Bulbs, corms, and rhizomes, known collectively as geophytes, represent a particular life history strategy that has evolved in almost every region of the world, though especially in regions and in habitats where conditions can become less hospitable to plant growth at certain times of the year, particularly in summer.
Bulbs, corms, and rhizomes are underground water and carbohydrate storage structures that allow plants to go dormant and disappear below ground for periods of time to avoid stressful conditions. In addition to surviving winter, these structures are usually designed to help these plants survive periods of heat and drought. They will emerge after a period of dormancy – usually winter – come into leaf and flower – usually in spring and early summer – and then go dormant before the summer heat sets in to bide their time until the following spring. In the time that they are in growth their goals are to produce seed to get their genes into the next generation and to build up energy through photosynthesis to survive to the next season.
There are some exceptions to the normal schedule. Some bulbs are in leaf and flower at different times. The fall-blooming Crocus, Amaryllis belladonna, Drimia (Urginea) maritima, and Colchicum are in leaf in spring, go dormant in summer, and re-emerge to bloom without foliage in fall!
Other bulbs like to avoid the summer heat but are in leaf and flower at unusual times. Arum italicum comes into leaf in the fall remaining green all winter and into spring when the flowers bloom. The seed heads will begin to ripen like drumsticks with green then orange jelly beans through the summer and into the fall but with not a leaf in sight! The hardy Cyclamen (C. coum and C. hederifolium) are dormant during the summer heat emerging into leaf and flower in fall and winter and remaining green until the summer heat returns again.
They say it takes all kinds of people to make a world. You could say the same thing about bulbs. Here’s to celebrating some beautiful and unusual oddball bulbs that make the world (and your garden) such a cool and colourful place! Take a look at the many amazing options we have on offer: