The life cycle of your flower bulbs
Planting season is here! A busy and exciting time at DutchGrown. The coming weeks this blog will be giving you all the best insights, tips and information to ensure you get the best results come spring.
“To everything turn turn turn, there is a season turn turn turn…” Remember that great tune by the Byrds?
In this blog we’ve talked extensively about the flowering season and the planting season, but they only make up for a small part of the year. Today I would like to talk about the life cycle of flower bulbs, and the things that happen in the long months they spend below ground.
When the show’s over
We know that once a flower has bloomed you shouldn’t cut the leaves and blooms off, but instead wait for them to wither and die naturally, allowing the nutrients and energy to slowly move back into the bulb. But what happens after that?
Roots & multiplications
Bulbs that you leave in the ground once they’ve stopped blooming can start growing their new root systems as early as mid-August. Some varieties also use this period to multiply. They grow more bulbs out of one and prepare themselves to give you an even more impressive flower show come spring.
Inside your new bulbs
When you hold the bulbs you are planting this fall in your hand, they might feel very solid, a kind of oversized golf ball. However, if you were to cut them open, you would find a series of overlapping stems pressed together very tightly. Once you’ve planted your new bulbs, they will anchor themselves into the ground by growing strong, deep roots, which they will use to get nutrients and water from the soil.
Winter slumber party
During the long cold winter months the bulbs are half-asleep. In this dormant period the bulbs do not grow in size or produce leaves above the ground, but they still quietly work away at growing an ever larger and deeper root system. When it starts freezing above ground the soil itself protects them from any kind of frost damage, while the cold temperature in the ground below brings on chemical changes that prepare the bulbs for the growing season ahead of them.
Falling asleep & waking up
The main reason the bulbs fall asleep is that temperatures outside are dropping. But scientists have found that this ‘sleepy’ period is not only triggered by the weather getting colder, but also by the days getting shorter and shorter. Once the bulb’s dormant period has started, a little ‘stopwatch’ inside the bulb starts counting. When the bulb has recorded a set number of ‘chilling’ hours, hormonal changes will happen, which help make it ready to start growing.
When your tulips or hyacinths starts coming up, you’re mainly focused on the beautiful bloom you’ve been waiting for all winter long (and rightfully so). But what exactly happens to your bulb underground, to transform it from an onion-like thing with roots into a stunning narcissus or cute snowdrop? Well, it turns out that much like with delicious pastry, carbs and sugar are key. The hormonal changes I mentioned before, together with the lengthening days and rising temperatures kickstart a process that turns the carbohydrates that were stored in the bulb into sugar. The sugar in turn causes the leaves and the flower to gradually push their way out of the bulb, upwards through the soil, all the way to a beautiful spring day where they will be welcomed by birdsong and sunshine.
Even though the days are getting notably shorter, there’s still time to plant your fall bulbs for next spring. Which blooms would you like to see in your garden when the sun has come back? Go on over to our easy to use website, choose your favorites, and we’ll deliver them straight to your door.