Saturday, June 18, 2011

Propagation of Bulbs

By purchassing our property we 'inherited' a bunch of lillies and paperwhites. They flowered nicely in spring. Now we are kinda back to our original standard to anything planted on our property: If you are not edible or otherwisely benefitial, you are probably not going to last long here.

Today when I trimmed the completely overgrown pollinator-attranctant salvias, I discovered a bunch of paperwhite bulbs and other tubers; I am guessing yellow lillies, since I keep running into them all over the property. Someone really must have been digging these. Roberto put them on the 'MUST-GO, NOW!'-list; he really doesn't care for them and I kinda don't feel them either: no scent, not pretty, not edible, not benefitial to butterflies or pollinators, actually attract snails (maybe I should keep them as food-supply for the ducks?!) and not to forget they are water-suckers.

The paperwhite bulbs had produced offspring and were quite high in numbers, the tubers were only a few but nonetheless looked like they had been in the soil for quite a while.

Bulbs (tulips, hyacinths, amarillis, paperwhites, daffodils, narcisses) are raised either from seed or from bulb. Note: The bulb is not a seed; it is rather part of the root system.

If you raise them from seed , as is true for almost anything in our modern times (when everything is hybridised to the n-th degree for certain features) , unless it is an heirloom (which basically means the original genetic code is intact) - the plant grown will have little to no resemblance of the parent plant. Therefore, it is recommendable to - unless you know what you are doing with crossing plants - not get involved with seeds for these kinda plants. Typically only highly trained horticulturist are involved with this, trying to create a new species or keeping the original ones.

And there is such a easy way to get more bulb-plants: Many species of bulb-grown plants develop numerous bulblets as their offspring. You simply dig them up, carefully divide them: Et voila: the next generation, true to the parent. This may take a season or two. So, in our modern times when instant gratification is the standard, this may not be a good route.

However, in Holland where they know a thing or two about bulbs, they cut the bulbs to create offspring faster!

It is called BULB CUTTING, and here is how you can do this:

Take a mature bulb, quarter it lengthways with a sharp knife (again, thanks JP for the Wuesthofs!).

Then cut each quarter lengthways into two or more wedges, each including a portion of the basal plate of the bulb.

You can further divide these wedges by sliding a knife down between each thrid or fourth pair of the concentric sale-rings of which the bulb is formed and cutting through the basal plate at the bottom.

These fractions are called bulb cuttings. Each should consist of segments of three of four scales attached to a small piece of basal plate.

The bulb cuttings can be planted vertically in a mix of peatmoss and sand with their tips peeking out.

It is recommended to keep them moist and in a temperature that is a bit warmer than what is normally required for this specific species. 

Within a few months at the most, some plump new bulbs will have formed from the basal plate portion and will be starting to develop roots. 

I have done this with the amaryllis, which I like and had only two mature bulbs, while I divided the paperwhites only quarterly each.

Normally, we would not tolerate these bulbs on the property since they are not edible but somehow I got into the whole gardening experimentation.

Preferably this whole digging up and cutting is done in fall when you can also dig them up to store them. Ah well....

Let's see what will grow out of these bulb cuttings.

"Nature never says one thing and wisdom another." Decimus Junius Juvenalis

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