BULBS: what are they, characteristics, parts and examples - Summary!

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Any fan of gardening or horticulture will have heard the word "bulb" mentioned hundreds of times when referring to some types of plants, both ornamental and consumer, and is that bulbs are very present in our daily lives in a great diversity of shapes.

If you want to learn more about bulb plants, join us in this Green Ecologist article, where we will see what are bulbs, their characteristics and examples of plants that have them. Surely many of them you already know!

What are bulbs and their characteristics

The first thing we should know about bulbs is that they are organs specialized in the storage of nutrients and reserve substances that the plant uses for its growth and development, especially when conditions are not favorable.

The bulbs can thicken and increase in size, thus accumulating a greater amount of nutrients when the weather permits, to be used when it becomes hostile. This is why plants with bulbs are very common in areas where the climate has great variability, so that the plant can let its aerial part die while surviving thanks to the underground bulb, from which it later sprouts again.

The bulb is located underground and acts as the base of the leaves. In addition, plants that reproduce by bulbs they can develop lateral buds, which over time will develop into new bulbs and, therefore, new individuals. One of the advantages of reproduction by bulbs is that the young plant remains underground until it is ready to grow, protected. Of course, reproduction by bulbs is a form of asexual propagation or reproduction, since it is always genetically identical copies of the same plant.

We can also differentiate two large types of bulbs:

  • The tunicate bulbs, in which the base is made up of layers superimposed on each other, as occurs with the onion, one of the best known edible bulbs.
  • The imbricated bulbs, in which the bases follow an arrangement similar to that of the tiles on a roof, fitting together. An example of the latter are lily flower bulbs.

Parts of the bulbs

These are the main parts of a bulb:

  • Basal disk: It is a circular area, hence its name. It is always found at the base of the bulb, and from it the roots arise, which the plant uses to absorb water and nutrients.
  • Cataphiles, layers or scales: This is the base of the leaves that thickens and forms the main part of the volume of the bulb. It is normally oval or spherical in shape, and is responsible for the storage of nutrients and reserve substances. In reality, it is only the thickening of different layers or scales of leaves, depending on the type of bulb.
  • Tunica: It is an outer protective layer, which wraps around the bulb to protect it from dehydration.
  • Stems and buds: Like the roots, they start from the basal disc and will give rise, in the case of the buds, to new leaves, and in the case of the shoots, to new bulbs.

Plants with bulbs, apart from these parts where they accumulate water and nutrients, have roots, stems, leaves and flowers. Here you can consult more about the Parts of a plant and their functions.

Examples of plants with bulbs

These are some of the best known bulbous plants:


You can't talk about bulbs without mentioning the onion, one of the most popular vegetables. A peculiarity of onions is that we cannot consider them in general spring bulbs, summer bulbs, autumn bulbs or winter bulbs, since the optimal planting season of each variety changes considerably depending on whether it is late or late onions. early onions. Here you can discover the different types of onion.


As well as other species related to onion, garlic is also one of the best known bulbs, especially in a culinary way. It is a bulb native to Central Asia, which currently has more than 600 varieties and is of recognized nutritional and medicinal properties. In this other post we tell you how to plant garlic.


Saffron bulbs are one of the most appreciated plants everywhere, both for their flowers with striking purple petals, and for the essence that is extracted from their stigmas. Saffron is commonly called red gold, due to the high price of the spice, although it takes half a million flowers just to get 1 kg of it!


Another of the bulb examples most recognizable is that of tulips. Tulip bulbs became enormously popular since the beginning of the 16th century, when their cultivation spread in northern European countries such as the Netherlands, where in fact it is currently a national symbol. It is about perennial flower bulbs of the liliaceae family, which have more than 100 species with all kinds of characteristics, colors and patterns in their flowers.

If you like these beautiful flowers as much as we do, don't miss the tulip gardening guides that we offer you from Ecologist Verde:

  • 10 types of tulips.
  • When to plant tulips.
  • How to plant tulips.
  • How to care for potted tulips
  • How to preserve tulip bulbs.


Lilies are another well-known bulbous flower, which in some cases can reach heights of almost a meter. The lily bulbs are evergreen, with large flowers, very decorative and also tend to offer a pleasant perfume. Here you can know the different types of lilies.

If you want to discover more, in this other Green Ecologist article we show you 15 bulb plants.

If you want to read more articles similar to Bulbs: what they are and examples, we recommend that you enter our Biology category.

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