Growise Home - Growise Center Locator - Who We Are - Gifts for Gardeners - Gift Certificates - Garden Guide - Wise Buys - National Gardening Sale - Fall Festival

Ways With Bulbs, Both Hardy and Tender

by Carole McCray

All About Bulbs—Hardy and Tender

From small, drab, lump-like storehouses which hold the life of a plant, bulbs redeem themselves with blooms each spring. Knowing the different types of bulbs can help you plant the right bulb in the right location. Your questions about gardening with bulbs can be answered by the experts at your Growise Center.

Know the difference

TRUE BULB--hardy and has a flower bud within it surrounded by layers of food supply. Includes hyacinth, daffodil, tulip, winter aconite, snowdrop, striped squill, Siberian squill, glory-of-the-snow, and hardy lilies. Winter aconite, snowdrop, and striped squill flower in February or March. Fall crocus, saffron crocus, autumn crocus, and winter daffodil add surprise to the fall garden.

CORM--a solid mass of stored food, with roots growing from a baseplate with small buds on top. Examples—crocus, gladiolus, peacock orchid, and montbretia.

RHIZOME— a swollen, solid underground stem. Examples—bearded iris, calla lily, canna lily, and tuberose.

TUBER—a swollen, rounded stem covered with small scaly leaves and growth buds (eyes). Examples—gloriosa lily, tuberous begonia, caladium, and cyclamen.

TUBEROUS ROOT— similar to a tuber, but is a swollen, rounded root, not a modified stem, with growth buds on its base, not its surface. Example—dahlia.


Plant in the fall before deep frost hardens the ground.

Plant where bulbs can bloom in afternoon shade. Color will be retained; blooms will last longer.

In rock gardens—Plant small bulbs--crocus, squills, grape hyacinths, snowdrops, winter aconite, and iris reticulata in massed plantings— Use 3 or 4 dozen in spots where deciduous trees and shrubs have not leafed out yet in the spring.

In borders—Plant bulbs where blooms of annuals, biennials, and perennials will soon follow.

In natural setting—Gently toss handfuls of bulbs--crocuses, hyacinths, and daffodils. Plant them where they land to look like they are growing wild.

In formal garden--For a spectacular bed, plant a single color or a geometric design of hyacinths and tulips in purple and a contrasting plant such as white pansies. Try pale blue hyacinths with bright yellow tulips or daffodils for a striking effect.

Soil for bulbs

Drainage is important. Poor drainage impairs root growth and bulb development.

Improve clay soil in beds, borders, and massed areas. Add peat or vermiculite to a depth of 12 inches. Where very sandy, work in peat or compost. Plant tulips deep in well-drained areas; then you can plant annuals over them once foliage dies.

For more information on planting and fertilizing bulbs, visit your Growise Center.


Unlike hardy bulbs, tender bulbs must be dug up and stored for winter in all but the mildest regions. In cold climates, tender bulbs are grown as annuals, discarded at season’s end or wintered over. In southern climates, they remain in the ground year-round.


CALADIUM—Dig tuber before first hard frost. Dry for a week in a dry place. Store dormant tubers in dry peat at 40 degrees F. Overwinter potted plants as houseplants.

CALLA LILY—Dig rhizome after frost. Dry in shade for a few days. Store in boxes in dry peat at 45 to 55 degrees F.

CANNA LILY—Dig rhizome before frost. Leave 14 inches of top attached; do not clean or divide. Dust with fungicide to protect against snails and slugs. Keep roots dry at 45 to 55 degrees F.

CYCLAMEN—Tuber best undisturbed to self-sow. Possibly hardy in Zone 5 or colder with winter mulch or snow cover.

DAHLIA—Dig after dieback or first frost . Cut back to six-inch stems. Hose off dirt; dry in shade for a week. Store at 45 degrees F in boxes, undivided, in dry sand or peat. Divide in spring when tuber has one bud or "eye."

GLADIOLUS—Dig eight weeks after last blooms fade or after first frost. Cut tops to within a few inches of the corm. Place in box, and leave in well-ventilated place two weeks at 75 degrees F. Dust with all-purpose garden dust. Break off tops. Store at near 45 degrees F.

TUBEROUS BEGONIA—Dig near first frost time. Dry tubers two weeks. Remove soil and stems. Store in peat or sand at 45 to 60 degrees F.

Bulbs can live for years and multiply, so plant them in large numbers. You will be investing in many glorious springs.

Growise Home - Growise Center Locator - Who We Are - Gifts for Gardeners - Gift Certificates - Garden Guide - Wise Buys - National Gardening Sale - Fall Festival