U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8b. Sunset climate zone 5

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What a Question, Hermes!

You won't believe it!
After we found out how they grow beautiful tulip fields, another outstanding question arrived, this time from Hermes : " But how do they make sure they (bulbs) are planted the right way up!" . This question didn't come to my mind when I was reading that article on about the bulb-planting machine. Really, HOW do those machines know where is the tulip's top and, what is even more important - HOW do they put a bulb right side up?!!!!!

Again, I went to the library. In my robe and slippers, with a big mug of coffee in my hand. I love this library. I don't know how we lived without it. I have things to do in the garden, but I will die from curiosity if I don't find the answer right now! The good thing is that the library is in my house. It's the Internet.
Well, it was not fast. I looked through many sites before I found the answer. Here it is:
"Root Side Down? Nope. The bulbs never complained a bit. And gardeners who emphasize having to do this have never seen commercial machines planting flower bulbs in operation. Imagine planting millions of bulbs and trying to turn each one root-side-down. The bulbs know. When I grew gladiola commercially, I used to plow a furrow with the tractor, walk along the furrow with a bag of glad corms tossing them in at approximately the right distance. Then I'd run the tractor back down the furrow and roll the soil back in on top of the glads. Not pretty, but really effective when you're planting 10,000 glad bulbs. If you're a bit compulsive about it remember to plant bulbs "pointy side" up."
Thank you Doug at

Doug's site is very interesting and has a lot of useful information.

Thank you Hermes for this excellent question! We all will soon be experts in tulip growing!
Thank you Dirt Princess for your comment that started this research!

P.S.Can you believe?! Bulbs don't care which side up we plant them! Should we experiment and try to plant some of them top side down? Hmmm, if you try and fail, please remember that it was not my idea!

Copyright 2009 TatyanaS


  1. Well who knew! All this time we try to make sure they are planted at the right depth, right side up...and they could care less. They just want to grow! I can guarantee you that if I planted a bulb "upside" would die!

  2. Hi Tatyana~~ You know the thought crossed my mind but without a place to rest, it slithered on to more fruitful places. Anyway it's good to know that bulbs will grow despite my erroneous ways. Excellent post. Again, LOVE those pink tulip photos.

  3. But I've spent 30 years carefully turning them the right way up - all that wasted effort. Many thanks for that - fascinating.

  4. I would assume, because of their shape, that they'd often end up in a hole correctly, if just thrown in. I guess the bulbs can figure it out. They're smarter than us.

  5. That was a great question and answer
    But learning new things is the greatest of all..

  6. And all this time I thought those mystery Daffodils in the way back yard were misplanted in China.

  7. This makes me feel much better about the saffron bulb I just planted! I'd never planted a bulb before and was just terrified I'd put it in upside down!

  8. Fascinating...really, this post and the one about the festival and planting! All that internet info is wonderful! I have to watch out for rabbit holes...I fall into them all the time and a few hours later I am wondering where my morning disappeared! gail

  9. Thanks for the info on what is the right side up... I kind of figured it did not matter. I was out in some old farm land once the daffodils were growing wild in mass. I dug some up only to find them growing on top of each other 5-6 bulbs deep.

  10. I already knew. why? cause I have worked at a nursery( who had mischievous cats, dogs, squirrels, and the such) for many years and seen the critters haul them off to be buried hither and yon. The critters never pay attention to what side is up. They don't pay too much attention to how deep they are buried either.

    I enjoy your curiosity. I too would be in my gown and slippers searching out the answer.

  11. Hi Tatyana

    Good question and interesting answer.
    It was not really a surprise though after all being such an untidy gardener there have been many times I've unearthed bulbs and found their growth curled round and growing towards the light. However as it takes more effort it does make sense with our precious bulbs to give them the best possible chance and plant the growing point up.

  12. I just visited you blog for the 1time, and I love what I see.
    beautiful pictures too.
    I have a Secret garden too.
    you can visit me in my garden!!!
    Gr. Anna

  13. Hi Tatyana, I recognized it was you who commented on my post but it came under Pelageya and I couldn't understand when I linked it back to you. Cool that we can post in another language!

  14. And all these years I wasted my time placing them just so in their holes! Thanks, Tatyana, for enlightening us about this -- great question and answer! And the tulip fields are beautiful -- I didn't know there were such extensive tulip fields in Washington state!

  15. My heart stand still each time I view these awesome shots. A great post ... 'survival of the fittest' always wins!

  16. Hi Tatyana~

    Incredible photos! They remind me of a trip I took to the Netherlands many years ago. Great piece of information regarding which way to plant the bulbs!

  17. Sounds like you had a really wonderful visit. We did manage to stop by a couple of times. It is lovely.


  18. Very interesting article series on tulips. The photos are just lovely, and it's good to know about the planting directions. Glad Dirt Princess brought that up... :)

  19. Thanks so much for the research and for posting the answer. Love learning something new!

  20. Last time I saw so many tulips I was five or six years old, on the rusty bucket SS Kinaird Head, loaded with coal (my dad the captain), gliding down a wide shipping canal in Holland, tulip fields to left and right, magic all the way. What stunning photos - beautifully done! Really brings back those memories.

    Here near Santa Cruz, a local winery up the road planted wine-colored tulips along their driveway. We walk past it most days and marvelled that the deer weren't eating them. Then one day - all gone. Headless tulips all the way!

  21. This is a great topic. I have an embarrassing story on this subject. When I first started gardening, I planted some begonia tubers and nothing happened. I couldn't figure out what I did wrong so finally I dug them up. I had planted them wrong side down but they were growing out the bottom anyway and turning up the side of the tuber! So they do "right" themselves, I know from personal experience!!! That sea of pink tulips is simply amazing. My favorite color times ten thousand (or so!)


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