Tubers Vs Bulbs - Knowledgebase Question

Poway, CA
Question by jturba5
June 7, 2000
I would like to know what the difference is between tubers and bulbs. I know they look different. Tubers look like roots and bulbs look like "onions", but from a practical gardening point of view what is the difference? e.g. hardiness, need to dig up each year, perennial or annual, quality of plant and bloom. If there is an option to buy a plant as a tuber or bulb what criteria can I use to choose?


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Answer from NGA
June 7, 2000

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Tubers, bulbs, rhizomes and corms are all storage organs. Plants will have only one kind of storage organ so you won't have a choice between bulbs or tubers, but you can choose between tender and hardy plants. For instance, rhizomes (such as iris), and corms (such as gladiolus) are generally hardy enough to be left in the ground all year around. Many tubers (such as dahlias) and a large number of bulbs must be dug and stored during the coldest winter weather.

Tubers, bulbs, rhizomes and corms are all considered perennials, and the larger the storage organ, the larger the bloom (usually!). So when choosing, get the plumpest, largest storage organs you can find. Since hardiness is plant specific you'll need to do some homework on each plant once you've decided what you want to grow.

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