Plant Bulbs and Other Subterranean Species in Winter

It may seem counterintuitive, but winter is the best time to plant — at least here in South Texas. And your options of what to plant are numerous. They include bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers.

As winter progresses, our weather here in South Texas tends to become cooler and damp, which often discourages people from working and planting in their yard. But there are multiple plants you can put in the ground this time of year. Some examples are: tulip and daffodil bulbs, gladiolus corms, dahlia tubers and iris rhizomes.

Tubers, rhizomes, bulbs and corms all have different planting requirements, but with a little tender loving care you can put them into the ground in the winter and appreciate their color and beauty in the spring.


A bulb is a common name we see when we go to our local nursery, but what is a bulb really? A bulb is basically a compressed stem that has layers of leaves around it that some say look similar to scales. Those scales carry important nutrients and food that aid in the development of your plant. Bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, should be planted about 6 to 8 inches deep and in groups of three to five. Once you’ve placed your bulb into the ground, make sure to water it to stimulate growth. These bulbs don’t need to be watered constantly during the winter months. In fact, over-watering is the biggest killer of bulbs. Generally the tulip bulbs we use last no more than two years. Clusian tulips can last up to a decade.


A corm is sometimes confused with a bulb because they’re the same shape. The biggest difference is the layered scales, which only bulbs have. Don’t worry, it can be hard to distinguish between the two unless you have many years of horticultural knowledge. Corms, like gladiolus and crocus, can be planted anywhere from 4 to 6 inches deep and in groups of three to five. Like with most plants, be sure to water them in to stimulate root growth. And like bulbs, corms don’t need to be watered constantly during the winter months. If the winter is unusually dry, then water by hand, being careful not to over water.


Let’s talk about tubers. When talking tubers we think of the most famous one of all: potatoes. Tubers are formed from a root or stem and used for storage of nutrients. Caladiums, cyclamen and tuberous begonias are tuber plants that can be planted about 4 to 6 inches deep in well-drained soil. Similar to growing potatoes, you can cut these guys into sections to increase production. Just be sure each section has at least one eye on it.


Rhizomes are usually easy to identify. They’re swollen roots that grow in a horizontal direction just under the top layer of soil. One familiar example is ginger. Here in South Texas, you can plant calla lilies and irises in the winter. These flowering rhizomes need to be planted about 6 to 8 inches deep and, like bulbs and corms, planted in groups. Rhizomes need well-drained soil and a little water here and there if the winter becomes too dry.

Each of these plant types can be found in your local home improvement lawn area or nursery. So don’t think your growing season is done just because of a little cold. Toss on a jacket and get out there and plant some flowers that you can enjoy in the spring.

Picture of Guest Author
Guest Author
Our Guest Authors are fantastic former SAWS employees, incredible interns and community leaders in the local landscaping world. They are all as passionate as we are about saving water with beautiful, diverse landscapes.
Dig Deeper

Find expert advice on garden basics, landscape design, watering and year-round maintenance.