the daffodil, the yellow lily, and, surely the most popular of all, the tulip. In this article on When to plant tulip bulbs, we explain everything you need to know about this process in order to have a colorful and fragrant garden. Find out how to plant tulip bulbs and how to preserve tulip bulbs later.

The most unfavorable months for planting bulbs, depending on the species, are the winter and summer months, however, there are some species that can be planted from December to February or from June to August, respectively. However, during these seasons the plants usually remain at rest thanks to the fact that the bulb is kept underground with its nutritional reserves, waiting to bloom again at favorable times.

How to plant bulbs step by step

To plant bulbs properly, one of the most important aspects to take into account will always be the substrate, since it must have good drainage to avoid waterlogging that can rot the bulbs and, therefore, spoil them. Avoid planting the bulbs in clayey soils and always opt for loamy-sandy soils.

Necessary materials

The tools you will need to plant bulbs are basic:

  • A hoe to turn the dirt
  • A shovel or a bulb planter
  • Well drained substrate
  • The bulbs you want to work with

Steps to follow

Before planting a bulb, you need to make sure it is healthy to flower properly. To do this, make sure that the bulb is hard and there are no bumps or holes. Another method is to lightly press the base of the bulb to check if it sinks. If it does, you’ll need to buy bulbs in good condition. You can buy bulbs in gardeners, department stores, and even online.

Decide where you will plant the bulb. In the case of doing it in a planter, you can plant it directly. If you want to plant it in the garden, the first thing you should do is till the soil with the help of a hoe to remove it, oxygenate it, and achieve a soft texture of the soil.

Once the soil has been prepared, place the bulbs with the sprouting point facing up. The depth will vary depending on the species of the plant, so we recommend you check the bulb label beforehand. As a general rule, the depth will be twice the size of the bulb. For the smallest bulbs, a depth of 3 to 5 centimeters is recommended, while for the largest they can reach a depth of 20 centimeters.

If you are going to plant more than one bulb, take care of the distance between them. Depending on the size of each species, you should plant them between 5 and 20 centimeters apart.

Finally, cover the bulbs with soil again and add compost to the surface. Then, lightly water the soil, without flooding it.

In addition to the step by step to plant the bulbs. You must take into account other aspects: Select a sunny place. Although there may be summer bulbous plants that prefer semi-shaded places. As for the orientation, keep in mind that the spring bulbs should be planted facing north, so they receive.

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