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Home > Types of Plants > Bulbous Plants > Propogation
Clivia Most of the bulbs do not die every year but continue to produce one or more bulbs at the side of the old one, eg Altroemeria, Clivia Crinum, Crocus, Cyclamen, daffodil etc while some others shrivel up completely at the end of its growing seasons and a new one is formed in its place like tulip, gladiolus, dahlia and ranunculus.

The usual method of propogation of bulbs is by means of offsets or substitute bulbs. Small bulbs or cormlets also grow sometimes from the side of the bulb or at the base . They grow to full size in about two years or so. Propogation is sometimes done by bulbils as in tiger lily and also from seeds in Lilium regale. Multiplication can also be done by dividing the tubers as in Dahlia, by dividing the rhizomes as in Iris or by dividing a bulb as in Amaryllis. The bulbs which do not die every year are better left in the ground, until they need dividing due to overcrowding. In the others there are two categories. Those which are not hardy like gladioli, tulips, dahlias, tuberous begonia ranunulus, need to be lifted every year. Those, which are hardy can be left in the ground.

Some confusion results from the various classes which are called "bulbs." A true bulb is really a bud containing in it the flower in miniature. It needs only warmth, moisture and the means of absorbing the moisture (roots), to grow and flower. The true bulb is composed of layers of overlapping scales and increases chiefly by division. The scales divide from the parent plant and these form new bulbs, actually parts of the old plant.

Among them we have the lily, made up of loose scales, each one of which may become a new plant, and the tight-scaled variety which appear to be solid, such as the onion, hyacinth, tulip, etc.

cormThe corm, the best known example of which is the gladiolus, is solid flesh. It blooms for a single season and an entirely new corm grows about it to takes its place. In addition to this it forms cormels or bulblets around its base which are also new growths.

An example of the true tuber is the potato; it has buds or "eyes" scattered over its surface from which new sprouts start, while the dahlia, which is really a tuberous root, sprouts only from its crown or the neck of the root. Each of these plants forms a new bulbous growth every year, but the thickened root of the tuberous begonia lasts from season to season. The three bulbous types are alike in one respect. They all need deep cultivation and thorough drainage. Cold stiff clay soil may rot them. Moisture may be held for them by a liberal supply of peat; all types like it. Where alkalinity is required a slight degree of acidity is easily overcome by the application of lime.

Spring Flowering Bulbs: Because for many years the entire supply of this type of bulb was imported from Holland, they are sometimes called "Dutch Bulbs." This is now somewhat of a misnomer as they are produced extensively in some parts of our country. The growing of narcissus bulbs on a large scale, was stimulated by a quarantine on imported bulbs which was in effect for a number of years. The world war has induced further efforts to develop domestic cultures. Fortunately, the soil and climate of Long Island and parts of the Pacific northwest are especially favorable and production in such places is increasing. They are the easiest grown of all bulb type plants, being free from disease and trouble. Someone has said: "All you do is plant them, cover them, and forget them until they remind you by blooming in the spring." No hoeing, no weeding, no pruning.

Cultivation of tubers and corms may contain some element of chance, but only gross carelessness can cause failure in fall planted bulbs.

Spring flowering bulbsSpring flowering bulbs bloom so early in the season that they do not have time to develop a root structure if planted that same season. The quick top growth must have immediate response from below or failure will result. We therefore plant the different varieties from late September until November so that roots will have time to develop before winter. Narcissus, crocus, bulbous iris, snowdrops, snowflakes and winter aconite should be planted in September-tulips, hyacinths, scillas may go in later.

If you wish to plant in beds do so by excavating the whole area to the proper planting depth and laying out the bulbs as you wish them to grow. They may then be covered with soil and this uniform depth of planting will cause them to bloom at the same time in the spring. If it is desired to have clumps bloom at the same time, planting with a trowel must be done carefully, using a notched stick to get even depth.

It is best to start at the outer edge of the bed setting the bulbs in even rows which may be broken up as the center is approached. Avoid the beds of complicated shapes such as were popular a generation ago and stick to simple design.

It is not necessary to plant in beds, however, as the flowers of all the spring bulbs appear well against the dark green foliage of the evergreens or in groups in the flower border. The tall Breeder tulips go well in the background; medium varieties, with the tall narcissus in the middle, and dwarf narcissus, bluebells, etc., in the front.

Planting in the border or among the evergreens has an advantage over the beds in that the plants may be left to ripen rather than be lifted too soon. If planted deep enough they will not interfere with cultivation of other plants.

Give particular attention to planting with perennials which mature later. Make a plan before purchasing bulbs to avoid having too many of one kind and too few of another. Many bulbs, such as daffodils and narcissus can be naturalized in the shrubbery or trees, but care should be taken to see that the foliage fully matures if you want the bloom repeated next year.

As previously mentioned the bulb is a complete plant when you cover it with soil, therefore it pays to plant only top quality, number one bulbs bought from reliable dealers. We should not, however, go to extremes in seeking the largest bulbs. Exhibition sizes are for indoor forcing, and they do not always give as satisfactory results in the garden as firm, fair sized, healthy stock of choice outdoor varieties.

In the case of corms and tubers, the flower depends largely upon the cultivation given; with the bulb it depends upon what is in it when planted. It would seem that this being the case, we need pay little attention to soil. If we want one crop of blooms from our bulbs this would be all right but if they are to bloom from year to year they must be given food and water.

The soil must be reduced to good physical condition about two feet deep, the bottom foot being made to drain freely; in the case of water bearing soil or damp locations, a three-inch layer of cinders must be placed in the very bottom. The bulbs will rot if not freely drained. The topsoil should be mixed with peat moss and lightly dusted with lime (remember that no lime should ever be used for lilies).

There are more failures because of the use of fresh manure than from any other cause. It is an excellent material if properly rotted and composted, but the touch of fresh manure means death to many bulbs. Mix it with the soil in spring, fork it over several times during the summer, and then sift it through a coarse screen in the fall. This is the ideal planting material.

The idea is to make the top foot of soil a rich sandy loam, free of stagnant water but moisture-holding. Use one large handful of coarse raw bone meal, one of steamed bone and two of wood ashes to each square yard of planting surface. Mix deeply and thoroughly with soil. The potash in wood ashes develops new firm bulbs. Firm the soil beneath the bulbs, and press the bulbs firmly upon it. Air pockets underneath may allow the bulb to rot before its roots reach the moist soil. It is important to plant with a trowel when naturalizing under trees or in the grass, to be sure that the bulb (no matter how small) sits firmly on the soil. In naturalizing put a thin layer of sand around the bulb and dust the bottom well with bone meal.

Much failure is due to too shallow planting. Rather too deep than too shallow, but best of all is the right depth. This varies with soil condition; in sandy soil plant deeper. The general rule is to cover the top of the bulb with soil, to three times its greatest diameter. Specific plant- ing directions for various bulbs will be given later.

Plant all bulbs in each clump at the same depth regardless of size or they will bloom unevenly. A thorough watering just after planting will start root growth at once. After the ground has frozen, cover the plants with four to six inches of leaves (hardwood, if possible) and surround them with stakes to keep the wind from blowing them away. Wire net- ting is also good for this purpose. Remember not to mulch until the ground is frozen and field mice have gone into winter quarters. Hardwood leaves, wheat straw, excelsior are good materials, and glass wool and cranberry tops are worth a trial. In the spring examine the mulch to see that it is light and dry, but leave it in place until danger of late frost is over. This will keep the bulbs from premature growth and injury by late frost. Take the mulch off carefully to avoid injury to any young sprouts that may have started through it.

After bulbs have bloomed the top growth must mature three to five weeks in order for the bulbs to develop for the following season. If it is necessary to lift them at once do it with as little root disturbance as possible and heel them in somewhere in semishade. Never lift them if it is possible to wait.

It is not natural for bulbs to remain out of the soil. When for some reason it becomes necessary to take them out, we must try to imitate nature as much as possible. Keep them in boxes of dry sand, sawdust or peat until needed.

If bulbs are lifted, do this as soon as the tops dry. Some bulbs begin to develop roots soon after wilting and if moved after development starts, the new roots may be injured. When necessary to move them after root growth starts, lift them with a clump of earth and, above all, do not let it or the roots dry out.

HyacinthsDiscard any soft small bulbs, replacing them with good ones. It is almost impossible to dig them without injuring some and yearly replenishment should replace any doubtful ones. Hyacinths, tulips and other fall planted bulbs may be kept in well-ventilated trays or bags (never air tight). Moisture will cause premature sprouting. When buying new ones, it is best to plant them as soon as received.

Liquid manure (two weak dressings) just as the buds are forming will increase flower size. The number of blooms is determined by your bulbs. Nitrate of soda, or chemical plant food, as a substitute for liquid manure, may be given in weak solution-one tablespoon to a gallon of water. Wet the ground well, and then wash into the soil by a good watering. This is more successful on tulips than others.
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