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All About Bulbs

Updated: Nov 18, 2021

Spring is coming, and it’s a great time to talk about the essential spring flowers – bulbs.

When most of us think of bulbs, we think of tulips and daffodils, but the category of bulbs includes any plant that has an underground storage structure and completes its entire life cycle within that structure. Typically, they are perennial (meaning they show up every year) and have different periods of growth and flowering. And though they may come in a variety of storage structures – from true bulbs to tubers – they can be divided into main two types: spring and summer bulbs. Either way, spring is an important time to consider bulbs of both types.

Summer bulbs

These more delicate bulbs are what you should be thinking about planting in June, when all threat of cold weather has passed. These would include flowers, which are considered tubers, like begonias, gladiolas and dahlias. Summer bulbs won’t be hardy enough for our cold Alberta winters, and will needed to be treated like annuals, or dug up and stored for the winter. If you want to plant some summer bulbs, you can plan to start planting them in June, when the soil is warm, and the threat of frost has (mostly – this is Edmonton!) passed.

Spring bulbs

These are the bulbs we typically think about here in a colder climate – the ones that pop up in spring and remind us that the cold eventually ends. These bulbs are planted in the ground in fall and spend all winter getting ready to bloom for us in the spring. Tulips, irises, daffodils, crocuses – all these harbingers of spring – are examples of spring bulbs. They are best planted in mid-September, when the soil is cool but not frozen (though you can plant them into October for later spring blooms).

The rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to plant them (pointy end up!) twice as deep as the bulb is tall, in a well-drained area that gets full or at least afternoon sun.

Of course, bulbs aren’t the only flowers that remind us of spring. What are your favourite spring blooms?

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