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Plant Bulbs - Nature's Nutrient Reserve

In bulbous plants, all foliage originates from a bulb resting just under the soil and attached to the root system.  A bulb is simply a storage organ used to reserve moisture and nutrients so that the plant can survive adverse conditions and thus go into a dormant state to later regrow when ideal conditions are resumed.  Many ornamental perennial plants utilize some form of these storage organs very similar to bulbs in order to remain dormant all Winter long and resume growth in Spring.  Because of this, they are able to regenerate after the stems are trimmed off or in the event that the plant has completely defoliated.  Defoliation could result from extreme stress, freezing, etc.  There are other types of storage organs, such as corms, rhizomes, and tubers, that are sometimes referred to as bulbs, but they are not exactly the same although having similar function.   Traditionally, bulbous plant species go through a repetitive cycle of vegetative and reproductive stages.  First, the bulb grows the plant to flowering during its vegetative stage in which those flowers will then trigger the reproductive stage.  There are certain kinds of environmental conditions, such as a shift from cold winter to spring, that need to trigger one transitional stage to another.   When the flowering period is over and the plant enters the foliage period of approximately 6 weeks, the plant will absorb nutrients from the soil and energy from the sun in order to adequately produce flowers for the next year.  As a result, if bulbs are dug up before this foliage period is completed, they will likely not bloom the following year, but should resume the years subsequently.  Therefore, for best results, bulbs should only be dug up for replanting elsewhere after the foliage period is complete.  Many gardeners in temperate climates grow certain plant species that will not survive the cold temperatures of their winter.  When this is the case, bulbs will need to be dug up and brought inside for the winter.  Any surface moisture should be dried off prior to storage up for 4 months.  Longer than this may lead to the bulbs drying out and thus becoming nonviable.              Oxalis regnellii , better known as Purple Shamrock , is a fast-growing ornamental plant we often have available here at Josh’s Frogs.  Its unique foliage has made it quite popular to add a splash of color both indoors and outdoors as a nice, bushy accent plant.  Oxalis is actually one of the few genera of plants that utilize what are called “true bulbs.”  Outdoors, they have a USDA Hardiness Zone of 7-10. Sometimes, we trim back our Shamrocks when they get too “lanky” and outgrow themselves.  Since they are fast growing, it doesn’t take long at all for them to regenerate themselves with fresh, healthier foliage.  To demonstrate their quick regenerative abilities, I chose 3 freshly trimmed specimens to photograph for 3 weeks.  I photographed them every work day, with the missing gaps accounting for weekends off.  As you can see, if you have any dead or “lanky” foliage on your Purple Shamrock or any other bulbous plant, you can go ahead and trim it down to give it a fresh start like I have with the ones below.    If you have any questions, feel free to shoot us an email at [email protected] or give us a call at 1 (800) 691-8178 and, as always, we would be happy to help you out the best we can! -Taylor

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