Fanciful Flowers:

    Spring Bulbs

Spring just does not seem complete without the bright, beautiful tones of spring flowers. Sometimes even late winter can be cheered up with a few tulips or daffodils inside. 

What are bulbs? They seem very different from seeds. The spring plants seem to pop up suddenly, glow bright during their short time span, and then wilt back to the ground until the next spring brings them back.

Let’s learn a bit more about these cheerful, fanciful flowers!

“April showers bring May flowers”, as the saying goes, but sometimes even earlier spring brings bold natural decor.

What are some of the spring flowers that come from bulbs?








They’re not exactly seeds, are they? Bulbs are larger, heavy, covered in a papery outer coating. Do these spring flower bulbs remind you of anything else?

If you thought of onions or garlic, you’re right! 

So again we have to ask, just what is a “bulb”, anyway?

According to the book “Botany for Gardeners”, a bulb is a “compact shoot, consisting of numerous layers of colorless, fleshy, scale-like leaf bases mounted on a small, disk-shaped stem.” They also point out that “the outermost scale leaves are thin and brown, serving to protect the bulb against invasion by soil microorgansims and insects.”

Wait, there’s more! They continue…

  • “A central apical bud contains immature foliage leaves that eventually emerge from the bulb. Until the foliage leaves begin photosynthesis, food reserves in the fleshy scale leaves sustain growth.”

How do these bulbs make new plants, then? Fortunately our source answers this, also.

  • “Axillary bulbs developing between the bulb’s leaves enlarge to become new bulbs.”

Now, let’s see if we can make that a little easier to understand.

  • Bulbs are basically plant stems surrounding by colorless layers of leaf bases (think of a cut onion), but with an outer layer to protect the inside.
  • From the center top of the bulb, new leaves grow. These leaves will be green, so that they can make food for the plant through photosynthesis
  • Before the leaves emerge, food is provided by the layers of leaf bases
  • Bulbs make more bulbs by making buds on the sides, which will grow into new bulbs.


Now let’s look at this through the example of the onion…


Onion Bulbs

When you look at an onion, the first thing you see is the brown outer coating, which protects the layers underneath. Do you have any onions in your kitchen that you can pick up and examine? What does that outer coating feel like?

When you cut an onion, you can better see how the bulb is put together. 

Notice the stem that has emerged from the onion below; it is green, meaning it is now able to produce food through photosynthesis, and does not rely only on the onion flesh for nutrition.

When cut through the middle, you can see the layers of the onion – the leaf bases, and see how they form into the leaves themselves.

Fall Bulbs Bring Spring Flowers

Bulbs that grow into spring flowers are just like the onion. The bulb protects the stem, and provides any food that is needed for it to start growing when the weather conditions are right.

Tulips, daffodils and crocuses all come from such bulbs. In order to start a springtime flower garden, most gardeners plant the bulbs in the fall. They can store their energy safely in the ground through the winter, and wait for the spring weather to signal when it is time to sprout and grow into the flowers we love.


Indoor Delights?

If you look around the supermarket, you may notice a trend beginning in late winter: spring flowers appear. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are sprouting from brightly-adorned planters, ready to add some green and bright spring color to the shopper’s life.

Fall Start?

If you look around in the fall, though, you will not find the flowers themselves, but packages of bulbs, with pictures to display the bright colors and mixes that can be anticipated next spring. For planting bulbs outside (in cooler climates, especially), fall is the easiest time to start. Bulbs are readily available, and the ground is still workable for planting them.

Starting Smaller? Or Later?

Bulbs can also be planted in a planter or pot, not only into the ground. Planters can be put outside for the winter to await spring. 

But what if you want flowers sooner? What if you happen to come across some bulbs on sale in the winter, despite the frozen ground?

Let’s try planting them and see!



Spring Bulb Experiment!

I came across a source of some spring bulbs, but it’s still winter. Let’s figure out the conditions they need for growing by experimenting with a couple options! After all, if the stores can get them sprouting early, so can we, right?

Check out our process (and eventually our results) below!



Step 1: Choose different growing locations

We are choosing to plant bulbs in a planter that will be in the cool (unheated garage) weather, and a planter that will be in warm, indoor weather

  • While we are at it, what is our hypothesis? That they bulbs will grow in both conditions, but will sprout and flower sooner when started in the warmer conditions.


Step 2: Plant the bulbs

A mixture of tulip and daffodil bulbs was obtained, and several bulbs were planted about 1/2-inch below the potting soil surface. Both planters were then watered.

Step 3: Observe the bulbs

Over the next days to weeks (or possibly months), note when they sprout, when they flower, and how healthy the plants appear.

Step 4: Document the findings

As the experiment progresses, we will take some photographs of the progress and data that we gather.


Of course there are some limitations to our experiment, especially as I did not control the container size, number of bulbs, amount of light or soil type. I simply found a couple half-filled planters and decided they would be a good place to begin. 

Now it’s time to see what grows!
What are some of your favorite spring flowers? What are some of your favorite tulip colors?