Plant Bulb Types

According to University of California Master Gardener Ramona Frances, the term "bulb" is often applied to plants that aren't bulbs at all. Bisect a true bulb vertically, and you'll see embryonic leaves and flower buds. Corms, like crocus and gladioli, aren't bulbs but stem bases. Irises are rhizomes, or enlarged horizontal roots. Tubers include all other plants with underground food storage systems, like daylilies and dahlias. True plant bulb types include spring, summer and fall bloomers.

Small Camas

Small camas (Camassia quamash) are a lily family bulb plant native to moist areas of the western United States. Their 1- to 3-foot stems rise above basal clumps of narrow, vividly green leaves. Between April and June, small camas have dense upright spikes of pale to deep blue, star-shaped blossoms. The plant's leaves and bulbs are edible. According to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, small camas are one of the easiest-to-grow and most ornamental native bulbs. Plant them in full sun and heavy soil that remains wet through the winter and spring. When camas go dormant after blooming, allow the soil to dry somewhat.

Allium 'Forelock'

Ornamental onion (Allium) is a bulb plant hardy to winter temperatures of minus 30 degrees F and higher. 'Forelock' is an allium cultivar standing up to 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide. Between May and July, 'Forelock' bears egg-shaped, tufted clusters of fragrant maroon flowers above clumps of arching green leaves. The blooms make attractive additions to both fresh and dried flower arrangements, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. The bulb and bruised leaves emit an onion-like scent. 'Forelock' is a good choice for perennial beds, rock gardens and borders. Plant it in from 3 to 6 inches deep and 8 to 12 inches apart in autumn. It likes full sun and rich, well-drained, sandy loam on the dry side. Excessively moist soil raises the plant's risk of bulb rot.

Spider Lily

Spider lily (Lycoris radiata), a Japanese bulb, is hardy to minus 10 degrees F. An amaryllis family plant, it stands 1 to 2 feet high and up to 18 inches wide. A late-summer flowering lily, it has leafless stems (scapes) bearing four to six short stalks with single coral flowers. The lily's spidery stamens account for its name. Spider lily produces clusters of greenish-gray leaves in the fall, when its flowers have finished blooming. Grow spider lilies in full sun to part shade; the latter encourages the best blooms. Give them organically rich, moist, well-drained soil. Plant each bulb so that the top 1/4 inch of its neck is visible, and position bulbs 9 inches apart. While dormant bulbs do best in dry soil, they require regular water during their growing season. Left undisturbed, spider lily bulbs will gradually colonize.

Keywords: plant bulb types, summer flowering bulbs, bulb gardening

About this Author

A freelance writer, Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. She's been an inveterate traveler since 1961 and draws on her travel experiences to provide articles for such websites as Chincoteague Island Vacations and Berlin Dude. Wolfe holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from California State University at Pomona.