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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Friday - March 24, 2006

From: Carson, CA
Region: California
Topic: Propagation
Title: Comparative speeds of flowering from seeds or bulbs
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

Does a seed flower grow faster than a bulb flower?

ANSWER:

I think the answer to your question is "It depends."

If you mean, “Does a plant that doesn't produce bulbs take a shorter time to flower than a plant that produces bulbs?” the answer is, “Depends on the species and whether the bulb-producing plant was set in the ground as a seed or as a bulb.”

If you mean, “Does a bulb-producing plant produce flowers faster if started in the garden by seed or by bulb?” the answer is “by bulb.” However, even the bulb that was planted started as a seed at one time.

The stem tissue of some plants thickens below or at the soil level and becomes surrounded by fleshy, modified leaves that contain stored nutrients used to support growth. This short, thickened area is called a bulb. Bulb-producing plants are often sold by their bulbs for propagation, though they started from seed themselves at some point in the past. Setting out already-established bulbs of such plants produces blooms faster than starting the same plants from seed. For example, some of your California camas wildflowers (Camassia) will not bloom until at least the second year after planting if you start them from seed in the fall, because they first have to develop bulbs. However, if you set out already-developed bulbs of the same species at the same time, they'll bloom the following summer.

Some bulb-producing wildflowers, such as the rain lilies (Cooperia), grow relatively rapidly from seed and are usually seed-sown. Growth rates vary a lot among different species of plants and some non-bulb annuals are very fast-growing, but usually a bulb-producing plant started as a bulb at a favorable time of year will set flowers more rapidly than a non-bulb-producing plant started from seed at the same time.
 

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