Top 3 Bulbous Plants for Your Garden

Translated by Nick R

Many times we acquire a particular taste for a certain species. It becomes our favorite and the one we would like to see in any arrangement, gift or event.

If your favorites are those species with striking colors and shapes, bulbous plants are for you. Besides, you can plant them in your garden or a pot on your terrace or balcony; they’ll look amazing.

In this blog, you’ll learn a little more about these plants, their characteristics, how to plant and care for them, and finally, I’ll give you the top 3 bulbous plants that you can plant in your garden.

What is a bulbous plant?  

Bulbous plants are those that are grown from underground organs, namely bulbs, rhizomes, corms, tubercles, and tuberous roots. These organs house the nutrient reserves necessary to produce leaves and flowers.

These plants may be perennial or deciduous and are characterized by their high ornamental value. They come in a variety of colors and adapt to cold, humid, dry, hot and rainy climates depending on their species.

The flowering time of these plants may vary depending on the species. In spring, bloom tulips, daffodils, lilies, anemones, hyacinths, among other plants. In summer, begonias, dahlias, freesias, lilies and gladioli appear.

In autumn, flowers such as autumn crocus, amaryllis and nerine bloom. And in winter, there are cyclamen, scilla, snowdrops, and muscari, among other species. Bulbous plants have a hibernation period and most of them are easy to grow, thus perfect for beginners.

Classification of bulbous plants 

As I mentioned at the beginning, bulbous plants are grown by means of organs. Below, I will explain this classification in more detail.

Taken from the book Bulbous Plants


Bulbs are subway buds surrounded by modified, fleshy leaves, similar to scales. Their function is to protect and store the nutrients used by the plant embryo for its first growth phase.

Often, these leaves are found packed closely together, but they can also be seen in smaller numbers and in large sizes. The leaves on the outside, covering the bulb, are dry and have a papery consistency; they form what’s called a tunic.

Thanks to the lateral or axillary buds of the bulbs, new ones can develop every year. These can be detached from the parent and transplanted so that they can grow to a larger size and produce other bulbs.  

Plants with these bulbs are:

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tulips
  • Hyacinths
  • Narcissus
  • Muscaris
  • Lilies
  • Tuberose


These are subterranean and thickened stems with no scales. They have a flattened base from which the roots grow. And the plant growth comes from the tip of the corms.

These corms have axillary buds from which new corms are formed to replace the old ones every year. They are short-lived as they provide nutrients during the growth of the plant.

They are almost always surrounded by smaller corms that can be used to reproduce the plant. Also, when the tunica is present, it’s made from the dried basal leaves left from the previous season. Basal leaves are those that arise at the stem base, at ground level.

And the plants that have these corms are:

  • Freesias
  • Crocus
  • Gladioli
  • Ixias


Tubers are subway and thickened stems like corms but don’t have a flattened base. These organs have epigeous stems, that is, they grow above the soil and develop in different parts of the tuber.

As the plant grows, almost always, the tuber grows thicker; however, they sometimes become smaller.

Plants with such organs are:

  • Potatoes
  • Tuberous begonias
  • Anemones
  • Cyclamen

Tuberous roots 

These roots increase in size to store the nutrients needed by the plant. They develop in a radial manner and emerge from the crown. From the crown, new buds emerge and give birth to new stems.

Some portions of these tuberous roots can detach for plant reproduction.

The species with these roots are:

  • Dahlias
  • Clivias
  • Ranunculus
  • Alstroemerias


They are thickened stems that grow horizontally and are fully or partially subterranean. The roots develop at the bottom, and the epigeal stem arises from the tip, also known as the eye.

The rhizomes also have secondary points of growth. These can be used for the reproduction of the plant. It’s only necessary to split the rhizomes into sections that have an eye and a root.

Plants with these organs are:

  • Calla lilies
  • Lilies
  • Convallaria majalis

Where to plant bulbous plants? 

Bulbous plants can be planted directly in your garden or in pots on terraces and balconies. With the necessary care they’ll grow nicely. Below, I’ll explain a little more about locations.

Bulbous plants in the garden 

These plants can adapt very well to the environment and offer the possibility to create beautiful diverse compositions. Such compositions are:

Mixed borders 
Taken from Pinterest

It refers to the garden borders and can serve to separate the vegetation from the walking paths.

These environments may be perfect for bulbous plants, and even more interesting, you have the option of planting other species with similar or less demanding environmental conditions.

These plants give color to garden borders and an incredible view. You can use large-sized or dwarf bulbs; however, you should not use too many plants of the same species.

As you know, they can bloom several times a year, so by planting varied bulbous species, you can have a flowering garden all year round. Each species has its own remarkable characteristics, one of which is the color of the flowers.

For this reason, you can have a chromatic effect in the garden borders that will look fantastic.

Taken from Pinterest

It’s an elongated strip of land placed next to the garden wall. Bulbous plants are used there to bring some color. You can plant them in a way that as they grow, they will show a specific shape.

You can experiment with the different sizes of these plants both inside and outside your house. Everything will depend on your imagination, of course, with the necessary care that I’ll explain later.

Taken from Pinterest

It’s a garden-style made with rocks as in natural environments, but smaller and suitable for the garden.

In these rockeries, the substrate is usually a bit sparse and the plants develop an extensive root system.

In addition, the growth of these plants is compact so that a species of medium or low height is perfect. In such a way, bulbous plants are indicated for this type of garden.

You can plant anemones, daffodils, cyclamen, muscari, and iris, among other plants. It’s necessary to consider the location in which you are growing these species, whether in full sun, semi-shade or shade, as well as the flowering period and the drainage.


The aim of these compositions is to create a natural environment, as it can be seen in nature. You can plant bulbous plants in meadows or around trees and shrubs.

You should choose medium-sized species that can compete with other plants for nutrients. They can have a rustic appearance, withstand low temperatures and reproduce by themselves for several years.

You can choose one or several species of bulbous plants that have continuous flowering. It’s recommended to grow plants that can withstand shade under the trees and shrubs.  

Bulbous plants on the terrace 

As mentioned before, you can also plant bulbous plants in pots on the balcony or terrace. These will bring color to these spaces and you’ll have the possibility to grow a large variety of species to have flowering all year round.

Bulbous plants in pots 

When planting in pots, you have the advantage of using a well-drained substrate so as to provide the best conditions for the plant. Although a drawback is that, after the first year, it’s hard to obtain a steady flowering.

This is because, the plant’s organs fail to store the nutrients necessary for flowering again. One option is to plant these organs in the garden so that the plant can develop again.

You can use a variety of pots and plant bulbs with different sizes and flowering periods. This should be done in layers, first, you add a layer of gravel or clay for drainage, then another one of peat that contains nutrients, and there, you plant the larger and late-flowering bulbs.

On another layer of peat, you can put the medium size bulbs, and if there is enough depth you can apply another layer and sow there the small and early flowering bulbs.

Example of how to plant in layers

Another option is to plant bulbs and non-bulbous plants together. This can be adequate for the few hanging bulbous species, like some begonias. And in case you have greenhouses, galleries, or protected spaces, you can plant exotic bulbous plants such as gloxinia.

How to plant bulbous plants? 

For planting these bulbs, the first thing to do is prepare the soil at least 1 week before planting. In the case of potting, you can buy a universal substrate that provides the necessary drainage and nutrients for bulbous plants.

If you’re growing it directly in the garden soil, you can mix it with some organic compost or peat and clay to help with drainage.

The depth of the hole must match the size of the bulb; it can be approximately 2 to 3 times the size of the bulb. Later, when we talk about the top bulbous plants, I’ll indicate the exact required depth for the 3 specimens that I’m about to present to you.

Once you have prepared the soil, you’ll open the holes to plant the bulbs. Using the right tools will make the job easier. You can use the basic tools you have in your garden if you don’t have the specialized ones.

tool kit for gardening
Taken from
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If you intend to plant more than one bulb in the same plot, you should leave a space of 6 to 20 cm between each one. When growing the bulb, its base must lie at the bottom of the hole.

The eye or apical bud, where the vegetation emerges, should be upwards and over the bulb; apply a layer of soil to cover it. Water is just enough to moisten the soil but without puddling. As I mentioned before, the depth depends on the species and you can grow several in one area.

Reproduction of bulbous plants 

You can sow by means of secondary organs or seeds. When using secondary organs, you just need to remove them from the soil, split them off and transplant them to another area. However, you must know when to do it.

It may happen once they begin to emerge from the soil or when they have lost their flowers but still have some leaves. Be sure not to hurt the buds or roots when separating the bulbs.

You’ll take the ones that break off without forcing, as they will have already reached the necessary dimensions to produce flowers.

In the case of rhizomatous, tuberous, and tuberous-rooted plants, you can separate the bulbs with a sharp knife. What matters is that they have at least 1 bud or eye that is not too small.

You must clean the knife or tool you use very well to avoid infecting the plants with any kind of pest or disease.

If you want to sow by seed, the first thing you should know is that the plants may take much longer to flower. The process is the same as with other plants; you sow the seeds in a seedbed with a substrate that guarantees good drainage.

When they’re mature enough, you can transplant them to their final place. The more resistant ones can go outdoors, and the more delicate ones should be in a more protected place, especially while the frosts are passing.

Some seeds require a cold season to germinate. You can put them in a container with wet absorbent cotton and at the refrigerator door for 3 weeks.

Once germinated, they must go through a period of acclimatization, and then you can transplant them outdoors.

Planting season for bulbous plants 

At the beginning, I told you that these plants can bloom at different seasons of the year. Now I’ll tell you the season in which you can sow the secondary organs or seeds of some bulbous species.


  • Secondary organ: spring
  • Seed: autumn


  • Secondary organ: late summer or in spring
  • Seed: late summer or spring


  • Secondary organ: late summer
  • Seed: mid-summer or late winter


  • Secondary organ: spring
  • Seed: early spring


  • Secondary organ: fall
  • Seed: late summer


  • Secondary organ: fall
  • Seed: late summer/fall


  • Secondary organ: fall


  • Secondary organ: fall
  • Seed: fall


  • Secondary organ: autumn
  • Seed: late spring or early summer


  • Secondary organ: fall
  • Seed: fall

Care of bulbous plants 

Once you have chosen the place where you’re going to plant your bulbous plants, and prepared the soil and the seeds or bulbs, you should consider the following care.


Bulbous plants thrive in fertile soils, so it is recommended to fertilize every year with fertilizers rich in phosphorus and potassium and low in nitrogen.

Fertilization is used a little more for those bulbous plants in pots, as it’s necessary to provide them with the minimum conditions. You can use slow-release fertilizers such as granular or liquid fertilizers along with irrigation.


Watering shouldn’t be excessive during growth and flowering. In periods of drought, it can be abundant but without flooding the plants.

If you have bulbous plants in pots, watering will be carried out every time the surface of the substrate dries out. You can do the finger test to ensure if they need water or not.


You need to remove wilted flowers so that the nutrients stored in the organs can reach other flowers. These flowers are cut below the corolla, which is the protective set of petals.


Some spring bulbs can be outdoors during the winter, and others should be protected from severe weather. You can apply a mulch layer of straw, dry leaves or other organic material to protect them.

Seasonal summer bulbs should be taken out of the garden and stored in a cool, dry, ventilated place during the winter. This way, you can avoid their premature germination.

You can extract the plants when as a result of the first cold arriving, their leaves have taken on a brown color. And then, you can cover the bulbs with a powdered fungicide to prevent them from being affected by pests and rotting.

Those bulbs that don’t have a tunic should be stored in a little peat or slightly damp sand. If you have exotic species, protect them in greenhouses.


Some areas are exposed to strong wind, and those can affect plants with weak, long, or climbing stems. For this reason, it’s recommended to use stakes such as sticks, wires, or metal nets to support them.


Bulbous plants don’t usually suffer from the appearance of pests or diseases; however, it’s not superfluous to prevent and control them. The first method of prevention is good drainage.

You can use homemade insecticides or pesticides to prevent or remove pests. Regarding pesticides, you must be careful when handling them and use the appropriate one according to the type of pest.

Top 3 bulbous plants to plant in your garden 

Now I am going to show you 3 of some species of bulbous plants that you can have in your garden with their respective characteristics.

Ornamental garlic or Allium 

The alliums flowers are stellate gathered in balloon-shaped inflorescences and have various colors. They can be used for garden borders or rockeries.   

This plant has a bulbous organ and can grow from 20 cm to 1.5 m high. It requires full-sun exposure, abundant watering during its vegetative period, and can bloom in summer or spring.   

It’s a plant that can be grown outdoors or in pots; however, it requires stakes as it has a weak stem. The substrate should be loose, nutritious, and well-drained. You can plant the bulbs in September or October at a depth of 5 to 12 cm.

Taken from Pinterest


Two groups of these plants can be distinguished: the florists’ anemones and the daisy-flowered anemones. This first group has large, black-centered, single, semi-double and double flowers. These flowers emerge in summer and fall and from bulbous roots.

The second group is developed by rhizomes, which can bloom in late winter and early spring. It has thin petals surrounding the center of the golden yellow flower.

These plants require semi-shade or full light; it all depends on chosen species. They can reach 10 to 95 cm high and originate from temperate regions.

The daisy flower anemone can be planted in September at a depth of 5 cm. The flower anemone roots should be immersed in water the night before planting. Then you sow them at a depth of 3 or 5 cm in September or October.  

Taken from Pinterest

 Crocus or Saffron Crocus

Crocuses have species that bloom in spring and hybrids that bloom in autumn. It has a great variety of colors depending on the species, such as yellow, gold, orange, blue, violet, mauve, and white. They can grow from 6 to 15 cm and originate in Europe and Asia.

They grow from bulbs that are sown in September if it’s part of the spring species and in November for the autumn species. The planting depth is 5 to 7 cm. And they require full sun or semi-shade, as well as moderate watering to keep the substrate moist.

Taken from Pinterest
We've reached the end of this fascinating blog about bulbous plants. I hope you found this information very helpful and can share it with friends and family. Bulbous plants are really beautiful and so easy to grow and take care of. - so, get to work!