Tulip Bulbs: The Inside Story

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What is a Bulb?
A bulb is a specialized plant storage structure that contains everything the plant needs to survive winter and grow in the spring.

Find the Flower Bud
Cut open your bulb and look inside. Do you see the flower bud? This tiny bud will grow into the big red flower of the Red Emperor tulip. Why do you think it is found in the center of the bulb?

Thick for a Reason
When you cut open your bulb, did you notice that it was kind of wet and a little juicy? A bulb's thick, fleshy leaves, called scales store food and water to keep the bulb alive in cold and dry conditions.

Holding it All Together
The stem looks very short in the bulb, but it will grow and expand as spring arrives. This part of the bulb is very important. The compressed basal stem connects the scales, flower, and roots. New little bulbs will form from this basal stem as the tulip grows older

Stubby Roots
Roots emerge from the bottom of the bulb at the beginning of the growing season. Are the roots on your bulb short and stubby, or have some started to grow?

Wrapped in a Tunic
The tulip bulb is wrapped in a thin papery layer. This covering is called the tunic. It protects the leaf scales of the tulip bulb. What ways do you think the tunic might protect the bulb?

A Look at Your Bulb
Now you know all the parts of the bulb and have learned how their form helps the tulip survive. This photograph helps show what real bulbs look like. How is your bulb similar or different from this picture?

A Bulb with a Purpose
Your tulip bulbs will sit underground until spring arrives. Its specialized plant parts will protect it. In the spring when it starts to grow, the food and water inside will help it emerge and bloom.