Information on Flowering Bulbs


Bulbs are a large group of perennials that include true bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers. These plants store energy in their roots. Planting bulbs is a good way to add a quick mass of color to the garden and blooms throughout the year.

Forcing bulbs brings spring into the house. image by "bulbs" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: Pixel Addict (Toni) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

True Bulbs

True bulbs are made of layers of scales surrounding the flowering stem. A papery skin called a tunic covers the bulb. A loose tunic allows the bulb to sprout easier.

Bulb Size

Larger bulbs produce larger blooms. Smaller "landscape-size" bulbs produce small blooms that are good for a natural look.

Bulb Spacing

Large bulbs are planted 5 to 6 inches apart and small bulbs 1 to 3 inches apart. Plant in clusters of 10 or more for best impact.


Most bulbs prefer a sunny location during their blooming season. They can tolerate full shade during the dormant season. Early blooming bulbs are ideal for planting under a deciduous tree; they will bloom before the tree is full of leaves and shading the plant.


After years in the same site, bulbs become crowded, stop blooming and need to be divided. Bulbs are divided by digging them up, separating the bulbs and replanting them immediately.


Bulbs can be forced to bloom at any time of year by manipulating their seasons. Storing bulbs in a cold, dark place then planting them in a warm, sunny location will encourage them to bloom on demand.


  • Purdue University Extension: Flowering Bulbs
  • University of Illinois Extension: Bulb Basics
  • University of Illinois Extension: Bulbs & More
Keywords: Bulbs, corms, rhizomes

About this Author

Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and Web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.