Believe it or not, fall is the time for ordering and planting bulbs. Whether it is a bulb, corm, tuber, or rhizome most of them are planted in the fall to be in place for the following spring because their food storage “devices” are located underground. Bulbs and corms are attached to the stem of the plants and rhizomes and tubers are connected to the roots. An example of a bulb you have eaten is an onion. Tubers are storage roots like potatoes and carrots, while corms are swollen underground stems like water chestnuts and taro. Rhizomes are underground horizontal stems characterized like ginger root, iris and asparagus.
If you are the kind of person who has difficulty with delayed gratification then this family of plants may not be your thing but the fun in planting them is in imagining the possibilities. Then you will forget you planted them and then you will remember when you see them in all of their colorful glory! I have observed over the years that when planting bulbs it is the most effective display when they are grouped together in one mass planting of a variety rather than scattering them around the yard.
If you are a fan of iris, tulips, crocus, or peonies, then this is a project with your name on it. The challenge is to pick plants that will arrive at various stages of the season and not necessarily all at the same time. Some bulbs, et al, are “early season”, some are “mid-season” and some are “late season.” Early season means the vegetative portion of the plant can appear in March along with the rising temperatures and that there is no specific day but a range of dates based on temperatures when they will start their seasonal salute. Most of the early season plants are hardy and have fleshier skin that can withstand some temperature drops during the process so don't worry. I have seen crocus and grape hyacinth appear through the snow for a very dramatic effect.
Mid-season comes along next. This too is driven by each plants response to the temperature changes and is, therefore, not precise, since no two spring events are exactly the same. If you select a plant that will flower around your birthday every April 15th, you will be disappointed at least one of those years. Late season flowering is still going to happen in the spring but just after the other two and it is also driven by the temperatures. These are usually the tallest of the bunch and the vegetative portion takes a bit longer to fade away.
With bulbs, corms and tubers it is not all about the flowers. Once the flower petals have dropped off it is equally as important to take care of the vegetative portion of the plant to provide the corm, bulb or tuber with the highest level of photosynthesis and resultant nutrient translocation down to the bulb, corm, tuber, for the following spring. It is important to allow the vegetative portion do it's thing. It is okay to cut the top off of the flower stem to stop seed production after flowering because seed production takes a lot of food energy from the plant. So after the petals have dropped or the flower starts to fade, simply prune this part of the plant off and leave the remainder of the plant alone. Annuals can be planted in between if the tops have not faded before this time.
Tips to success with bulbs, corms and tubers: