A bulb is like a permanent seed. If you plant it in the ground once, it returns year after year. Like a seed, a bulb contains an immature plant and all the food that plant needs for its initial growth spurt. Although there are a wide variety of plants that grow from a bulb-like root, not all of these plants are bulbs.
There is some confusion over the correct name for daffodils, according to the University of Missouri. Some horticulturalists call the flower daffodil, while others call it narcissus, or jonquil. Both daffodil and narcissus are correct terms, while jonquil is a specific type of daffodil. True jonquils have reed-like leaves and sweet-smelling flowers. Bulbs should be planted in well-drained soil for strong flowers. Appealing masses of flowers are typically planted in uneven masses of three, five or seven bulbs. Plant the bulbs in fall well before the last average frost date to give them time to develop a good root system before winter. Bulbs should be placed 6 inches below the surface of the soil. Leave the foliage on plants up to eight weeks after the bloom to encourage a strong showing next year.
Because crocus bloom so early, many gardeners plant them so that their purple blossoms peeking through the snow become a first sign of spring. The plants grow between 4 to 6 inches tall. They are attractive in mass plantings, but should not be mixed with other bulbs because their short size would become lost among bulbs with larger growing habits. In the wild, crocus grows in a wide range of soils and climates from coastal to Alpine. In Asia, crocus is known as the saffron plant. Dried crocus pollen creates saffron, one of the costliest and most sought-after spices on the market. Plant crocus 3 inches deep in November for early spring color.
Although we think of tulips as being a Dutch flower, the plant is actually native to China. Turkish explorers brought the plant to Persia in the 10th and 11th century. From there, it spread to Europe in the 16th century. According to Iowa State University, there are more than 2,300 varieties of tulip in existence today. Plant tulips in fall when the temperatures are still 60 degrees. The plants prefer hilly, well-drained soil with hot, dry summers and cold winters. The bulbs should be bruise-free and possess a papery cover.