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How to Identify Flower Bulbs by Foliage

By Katie Jensen ; Updated September 21, 2017
Amaryllis has long strappy leaves and blooms in the summer.
Amaryllis image by Nette from Fotolia.com

Give bulbs sunshine, good soil and water and they'll reward you by returning year after year. The problem is that bulbs only bloom for a short while during the season and then go dormant. It's easy to forget where you planted what bulbs. It is possible to narrow down what types of flower bulbs have been planted by their foliage.

Determine when the foliage appears. Spring bulbs grow leaves in early to late spring, summer bulbs in early to late summer. If the leaves appear in early spring, common flower bulbs would include snow drops and crocus. Mid-spring flowers include tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. Late spring flowers include iris. Summer-blooming flower's foliage includes amaryllis, gladiolus and lilies.

Measure the length of the foliage. Bulbs with leaves less than 6 inches include crocus, snow drops and grape hyacinths. Bulbs with leaves between 6 and 12 inches long include tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and lilies. Leaves over 12 inches long include iris, alliums, amaryllis and gladiolus.

Look at how the leaves grow. Some grow from a central stem, like gladiolus, iris and lilies. Others grow in a cluster, like alliums and daffodils. Hyacinths and tulip leaves grow around the central flower bud.

Determine the shape of the leaves. Most bulbs have narrow leaves but there is a lot of variation. Amaryllis leaves are long, about 1/8-inch thick and straplike, growing to 24 inches long. They bend in a graceful arch. Gladiolus leaves are thin, pointed at the end and stiff. Tulip leaves curve inward around the flower stem. Hyacinth leaves are thicker than tulip leaves and are rounded on the ends.


Things You Will Need

  • Calendar
  • Ruler


  • Mark where your flower bulbs are and you won't lose track of them.

About the Author


Katie Jensen's first book was published in 2000. Since then she has written additional books as well as screenplays, website content and e-books. Rosehill holds a Master of Business Administration from Arizona State University. Her articles specialize in business and personal finance. Her passion includes cooking, eating and writing about food.