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What are Heirloom Flower Bulbs?


Heirloom Flower Bulbs -

The word heirloom by definition immediately implies age, historic, inherited or something that has survived down the generations within families.

When put in the context of flower bulbs, heirloom cultivars are in the simplest term, plants that have stood the test of time through the centuries and are open pollinated. Hybridization of plants became popular after 1951 and some gardening enthusiasts will be of the opinion any plant dated before that is an heirloom. Heirlooms are a direct link with history be it the early pioneers, Chinese emperors, medieval monks or indeed, generations of your own family.

Heirlooms, also known as Antique Plants, have become very popular with the home gardener, particularly those wishing to garden organically and once tried, it can become a very addictive passion!

This Spring, how would you like to have a 16th Century Tulip growing in your garden or a 17th Century Daffodil?


Autumn / Fall Planted Bulbs –

Spring flowers are my favourite out of all the seasons. The first bluebell, daffodil or tulip brings the much needed profusion of colour after the bleak winter landscapes. In heirloom bulbs the selection on offer includes;

Blubells, Crocus, Cyclamens, Daffodils, Hyacinths, Grape Hyacinths, Snowdrops, Peonies, Lilies, Tulips and Freesias.

Planting should be done early-mid October as soon as the soil temperatures starts to cool as it gives the bulbs time to establish root systems.

Here are some of my favourites that are available from reputable heirloom bulb suppliers -



Daffodils ~

These flowers that inspired the great English poet William Wordsworth, originated in Greece and Egypt and found their way into the English garden in the 1200s.

Daffodil varieties numbered approximately 400 up to 1860.

British gardening enthusiasts then came into their own and produced another 1000 varieties in the next 40 years.

The Golden Age of the early 20th Century saw a further 6000 varieties listed.

Today, sadly only a small percentage of varieties of daffodil remain in existence.

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I adore daffodils and there are excellent varieties available. They are so versatile adding those splashes of colour in woodlands, cottage gardens, modern gardens and look gorgeous potted up in containers.


"Daffodils" by William Wordsworth



Crocus ~

The little crocus is one spring flower you can have an abundance of in a small space!

Native to Northern and Central Europe, North Africa, Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean Sea and all the way across Central Asia to China.

Crocuses were adored in the 1500s and Victorian gardeners would plant carpet-beds of crocus. The Snow Crocus or Species Crocus, enjoying huge popularity today, was a rarity before 1940.

Peony Lactiflora

Peony ~

These are an old fashioned flower which produces masses of flowers and are easy to grow.

Whilst strictly not a bulb (as they have fleshy roots), good heirloom bulb stockists will also include them.

Native to Asia, Southern Europe and Western North America, these beautiful flowers really took off in the early 20th Century after French and English botanists had created more varieties. Exact numbers of species is hard to determine but it is estimated to be between 25-40.


Hyacinth ~

The hyacinth is the most endangered of all heirloom flowers.

Originating in Turkey, it was introduced to Europe in the mid 1500s with a reported 2000 species in existence by 1730.

The hyacinth can be traced all the way back to the classical antiquity period of ancient Greece and it is said the original hyacinth was the blue (after the colour of the ocean) variety.

The Hyacinth is known for its fragrance and for me, when their fresh sweet fragrance fills the air; I know that spring is here at last!

Broken Tulip

Tulip ~

Another flower originating in Turkey, tulips came to Europe in the 1500s and rose to superstar status in the flower world thanks to the Dutch “Tulipomania” in the 1630s.

The most revered were the broken or rectified tulips (high patterned with feathering and flames of contrasting colours) which were highly fashionable from 1600 to the late 1800s.

Today the heirloom bulbs available cover a wide spectrum of colours and sizes including the gorgeous broken tulip varieties.

The Netherlands have a long history in beautiful flowers and the tulip is the most widely known and respected.


Tulips in The Netherlands


Spring Planted Bulbs -

The later you can leave it to plant your bulbs in the spring, the better. Too late is preferable over too early for these (mostly) sub-tropical plants, as the soil will be heating up after the winter.The varieties available include :

Dahlias, Daylilies, Iris, Gladiolus, Tuberose, Crocosmia, Canna and Amaryllis.

The spring planted heirlooms need some extra care and attention.If the ground is too cool for planting, you must take extra care in storing these bulbs. Much more so than the autumn planted bulbs, or else they may be ruined.

Here are some of my favourites that are available from reputable heirloom bulb suppliers -



Iris ~

A beautiful flower that is native to Europe, all the way to Nepal.

It is one of the oldest cultivated flowers in the world, with evidence of them on Egyptian wall carvings.

Colonials grew them slowly and they really took off in the 1800s when French breeders developed new varieties.

American and English growers were soon to start growing Iris and in the early 1900s, Iris were one of the top 3 perennials grown by gardens in America.


Gladiolus ~

A perfect addition to every garden looking for dramatic colour, they are one of the most popular cut flower available.

A member of the Iris family,the first hybrid Glads date back to 1830s when they proved a big hit with the Victorian gardeners.

It is reported that Monet was a huge fan of the Glad. Unfortunately hardly any of the thousands of species introduced since then have survived and approximately 99% have completely disappeared.


Dahlia ~

A fabulous flower for a cut flower bouquet, Dahlias come in an array of colours.

A great advantage with Dahlias is that they continue blooming into early Autumn/Fall, when many other summer varieties have died down.

Introduced by the Aztecs to gardens, they arrived into European gardens in 1789.

By the 1840s many new varieties were being discovered annually. In 1927 Dahlias were said to be the most popular planted bulb in America.


Daylily ~

They are another beautiful flower that are not strictly a bulb but more of a fleshy root, like the Peonies.

With many of the heirloom varieties at risk, you may well see them included with reputable heirloom stockists and they are easy perennials to grow, Daylilies are native to Asia, where they grow wild and in abundance and are even used in cookery!

One of the rarest Daylily is the Lemon Lily, introduced into gardens approximately 1570 and became one of the most popular garden varieties.



Tuberose ~

Thought to have originated in Mexico, the Aztecs held this flower in high esteem and held the Tuberose sacred.

By 1730 it was growing in America and by 1893 it was believed that every American garden featured the Tuberose.

The antique bulbs can be planted in containers and in the flower beds (depending on your climate conditions), needing moist soil, full sun and plenty of nutrition.


Why Choose Heirlooms -

  • Variety
  • Tough, Vigorous
  • Unusual, Unique
  • Historic
  • Wildflowery
  • Fragrance
  • Endangered, Rare
  • Bred for Gardens

Field of Gladioli

 along highway101, just south of Santa Maria, California

along highway101, just south of Santa Maria, California


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Quickie Poll -

Author Info -

Information on the author, her bio and full body of works @ Suzie HQ

Credit to homesteadbound -

All dividers used in this hub are used with permission granted on hub, Creating Dividers to Use on Your Hubs


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

What are Heirloom Flower Bulbs? Comments

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on September 07, 2013:

Hi Alun,

How lovely to hear from you! Hope all has been well with you. I love the history associated with the heirloom flower bulbs too. So many things appealing about them and their rarity. Appreciate your visit and comment Alun!

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on September 07, 2013:

Suzie; The appeals of 'Heirloom bulbs' are many as you say. for me, perhaps the two key ones would be history and toughness.

History - there is something very appealing about seeing a plant growing in your garden which is identical to something which might have been seen in centuries long ago, or by people such as Wordsworth and Monet.

Toughness - these plants were bred in a time without pesticides and herbicides and specially formulated fertilisers, so one imagines they will survive where modern varieties dependent on modern growing techniques may struggle.

Very nice page Suzie, full of good photos and the video of tulips (which is amazing). Alun.

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on March 03, 2013:

Hi sg,

Thanks so much for having a read here! Of course you may link this to your blog, I would be honored! I must check your blog out too! I love flowers and spring is my favorite season for flowers. As I am now living in the countryside I have wildflowers just waiting to come alive again after the winter and can't wait to see the first daffodil, crocus or snowdrop. Appreciate all your great comments, votes, share and pin. Cheers for the link again too!!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on March 03, 2013:

What a wonderful hub! Your picture choices are beautiful and I love the history behind each flower you included. I have several of the flowers you listed here, and now want to include more! I feel another flower bed coming on this year! I would really like to add a link to this hub on my "Flower Garden Get-A-Way" blog, if I may. Voting this up +++, pinning and sharing! Great job! :)

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 13, 2012:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for great comments and glad it inspired you to go into the garden at 3 am!! LOL Appreciate your upbeat energy . . . . and at 3 am!! :-)

Jeff Boettner from Tampa, FL on October 13, 2012:

Beautiful Hub Suzie :), I didn't know anything about "Heirloom" bulbs.... or the history of flowers really. You have a lot of really good info packed into this hub! ( and I love the pic of the daffodils, never seen that particular variety). Its 3 am here, but I don't care, I'm off to the garden, Im diggin right now.......

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 10, 2012:

Cheers Jamie!

Loved doing this as I adore flowers and researching their "beginnings" was great!! Appreciate your feedback , comments and votes!! :-)

Jamie Brock from Texas on October 10, 2012:

I have really enjoyed this hub... I had no idea the history of any of these flowers though I've known of them for years. I have always had a particular love for Peonies. Thank you for a very interesting and useful hub.. voting up :)

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 10, 2012:

Hi moonlake,

The peony is such a pretty flower and I love the shapes of the glads. Thanks so much for visiting here and taking time to read. Appreciate your comments and VU!!

moonlake from America on October 09, 2012:

Love the peony don't have that one. The glad is so pretty I tried for years to grow them here but I could never keep them through the winter. Nice hub voted uP!

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 09, 2012:

Hi Carter!

Thanks for stopping by,always good to see you.! I love colour and flowers provide such an array of the colour spectrum. Even a few daffodils brighten up any room.I used to love picking them in our garden to have in the house. Your comments are very kind and much appreciated Carter - thanks for votes and sharing!! :-)

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 09, 2012:

Hi rebecca!

Planting bulbs now for spring is, as I said, my favourite too, Glad you found this interesting and I do appreciate you commenting, votes and sharing!!!!!!

Mary from Cronulla NSW on October 09, 2012:

Love that beautiful Gladiolis & one thing my mum didn't pass on to me was her green thumb, as a hub of mine aptly testifies!! ...and I so wish I could grow flowers as gorgeous as these...Suzie you always do a fantastic job writing well written, well laid out hubs with excellent photos...thank you for writing...lots of votes & shared+

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on October 09, 2012:

I have often wondered about the term heirloom. You cleared it up so nicely! Lovely photos, I love fall bulb flowers. Time to get out there and plant some bulbs. Shared and voted useful+awesome!

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 09, 2012:

Hi Crystal,

Great to see you and hope all is well! Appreciate your words and enthusiasm for this, it was an interesting subject to do. Thanks very much for your votes ans share!! :-)

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 09, 2012:

Hi teaches!

You are a busy bee,thanks so much for reading this. The Iris is a lovely flower and such a delicate form. I love the shade of purple they have with a little yellow. Its great to have memories connected to flowers, my mum was hugely into flowers, her favourite was poppies and she photographed and painted many, which I love looking at now, That's another hub. Thanks very much, appreciate your continued support and loyalty! :-)

Crystal Tatum from Georgia on October 09, 2012:

Wow - what a comprehensive hub! You provided great information and very well-written. Voted up and shared!

Dianna Mendez on October 09, 2012:

The iris was my mom's favorite flower. They do not last long, but the purple color is so vivid and it makes a beautiful statement each spring. I learned something new today: heirloom flower bulbs. Voted up.

Suzanne Ridgeway (author) from Dublin, Ireland on October 08, 2012:

Hi Effer!

How lovely to hear we have favourite flowers in common! I have too many to mention actually! Thanks soooooo much for your lovely comments as always and I appreciate the compliment - just hope Mr Google is taking stock of it!! LOL Cheers again for the VU!! :-)

Suzie from Carson City on October 08, 2012:

Susie HQ.....Every flower that I absolutely love is in this wonderful hub of yours.....The pictures are so beautiful and the hub very well-written in your usual fine way. This is Page one google stuff, you know.....UP++

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