The words "flower bulbs" often bring to mind the stately tulips and cheerful daffodils that grace spring gardens.
But bulbs can provide color in the garden year round, too.
Not only do many bulbs flower in the spring, summer, and autumn, but if you take advantage of indoor gardening, you can even enjoy flowers such as hyacinth, amaryllis, and narcissus during the winter months.
Many bulbs are not bulbs at all - but corms or tubers. Corms and bulbs are very similar.
They store everything they need for plant growth inside. All you have to do is plant them in the right season and give them a little water.
Tubers, such as dahlias and begonias, are essentially enlarged roots. All three usually go dormant after flowering.
Hardy bulbs, which bloom in the spring, are cold tolerant and can be left in the ground over winter. They often need a little cold to jolt them into growth.
People in warmer climates such as Florida have to put their bulbs in the refrigerator for a month or so before planting for their botanical wakeup call. These bulbs are usually planted in the fall. Get more tips on fall gardening.
Tender bulbs, corms, and tubers usually flower in the summer and spring and must be dug up and stored during the winter.
In very mild climates, however, you can leave them in the ground. Many bulbs even naturalize; which means they multiply all by themselves underground.
So plant a dozen daffodils this year, and with luck, you could enjoy two dozen next year. Here are a few flower bulbs to consider for each season of the year:
If you live in a mild climate, you might still be able to plant bulbs that will bloom in the fall.
Usually, bulbs need to be planted in August or very early September for fall color. These flowers generally range from about 3 to 5 inches tall so don't expect the drama of tulips or daffodils.
But they are delightful sprinkled in with your perennials. Choices include colchicum, autumn crocus, scilla, and sternbergia.
During the winter, you can "force" bulbs to bloom indoors. Popular choices include amaryllis, narcissus, and hyacinth.
The sky's the limit. Favorites include tulips, fritillaria, muscari, crocus, and anemone. But there are dozens of varieties to choose from.
Summer flowers range from the tuberous begonia (which will bloom profusely in shady areas) to the tall, elegant cannas, to the showy, colorful dahlias. Many summer bloomers produce lovely flowers for cutting.
So get adventurous. If you live in an apartment, grow them in pots. They provide a lot of reward for minimal effort.