Saturday, January 23, 2010

Propagating bulbs is the MOST fun!

I love to propagate plants, and when I learned how to propagate bulbs, I just thought there was nothing more I could learn that would make me so happy. I was wrong, of course, for I find every day that there is always something else to learn. So maybe you will enjoy learning about taking a bulb and turning it into lots of bulbs, too!

There are different types of bulbs, and the main difference in propagating them is how you cut them. Please bear in mind that we are talking about bulbs; not corms, as in gladiolus or crocosmia, and not tubers, as in cannas or 4 o'clocks. We will be working with a daffodil bulb, which is built like an onion, and a lily bulb, which is built kind of like an artichoke, although the artichoke is not a bulb at all, but a fruit.

Don't let me get off on that path.....

Both types of bulbs have, at the bottom of the bulb, a 'basal plate'. This is what joins all the parts together and where the roots emerge from the bulb. The basal plate is how we get baby bulbs.

Propagating lily bulbs is done by 'scaling'. Daffodil type bulbs are propagated by 'chipping'.

This is what you will need:
a sharp knife
paper plates- Please note that this is a paper paper plate, and not a foam plate.
wettable sulfur powder
liquid fungicide, mixed according to bottle directions.
Clorox wipes- for wiping your hands, the daffodil bulb, and your knife, if you are cutting more than one bulb.
Ziplock bags
damp perlite and/or vermiculite
a label, so you can identify your bulbs later.

Working with lily scales
This is a lily bulb. Lily bulbs look rather unkempt, messy even, but they are easy to work with.
The first thing I do is cut off the roots. If you were going to put this bulb in the ground, you would be careful of those roots, but they are not needed or desirable in this application. I like the little paring knife, but you could use a scissor if you prefer.
Cut the roots close, but don't cut into the basal plate. Discard any damaged or soft parts of the bulb.Use the tip of your knife to lift a scale to start. Very carefully, pull the scales from the bulb, being sure that you get a part of the basal plate with each scale.

From this small bulb, we will have 15 new bulbs. Each scale will produce one baby.

Pour a small amount of the sulfur powder into a dish, and dredge the scales in the powder.

Pack the scales into a ziplock bag of vermiculite. I have found that vermiculite works best for the scales. Store them in a warm, humid, dark place until you realize they have the little bulbs. Most lilies take 6-8 weeks to multiply.

Chipping the daffodil bulb
I love daffodil bulbs; nice big fat ones, like come from Brent and Becky's bulbs. They are so pretty!
Start by peeling the bulb. Cut off the top, but these bulbs usually don't have a root mass, so you don't have any to trim. Do not cut off the bottom of the bulb!I use the clorox wipes to wipe down the bulb, to ward off the yukky stuff that can get on the bulbs when they are missing their protective cover.
Set the bulb flat on the bottom, and cut all the way through it.Then cut each half in half again.and again, until you can't half them any more.You will have slices, like this. We are getting 12 new plants from this one bulb. You can see the basal plate attached to each little slice of bulb.Dip each slice into a solution of the fungicide, which is mixed according to the directions on the bottle. Don't dry them off.
Just pop them into a ziplock bag of perlite.

Store the daffodil as you do the lily.
You will check on your precious packages often, if you are like me, and one day, you will see black stuff on them. Do not worry about this. Do not throw them away! They are fine, and will continue to develop even with black stuff on them.

If you live in a climate where you have to dig your lily bulbs in the fall, you can just pop off a couple of scales before you store them for the winter. Put them in some vermiculite to grow babies, while you store the rest of the bulb for the winter.

When you have baby bulbs, you can pot them up in pots, or you can put them in the ground. Baby bulbs that are put in the ground grow faster, but you also risk damage from varmits.

Most bulbs will put up foliage the first year, and will bloom in the third year.

Most of all, Have Fun with this project!


Amy said...

Great post and explanation of how to. I will give it a try with your post in front of me as reference. You should write a book about propagation! Glad to hear from you. -Amy

Hank Moorlag said...

Hey, Hi Janie,

Thanks so much for this interesting and informative post. I'm keeping the link handy for when I pull up my tulip bulbs this summer. Hank

TheGaudyGarden said...

fascinating! I don't have the patience as you to go through what you do. I'll watch and smile. Great Post, Janie.

Jim Groble said...

I also do not have the patience. I'll stick to hosta and ligularia. Glad you are back on the net.

NellJean said...

Great post, Janie. Glad you are back.

You need no patience, guys, to save the scales that broke off your lily bulbs if they have the least bit of basal plate. They'll develop into baby bulbs, even in the packing material in which they arrive if it's peat and not wood shavings. Moisten and stick in a warm place.

It's as easy as Janie made it look.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Janie, What a great tutorial! This is so helpful. I'm going to bookmark this post so that I can come back to it easily when I need it. Thanks so much. -Jean

TheGaudyGarden said...

Nell, you may have the patience, but I certainly don't!

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Well that explains why I have a bunch of plants that I thought were stargazers coming up where I once had stargazers. When I dug them out, I know I sliced a couple in half. This past year I had small foliage all over. I may try to dig them out when the foliage breaks the soil this spring.

Great tutorial. I'm adding it to my helpful links section. Thanks!

Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

This was great!! I just bought some Stargazer bulbs and if I can find the sulphur I'll try it with at least one. This does look like fun.

Anonymous said...

Janie, great post and very informative. Can I try this on small bulbs like snowdrops?

janie said...

I am not familiar with snowdrops, but if it is a bulb, and not a corm or tuber, you can do this. It really is so easy.

Jim, it doesn't take much patience. I can do laundry, wash dishes, pull weeds, and all other manner of work while I wait for the little bulbs to show up. I have been known to forget them. A couple of months passes so fast.

Liisa said...

What an informative post! You are a great teacher, Janie. I too am going to bookmark this post, and try this out on a few of my lily bulbs. Thank you so much for sharing this. :) Liisa

leavesnbloom said...

Ah Janie this is fantastic information. I am lazy and don't do it and go to the garden centre and buy more but you have made it look so easy and it looks like it is so cost effective too. I have some favourite lillies in the garden and I might try this. I missed you about recently. Rosie :)

The Redneck Rosarian said...

Janie, great post. I have 4 bags of bulbs waiting to be planted. I am going to follow this advice.

Noelle said...

This is great information! I love the photo instruction for those who are more visual learners, like me ;^)

Country Mouse said...

Well, I had no idea you could do this with bulbs! This will be a great way to maximize propagatin results with local native bulbs if I'm lucky enough to gather any. Wonderful explanation, very clear.

Roman said...

Thank you very much for this post it was very informative and for the pictures making this step by step a lot easier to follow. this blog post has been bookmarked fro future reference.

LeSan said...

Gee wiz I have to get you to make a book of your blog. You always pack so much great information in.
Really terrific post!!

gld said...

Great explanations for doing this. My first thought was I am too old to wait three years, then I realized I plant daylily seeds and it is often three years before I see the first bloom. No difference whatsoever.

I am bookmarking this post for reference.

Rene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rene said...

I have some bulbs,such as alliums,daffodils, and a few others, I forgot which ones now, but here's the question. I didn't have time to get them in the ground last fall, I did get lots of others, but these 3 or 5 bags where my left-overs, I put them in the back porch room which is really cold...I live in 5, I was told they would survive(crossing fingers here)even if they were not planted, so like a dummy I left them there. I brought a few narcisuses in the other day and put them in a few pots with good soil hoping to grow them indoors. These bulbs are huge too. What mistakes did I make? Also can't the lil babies just go in good soil in a ziplock bag? Thanks and Happy Gardening!

Rosey Pollen said...

Fantastic tutorial. I think you can save a lot of money if you do it like this!

Thomas said...

I've always wanted to learn how to propagate bulbs. Thanks for sharing! It's amazing how narrow you slice them and still they come back.

Tufa Girl said...

I have never seen this done before. You are a wealth of information.

janie said...

Thanks, y'all, for all the nice comments. I appreciate you all!

Rene, when you can, plant those bulbs on the back porch! They may not bloom this year, but they will eventually.

Regular soil has pathogens in it that can and do attack the cut bulbs. You can use it, of course, but you just give yourself a better chance of success if you use safer materials.

Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

Janie, I just purchased two elephant ear bulbs. Can I propagate them similarly? Thanks for any advice.

janie said...

Elephant Ears are actually tuberous bulbs, and they are best propagated by division. You won't get so many babies at once, but you might not get any babies if you chop them up.

Tubers such as potatoes can be cut up and propagated, but I don't know about doing that to EEs.

What kind of EE did you get? I love them, but I am waiting to see if mine made it through winter. I have an idea that they did not, so new plants will be in order.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Janie! I knew about the scales on lilies, but didn't know you could cut up daffs! This is the best information ever, thanks so much for showing us. :-)

跌倒 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tom - 7th Street Cottage said...

I've got two varieties that are new to me. Black stem and Plumbea Nigra. I'm going to put them in a container this year with a dark foliage canna. My regular green ones almost always come back here. I've never had to dig them.

Susan said...

Glad I found your blog! Mahlo-Susan

Anonymous said...

Amazing. I had no idea one could propagate daffodils like that. I just leave my paperwhites in the ground here in southern California, and they propagate themselves.

日月神教-向左使 said...


kami said...

Thanks for your informative post! I'm a total rookie when it comes to gardening--this is my first year, and I have to learn everything online. There is so much to learn but I love it!

We just moved into an old house which has a garden bed. When I was tilling the soil, some bulbs popped up and I had NO idea what plant they were. They looked like huge white artichokes. Some were cut by the shovel, but I put everything back into the soil until I could find out what they were and how to take care of them. All I could do was google it, and had a hard time finding anything, but did come across this post and finally learned what they were! Thank you so much! :) Several scales have already begun sprouting on their own, but I will try your advice on the main bulbs. Your blog is now in my Faves folder. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

I'm 2 years into a five year plan to sell flowers. Believing that one can still receive a "free" education, i went to study bulb propergation on the net. after reading others wishing they'd she me pictures and help me to figure this out. i came upon your blog. Wow, i think i can do it now. thank you.