Stem-less Spring Bulbs

Stephen Putman
Thu, 22 Mar 2007 21:28:23 PDT
I had a fairly large garden of Eastern US woodland wildflowers for about 
20 years up until summer 1996.  Every so often we would have a spring 
when many of the plants bloomed just at ground level.  I believe (no 
scientific recording of data here) that the issue was one of the 
combinations of air temperature and soil temperature.  Soil temperature 
varied rather regularly from year to year, but there could be a spring 
when a sudden warm (even hot) spell of air temperature could blast 
flowers which were just emerging from the soil.  If the air remained a 
normal cooler temperature, the stems would elongate prior to the flowers 
developing and opening.  If it suddenly got warmer than normal the 
flowers would open at whatever stem length they had gotten to before the 
warm weather.  Further, depending upon when in the bloom cycle the warm 
"snap" occurred, it might have more or less noticeable effect on the 

I have been rather curious about a related matter, that being the issue 
of stem length at blossom time for Hippeastrum.  Some years a particular 
plant will flower with a nice long stem, and then the following year 
have just a short and rather unattractive blossom presentation. 
Somebody must have done some systematic work on stem elongation in 
Hippeastrum for all the flower trade that goes on.  Who knows where this 
information might be found?

Boyce Tankersley wrote:

> When I gardened in southern New Mexico the tulips often bloomed at soil
> level. Never figured out if it was a lack of sufficient chilling or the
> very high sunlight levels that kept the stems from elongating.

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