PLNTSdoctor banner

Bulbs, corms & tubers

We could not talk about propagation without discussing bulbs, corms and tubers. You might have heard those terms many times without really knowing what the difference was between them or how to grow them. So, this article is made for you!

What are bulbs, corms & tubers?

Bulbs, corms and tubers are quite similar, so it’s hard to tell them apart. They can all grow to be plants, but they still have some differences. It’s not really necessary to be able to recognize them in order to grow them, but we still want to give you a quick definition.

Bulbs, corms, and tubers are types of underground storage organs found in certain plants. They serve as nutrient reserves and aid in the propagation and survival of the plant. Bulbs are modified stems surrounded by fleshy leaves, such as Caladiums but also onions and tulips. Corms, like Alocasia corms, are swollen underground stems, often produced by the motherplant. Tubers are thickened, underground stems that store nutrients, such as those found in Oxalis, but also potatoes and dahlias. These structures allow the plants to survive adverse conditions and sprout anew when conditions become favorable.

How to grow a plant from bulbs, corms & tubers?

We chose to separate tubers from bulbs and corms as the methods are slightly different.

Growing from a bulb or a corm

Growing bulbs and corms, such as Caladiums and Alocasia respectively, follow similar principles but with some differences in technique. To grow Caladium bulbs, select healthy bulbs and plant them in well-draining soil, ensuring they are positioned with the rounded side facing down and the pointed side up. Place them in a location with indirect sunlight and keep the soil consistently moist, but not waterlogged. Caladiums thrive in warm temperatures and high humidity.

On the other hand, to grow Alocasia corms, choose firm and healthy corms and plant them face up (for a corm the bottom is the flat-ish side and the top is the pointy side) in a well-draining potting mix, and only bury half of the corm. Provide bright, indirect light and keep the soil evenly moist, allowing it to dry out slightly between waterings. Alocasias prefer warm temperatures and high humidity as well.

With both types of underground storage organs, regular monitoring, proper watering, and suitable environmental conditions will ensure successful growth and vibrant foliage. Don’t forget to use a dome for extra moisture, if needed! Now the waiting game begins.

Alocasia & caladium corms bulbs

Growing from a tuber

To grow tubers like Oxalis, start by picking healthy ones without any damage. Plant them about a few centimeters deep in well-draining soil, making sure the pointy side faces up. Put the pot where it gets indirect sunlight, as Oxalis prefers that. Keep the soil moist but not too wet, letting the top inch dry between watering. Oxalis likes temperatures around 18°C to 24°C. With regular watering and enough light, your Oxalis tubers will grow well, giving you pretty leaves and flowers to enjoy.

After that, patience is key: it could take several weeks before you see anything!

Oxalis tubers

And that’s it! You can now grow your own plants from bulbs, corms and tubers! For more information regarding different methods of propagation, check out our PLNTS Doctor page.

Lisa G
Lisa G

Lisa is a true plant enthusiast at heart, and her passion for greenery knows no bounds! Her apartment is a lush oasis, filled with the most unusual and exotic plants. So, if you're ever in need of plant-related guidance, she's your girl!

Hi, I'm Emma, your guide!

Hi, I’m Emma, your guide!