THE NOVICE’S NICHE
Want More of the Same?
By: Doreen Sage
Multiplying your supply of bulbs to blooming size is not difficult but does require time and patience.
This article will deal only with Asiatics as these are the easiest and everyone has some.
BULBILS — usually dark purplish about one to two cm (0.5”) in diameter. They are formed in the axis where the leaf joins the stem. Removing buds before flowering frequently induces the plant to form bulbils. Otherwise, collect the bulbils (use fingers and pick off) a few weeks after flowering. Plant in a well-prepared bed in a place that will not be tilled in the spring. Cover lightly (2.5 to 5 cm). Mark carefully where you plant with the name and/or description.
These bulbils will grow true to the parent bulb and should produce a bloom in a couple of years.
BULBLETS — are produced on the underground part of the lily stem just above the bulb. Dig up the bulb(s) you have. You will find little bulbs on the stems of many Asiatics. Separate these little bulblets from the stem and replant as quickly as possible. Being so small, they will dry out. Plant bulblets in a well prepared bed and cover lightly. Mark well where you do your planting. These bulblets will grow into flowering bulbs in a couple of years and be true to the parent. Plant the main bulb back or move to a new site.
DAUGHTER BULBS — offsets from the main bulb. When you dig up a lily(s), you should find more bulbs surrounding the main bulb. These can be readily removed from the main bulb and planted on their own, as you would plant any lily bulb. Replant main bulb. Many of these daughters will bloom the following year.
There is one other method for increasing the supply of a bulb — scaling. For the novice lily grower, this might sound a little intimidating, but it would be a good experience to try.
This method can be used when the parent does not have bulbils (not all do) and/or does not produce many or any little bulbs underground or on stems.
The following suggestions on how to do 'scaling' apply only to non commercial growers. (Commercial growers have equipment, space and want really large quantities).
Scaling involves digging up the desired bulb or using one you have just bought. It must be emphasized that only healthy, disease free bulbs be used. The bulb selected for scaling should be the largest you have. Wash off any soil that is on the bulb. The scales must be broken off cleanly right at the basal plate (see diagram). Remove by going around the bulb.
If scales are to be planted outside, take very soon after blooming. This will give them time to grow bulblets before frost. The soil must be kept evenly moist but not wet. Plant the scales in a well marked row as soon as possible after taking them. Scales should be dipped into a suitable fungicide before planting. If you want to plant scales indoors, a different time frame is required. Scales are removed and packed thinly in layers in a moist medium (sphagnum moss or vermiculite), completely covered.
Incubate at 15°C - 20°C (60°F - 70°F) until bulblets and roots form (6 - 8 weeks). Trumpet species and hybrids take 8 - 10 weeks and Orientals and hybrids take 12 -14 weeks. After incubation, a cold period is required (not for Trumpets) of 4°C - 10°C (40°F - 50°F) for 3 - 4 weeks then into cold storage (1°C/34°F). This cold storage is called vernalization. Asiatiacs require at least 6 weeks and Orientals 12 - 14 weeks. Longer is not harmful.
These bulblets are now ready to transplant outside once soil and temperature condition are above freezing. Plant in well marked rows where they may remain for a couple of years. Some may flower the first year. Try both methods. Remember, you only remove a few scales from a bulb and then replant the bulb. It will continue to grow and flourish and your scales will give you more of the same.
Lily propagation. A: Scaling of concentric bulb, with scales broken off at the basal plate, a: newly planted scale, b: scale with roots and bulblets after six to eight weeks of incubation.
Using any of these methods will produce flowering size bulbs true to the parent bulb. If you find you have too many, they will make nice gifts or donate them to the MRLS or your local Horticultural Society for sale.