Many plants grow by either a root or stem tuber. Both types of tubers are the part of a plant that grows underground for the purpose of storing nutrients for plant growth and for propagation. Root tubers form from portions of the root that bud out and stem tubers develop when the stems of the parent plant swell. Growing underground, the tuber can propagate new plants if the old ones should die out. This propensity for propagation makes tuberous plants easy to grow.
A Jerusalem artichoke can be produced throughout the United States. The artichoke looks like a potato and tastes like a water chestnut. It is well tolerated by diabetics since the primary carbohydrate is inulin instead of starch. Inulin is converted into fructose rather than glucose when digested. Well-drained sandy loam soil is the best growing medium and the plant should be fed a 6-12-6 fertiliser. Planting is early in springtime and harvest is after frost.
The potato is a tuber with more than 100 varieties that develops best at temperatures of 15.6 to 21.1 degrees Celsius. They are planted in fertile, well-drained and loose soil. Potatoes are planted in March or early April and harvested after the vines have died. Amend the soil with organic matter and apply 4 inches of mulch to control weeds and conserve moisture. Cultivate the potatoes as they develop by gradually hoeing a ridge of soil 4 to 6 inches high on either side of the row to protect the potatoes, which could become sunburned or turn green from exposure. Cultivation loosens the soil, aerates it and eliminates the threat of weeds.
Begonias and Gloxinias
Begonias and gloxinias are large showy flowering plants that, due to new cultivars, are easier to grow than they previously were. Start the plants in February from tubers purchased at the garden centre. The tubers are placed round end down in moist peat moss, 3 to 4 inches apart and about 1/2 inch below the surface of the soil. Place in indirect sunlight at temperatures of approximately 18.3 degrees Celsius and keep the soil moist, not wet, and apply 0-20-0 fertiliser according to label directions.
Colourful plants are possible during the winter months when you plant cyclamen. These tuberous plants produce leaves and blooms throughout the cold months until April. Cyclamen does not do well in summer, prefers indirect sunlight and prospers in temperatures from 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It produces an interesting variety of leaf shapes and markings ranging from round to arrowhead to ivy-leaved. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, and with indirect sunlight it will add vivid splashes of colour on balconies, windowsills or in the garden throughout the winter.