Bulbs - what are they? These clever little storage devices are root stores of plant energy that are formed under the ground during the growing season ready for the next season. True bulbs often have a papery skin which helps protect the bulb from drying out. They should be planted with the flat base down into the soil first as the more pointed end is where the shoots will emerge.
Then there are rhizomes, which are similar but actually formed from stems that are modified to become food stores. They grow sideways rather than vertically and run just along the surface of the soil or just below it. They should be planted in a shallow depression rather than buried under the soil and a new plant will sprout from the swollen stem. Examples of plants with rhizomes are Iris and Canna. Some invasive species 'run' by means of rhizomes such as certain varieties of bamboo.
And how about tubers? These are also modified parts of stems or roots which are used by plants to store food. They have enough energy and nutrients to be able to provide a new plant in the next growing season and their growing points are known as ‘eyes’. Examples of plants with tubers include Dahlia and Sweet Potato.
Bare roots are plants that have been removed from the soil in a dormant state, i.e. during the late autumn and winter in the UK. These are sold with their roots exposed and they should ideally be planted within 48 hours of receipt. The advantages of purchasing bare root plants are that they tend to acclimatise to their new soil conditions rapidly and are generally cheaper due to their ease of handling. Plants suitable for purchase in this form include trees, shrubs, roses and some perennials.
Read our pick of the best bulbs for autumn planting HERE.
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