Bulbs, corms and tubers

With their brilliant choice of floral colours and forms, their ease of cultivation and their wide range of flowering times, bulbs are a must for every garden.

With a bit of planning, you can have bulbs in flower all through the year. Snowdrops and winter aconites can enliven the ground in mid to late winter, followed by crocuses, chionodoxas and scillas. In spring, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips provide a blaze of colour, as a prelude to an exotic show of summer lilies. Autumn-flowering colchicums and cyclamen are ideal for brightening up the garden when the summer is over, while delicate pink nerines can last until the first hard frosts.

In spring and autumn you can buy bulbs, corms and tubers in their dormant state, ready for planting. You can also buy the plants in bud or flower for instant colour, but these are usually more expensive.

Fleshy root

Bulbous plants consist of five main types of food storage structure. A mixed planting of grape hyacinths, irises, daffodils, tulips, narcissi and crown imperial provides a blaze of spring colour.

There are five kinds of bulbous plants:

True bulbs (such as daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and onions) are reduced swollen leaf bases. Corms (such as crocuses and gladioli) are flattened and thickened bases of stems.

Tubers (such as dahlias, winter aconites and spring-flowering anemones) are modified, swollen roots.

Rhizomes (such as some irises and lily-ofthe-valley) are above- or below-ground horizontal stems.

Fleshy roots (such as African lilies) are true roots that are thickened and succulent; they are often sold as herbaceous perennials.

Almost all bulbous plants are perennial, providing an annual floral display for several years. They grow in most well-drained garden soil and need little attention.

Some tender species have to be lifted and stored in a frost-free place over winter, but most can be left in the ground.

Propagation: is generally done by lifting, dividing and replanting.

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