If you have plants such as tulips, daffodils, iris and lilies then the subsoil in your garden is a burgeoning cauldron of activity about to bubble forth in a meditative eruption of growth any day now.
That is, if you left them in the ground – many ‘roots’ are susceptible to the cold and need to be lifted and stored carefully in a shed, greenhouse or garage – anywhere that protects them from the frost.
We have a tendency to group these nutrient-packed capsules as simply ‘bulbs’. But that’s very generic and actually they grow and behave differently and are not all strictly bulbs. So let’s give them a bit of respect and find out what it’s all about.
The powerhouse that is rhizome, tuber, corm or bulb is full of vital nutrients to re-grow the plant each spring. Like the acorn that contains everything it needs to combine with soil, water and sunlight to grow into a large oak tree, the tuber harbours the power to launch a new plant year after year.
The collective name for tubers, rhizomes, corms and bulbs is geophytes. They are defined as storing water and nutrients in a swollen underground part of the plant.
To differentiate between these geophytes, simply remember that a bulb looks like an onion (which is a bulb!), a corm has an enlarged, solid base that can be cut into sections for propogation, rhizomes have underground ‘stems’ that grow along horizontally to shoot up and create new plants, and tubers have a swollen part that shoots out to form the plant.
Examples of bulbs are tulips, alium, canna and lilies. Corm examples are crocosmia, anemones and gladioli. The bamboo, Chinese lantern, ginger and fern plants all have rhizomes. And potatoes, begonias and dahlias are propogated via tubers.
So now you know your geophytes – something else to trade with greenhouse buddies or down at the gardening club.
Learn more about geophytes at http://lifeofplant.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/bulbs-and-rhizomes.html