Flower bulbs are among the most popular offerings of nurseries, garden centers and online plant suppliers. Flowers that grow from bulbs and bulb-like structures aren’t just limited to one season, however; there are bulbs that flower in the summer, in the fall and even, in some climates, in the depths of winter. With a little knowledge and careful selection, you can keep your customers in flower bulbs all year long. Understanding key terms will help.
BulbsBulbs are underground structures from which some flowering plants grow. The bulb contains the entire plant in miniature. There are two kinds of bulbs: trinicate, or onion-like, and scaly. Within each type, bulbs are sized from DNI (the largest) to DNIII (the smallest): larger bulbs are generally considered the most productive.
Corms, rhizomes and tuberous rootsThough not true bulbs, other flowering plants grow from similar structures and are often included in the general category of bulbs. Corms, including crocus and gladiolus, are rounder and shorter than bulbs. Rhizomes, including iris and lily-of-the-valley, are fleshy underground stems that send out runners. Peonies and daylilies are examples of flowering plants that grow from tuberous roots, potato-like structures with many "eyes" or growing points.
University of Illinois Extension.
HardinessThe term hardiness refers to a bulb's ability to remain in the ground through cold winters. Hardy bulbs require freezing temperatures to promote growth; they are planted in fall for spring flowering. Tender bulbs, planted in spring for summer or fall bloom, cannot weather cold temperatures. They are treated as annuals or overwintered.
OverwinteringMany tender flower bulbs can be overwintered, or lifted from the soil after flowering and stored in a cool, dry place through the winter to be planted again in spring.
Bulb plantersBulbs can be planted in formal rows or in clusters known as bouquet plantings. They can be allowed to naturalize, or grow randomly, on lawns or in wooded areas. Several special tools have been designed to assist in digging holes for bulbs, especially in hard or clay soil. The dibble is a funnel shaped tool that digs out a cone-shaped segment of ground. Short or long-handled bulb planters utilize sharp, curved blades. The long garden auger, which can be attached to a standard electric drill, makes digging precise holes for bulbs an easy task.
Bulb fertilizationSpecial bulb fertilizers have been developed that apply nutrients in a slow-release form. Organic gardeners use combinations of bone meal (sterilized, ground animal bone), blood meal (dried, powdered blood) and greensand (powdered rock that's high in potassium) as fertilizers.
University of Minnesota Extension article defines and discusses various types of flower bulb fertilizers.