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.
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!