Types of Flower Bulbs

Tulip Flowers 14
Tulip Flaticon

About Flower Bulbs

While we speak generically about a whole family of flowers as “bulbs”, chances are the one you are thinking about just might not be a “bulb”. There are a few types of flower bulbs, or what we call bulbs. In addition to true bulbs, there are corms, rhizomes, and tuberous roots. If you group them all as “bulbs”, that’s okay, as many of us do! 

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Dutch Flower Bulbs

Flower bulbs are generally teardrop-shaped, with a pointed tip and a round bottom. The outer skin is dark brown and paper-like.

Propagation is accomplished by division. Baby bulbs are produced and are attached closely to the mother bulb, at the bottom of the bulb. Baby bulbs are produced rapidly each spring. If not separated after a few years, the size of the flowers and plants diminishes as they compete for space and nutrients.

Why are they often referred to as “Dutch Bulbs”? – This is simply because many of the most popular and highest quality bulbs, most notably Tulips are grown in Holland for sale around the world.

Common NameBotanical NameWhen to PlantWhen in Bloom
AlliumAlliumFallLate Spring
Amaryllis or LilyHippeastrumSummerLater Summer
Grape HyacinthMuscariFallSpring
SnowdropsGalanthusFallEarly Spring


Corms are similar to bulbs, and most people do not know the difference. The bulb is shorter and rounder than bulbs, with a concave bottom. The outer skin is brown and hard. It does not separate easily from the rest of the bulb. They usually have a flat top.

Corms propagate like bulbs, but the baby bulbs grow from the top of the mother bulb. The mother bulb usually dies in one season, after producing its offshoot.

Common NameBotanical NameWhen to PlantWhen in Bloom
Autumn CrocusColchicumSummerFall
Crocus, Snow CrocusCrocusFallEarly Spring
Elephant’s EarColocasiaSpringSummer
GladiolusGladiolusSpringMid Summer

Rhizomes and Tubers

Rhizomes are plants with a root-like stems. The enlarged stem grows underground, sending roots down and stem and leaves upward. Propagation is by dividing the tubers into separate parts with at least one eye.

In the vegetable world, examples are Potatoes, Yams, Ginsing, Ginger Root, and Jerusalem Artichoke.

Common NameBotanical NameWhen to PlantWhen in Bloom
Tuberous BegoniaBegoniaSpringSummer
Lily of the ValleyConvallariaFallSpring

Tuberous Roots

Tuberous roots are similar to Rhizomes. Except it is a true root. The enlarged root sends out stems and leaves. Propagation is accomplished by separating the roots.

Common NameBotanical NameWhen to PlantWhen in Bloom

More on Growing Bulbs, Corms, and Rhizomes

Depth – Do you know how deep to plant bulbs and corms? Find out.

Fertilizer – How to fertilize your bulbs and corms.

Forcing Bulbs – It’s a rewarding winter indoor gardening activity.

How to Grow – Learn or review the steps to preparing the flower bed.

Pests – There’s no shortage of pests who eat or rob your planted bulbs.

Propagation – Our flowers are so beautiful. Let’s make more!


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