How to Identify Flower Bulbs Without Leaves


Planting a lush garden with many blooms and colors is a dream for many gardeners. Precise planning and layout are usually the key components in an orderly and naturally gorgeous flower bed. However, there may have already been flowers planted in the flower bed, ones that you are not familiar with, or you may not know whether you want to keep them. You must identify the bulbs to ensure you have the garden you desire.

Color, Shape and Size

Step 1

Examine the color of the bulb. Some bulbs are light brown, like the tulip bulb, and others are dark, almost black, like the calla lily bulb. The hyacinth has a dark purple skin.

Step 2

Measure the length and the width of the bulb. The calla lily bulb is long and slender, while the asiatic lily bulb is wide, almost like a partially flatten ball. The hyacinth is over 2 inches around, while the dwarf iris is 3/4-inch wide at its base.

Step 3

Examine the overall shape. The tulip bulb resembles garlic, with a ball-like base that cones at the tip to a point. The daffodil bulb is similar, but thicker at the tip without a point. The dwarf iris has a tear drop shape, and the base is like a slender ball.

Flower Family Characteristics

Step 1

Narrow the identification to the flower family if you can't identify the specific bulb at first. For example, the liliaceae family consists of lilies and daffodils. These bulbs are typically 1 to 2 inches in diameter and have a teardrop shape with a pointed tip.

Step 2

Look for the daintiness of the iridaceae bulb. Any bulb that has a white skin color and normal 1-inch diameter would belong to the iris family.

Step 3

Look for the size and weight of the hyacinthaceae bulb. This bulb often has dark purple or brown skin and is larger than the average bulb. Hyacinth and scilla belong to this group with their 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-inch width.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not dig up bulbs in the spring. If you are trying to identify a bulb, do so before the first frost in fall to give the plant time to go dormant. As spring nears, the plant will thaw and begin to grow new roots.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Camera


  • Bulb photos and names
  • Bulb information
Keywords: tulip lily daffodil iris, identify bulbs, flower bulbs

About this Author

Elizabeth Punke began writing in 2008. Her specialties include gardening, parenting and fashion. Her work has appeared in various online publications. Punke also maintains her own blog, which is full of her short thrillers.

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