Bulbs vs Seeds: A Guide For Choosing the Best Flower Option

by Heather Jones
Bulbs vs Seeds

When starting a flower garden, everyone has to make the choice between planting flower seeds or flower bulbs. In fact, until you start to plan your garden, you might not even realize there’s a difference between the two. But, the differences are actually important, especially depending on when you want your garden to bloom. This guide will explain the differences between the two and provide advice on which is better for your situation.

Seeds

Seeds are essentially the embryonic state of a plant that is covered in a hard shell. When a plant flowers and is pollinated, it creates seeds, which are then dispersed in various ways to propagate that species of plant. The seeds are considered to be the last stage of reproduction for a plant and are usually dispersed by wind, currents of water, or by attaching themselves to animals or humans. The seeds can lie dormant for years before the conditions become right for them to germinate and grow into new plants. For this reason, seeds are very easy to care for before they’re planted. Seeds can grow into either perennial or annual plants.

Bulbs

Unlike seeds, bulbs are full plants that live underground, but become visible above ground as their leaves grow and burst through the soil’s surface. A bulb represents the entire lifecycle of a plant all in one package instead of just one stage like seeds. Bulbs are always perennial plants, which means they will die each winter, but grow back again in the spring with no intervention from a gardener other than to water and feed the soil. Perennial bulbs use the existing root system of the plant to regrow in the spring. The initial planting of bulbs requires more care than seeds, but they are easier to transfer from one location to another.

Benefits of Seeds

Seeds can produce beautiful flowers, just as bulbs can, and there are some advantages to choosing seeds over bulbs. The primary benefit is that seeds are generally cheaper than bulbs. After all, with a seed, you’re only getting the promise of a plant and not an actual plant. Seeds can be saved for years before they’re planted and can still develop into gorgeous plants. They don’t require any care while you’re storing them as long as they’re kept in a dry, cool location. 

You’ll also have a wider range of flowers to choose from if you’re planting from seeds. This is because seeds are easier to package for resale and you’ll be able to buy them almost anywhere there’s a garden center. You can add more color to your garden by using seeds as well, since once again, you’ll have a larger selection to choose from.

Drawbacks of Seeds

The main disadvantage of planting seeds instead of bulbs is that you’ll have to be patient before you’ll see results. Seeds can take up to two years before they actually grow into plants that bloom. And while they’re very easy to care for before you plant them, once you plant them, they are more labor intensive than bulbs. In fact, seeds usually need to be started inside several weeks before you want to plant them outside, and the transfer from an inside starter pot to an outside garden can be tricky. Moreover, since they probably won’t grow the first year, you’ll need to take steps to add a layer of mulch over the area where they’re planted to protect them during the winter.

Benefits of Bulbs

Since bulbs are already grown plants just waiting to be planted, they will bloom the first year they’re put into the ground. You won’t have to start them indoors before you plant them in your garden. Instead, you’ll just follow the directions on the bulb’s pot to transfer them into the ground. If you don’t want to wait a couple of years before your garden bursts into color, you’ll want to use bulbs instead of seeds. Another great benefit of bulbs is that they’re always perennial, so you can count on them to come back year after year as long as you give them enough water and food.

Drawbacks of Bulbs

There are very few disadvantages to planting bulbs, but there are a couple. The first is that they cost more than seeds. You can get a lot of seeds for the same price as a single bulb, which can mean the difference between a very full garden and one that is sparsely planted. The other significant drawback to bulbs is that you don’t have the same wide selection of flowers as you do with seeds. You will also need to pay attention to the type of bulb you’re planting, as spring-flowering bulbs should be planted in the fall and summer-flowering bulbs should be planted in the spring.

Conclusion

Whether you choose seeds or bulbs to start your garden, you’ll eventually end up with a beautiful garden full of color. It really all comes down to whether or not you can be patient enough for seeds to grow. If you’re not the patient type, choose bulbs instead.

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