Bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers - geophytes

Published on February 2nd 2019
Whether they’re flowering in your garden or cramming the shelves in garden centres, bulbs are everywhere right now. Looking at the packets on the rails you’ll see “10 bulbs for £4.99” or “5 corms for £1.99” and we use the general term ‘bulbs’ to cover bulbous plants (technical term, geophytes), but what is the difference?


A bulb has a modified stem, called a basal plate from which leaf bases, often called scales, grow. Imagine peeling an onion and each layer is one of these modified leaves. Growth comes from the middle of the bulb and roots grow from the basal plate. Examples: daffodil, allium, lily.


A vertical swollen stem, which, unlike bulbs, is solid. A fresh corm replaces the old one each growing season and the corm is protected by a ‘tunic’ of old leaf bases. Examples: crocus, crocosmia, ixia.


Think potatoes. A tuber is a swollen underground stem or root which is used as a storage organ and usually has multiple growing points. Examples: dahlia, begonia, cyclamen (often marketed as a corm).


Thickened underground stems or roots, not quite as big as a tuber. Rhizomes and tubers are easily propagated in comparison to bulbs and corms and can be invasive. Examples: lily of the valley, Solomon’s seal, bearded iris.


Formed by orchids, these sit on the growing medium and are a thickened part of the stem. Although you’ll see them on many indoor orchids, like Cymbidium and Oncidium, you’ll generally only see the hardy(ish) Pleione and Bletilla for sale as dry bulbs.
Free download for your phone or tablet
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Lots to see

Follow and read AlanGardenMaster’s articles as he develops his new one-acre plot. PimlicoDan shows city gardening in a whole new light, or follow DaisyDays on her adventures in the allotment and as a professional gardener. Just a few of the many personalities you’ll meet in our app. Free download for your phone or tablet.
Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play


Subscribe for the latest updates from Candide

What is Candide?

Candide has everything for plant lovers – buy plants from independent sellers and book tickets to visit inspiring gardens near you. Identify plants in seconds from a single photo and learn how to care for them with our in-depth guides.


Learn how to care for your plants and share your growing successes on Candide’s free app for your phone or tablet.

Download on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Germinated in Bristol © 2021 Candide