Which end up?

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Sun, 31 Aug 2003 17:44:20 PDT
Corydalis solida, the subject of recent discussion under "Which end up?" is 
not the only bulb that puzzles people. Here are some hints:

Corydalis in general have a "knob" or "topknot" that goes on top. Those of 
the C. solida type are pointed on the bottom, but some others are not.

Arum tubers also have a knob on top, which usually curls over like a dot of 
frosting on a cake. The little tubers show it well, but the big ones tend 
to have knobs all over and I don't think it's too important which way you 
orient them.

Young fritillaria bulbs can be big on the bottom, or big on the top, 
depending on the species. For example, many of the American species are 
fatter at the top, with a point at the bottom, reflecting the shape of the 
scales of a mature bulb. Mature bulbs show an obvious basal plate on the 
bottom and a hole in the middle where the scape emerges from the top. There 
are some odd versions, too, such as the flat bulbs of F. pudica, which one 
customer told me reminded him of "a fancy cookie," and the stoloniferous 
bulbs of F. pontica.

Erythroniums have a "dropper" at the bottom, which is usually fatter and 
whiter than the rest of the bulb; the roots tend to be about midway on the 

You would not think people could be confused about a Colchicum, but I've 
known them to be. The papery "neck" goes on top, and the pointed "foot" on 
the bottom; the roots tend to be higher than the "foot." For the dwarf 
species that have strange wormlike corms, you can usually see where the 
roots came out, or you can just plant them horizontally.

The classic case of "plant it on its side" is Anemone. A. blanda and 
similar compact, knobby tubers seem to survive any orientation. A. nemorosa 
and similar ones with long thin rhizomes should be planted horizontally; 
sometimes you can see the old roots on the bottom, but I doubt it matters.

Very tiny bulbs can be "sown" like seed if you have so many of one kind 
that it would take forever to place them upright.

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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