From Dahlias and Tulips to Daffodils and Lilies, Here's What You Need to Know About Planting Geophytes

Plus, one easy method to determine how deep to plant your flower bulbs.

If you have a robust flower garden in your backyard, chances are good that you have a few geophytes among your blooms. What is a geophyte? According to New York Botanical Gardens (NYBG), geophytes are herbaceous plants in which the perennating buds are below ground, growing into corms, bulbs, or rhizomes—in simpler terms, they are plants that store their energy and water below ground until they're ready to bloom. This term may sound intimidating, especially because it applies to a variety of different plants, including flowering bulbs, but geophytes are actually far more common than you likely realize. Ahead, we're explaining exactly what a geophyte is, as well as what you need to know about this subgroup of flowering bulbs, including how to plant them and the most popular ones to grow.

bright colorful garden
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What Is a Geophyte?

"A geophyte is a type of plant that forms an underground storage organ from either a modified stem or enlarged root where it stores energy (carbohydrates) and water," says Amy Enfield, horticulturist for Miracle-Gro and Bonnie Plants. "A bulb is a specific type of geophyte. Whereas geophytes are not only bulbs but also plants that form corms, tubers, tuberous roots, and rhizomes." Since all flower bulbs are geophytes, and there are many types of bulbs available, planting geophytes will vary based on the type of plant you choose. "The depth of planting is very dependent on the specific type and variety of geophyte being planted," she says. "Even within the bulb category, different bulbs are planted at different depths." A good rule of thumb, though? According to Samantha "Foxx" Winship, founder of Mother's Finest Family Urban Farms, "Around five-inches deep would be an average depth to grow your geophytes."

What Are Popular Flower Bulbs?

Some popular flower bulbs are tulips, lilies, narcissuses, onions, hyacinth, amaryllis, and daffodils, says Winship. Daffodils are one of our founder's favorite bulbs to plant. In fact, she plants hundreds of these type of flower bulbs that transform her yard into a colorful sea of flowers every year.

How Do You Plant Flower Bulbs?

Bulbs that bloom in the spring, like tulips and daffodils, should be planted the previous fall, "Or pre-chilled bulbs can be planted in early spring for those living in the south," says Enfield. Bulbs that bloom in the summer, like some types of lilies, should be planted in the spring.

Determine the planting depth for the type of bulb you're planting, says Enfield. "A general rule of thumb is two to three times as deep as the bulb is tall," explains Enfield. "If bulbs are planted too deep, flowers may bloom late or not at all. Dig your holes to the proper depth and place the bulbs with the pointy-end up and basal plate down," she says. If you're not sure which is the top and which is the bottom, she recommends planting it on its side. "Cover with soil, add a light layer of mulch, and water well to settle the bulbs in," she says.

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