Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Check incubating Lily Bulb "Scales" for growth this month

For those of you who scaled lily bulbs last fall, you should start seeing nice size bulblets forming on the individual scales - Step #5 below.   If you would like to try your hand at at multiplying bulbs by cloning, the start-to-finish steps are outlined below and the complete instructions are on our website.  The images shown above are bulblets with tiny leaves beginning to grow after receiving a "winter" - either in the fridge or outdoors in the garden.  Click Instructions for more about these photographs.

Step #1. Start with fresh-harvested, locally grown bulbs. The lily’s reproductive cells need to be on a natural cycle for best vitality. Do not use cheaply obtained lily bulbs, either in spring or September, from questionable sources. These usually are bulbs that were left unsold from the greenhouse forcing market and have been unnaturally stored in freezers for over a year. Dehydration from long storage will cause their growth to be marginal when compared to fresh bulbs. Best results are from lily bulbs fresh from the garden, scaled in October, with the new bulblets planted outdoors in March.

Step #2. To begin, remove all of the outer two rings of scales and discard. Carefully break off the remaining layers of bulbs, completely down to the “pit” - the center of the bulb, where the shoot emerges.

Step #3. Set out the “scales” and the “pit” to dry overnight. DO NOT wash the scales to “clean them,” or you risk contamination. They will air-dry and the broken surface will callous, naturally protecting the scales from fungus. The next day you may replant the lily bulb core. It will put up a pathetic-looking stem the first year, but should recover the following season with a bloom or two.

Step #4. Place scales between layers of slightly damp vermiculite or peat (sterilized) in a plastic bag that is loosely folded at the top. Place in a warm, evenly heated location of about 70 degrees F. for 8 to 10 weeks. Do not allow any lily scales to come in direct contact with the plastic bag. If water droplets form on the plastic, there is too much moisture - open the bag immediately to allow in more air.

Step #5. When bulblets are about the size of green peas or shelled filberts (their growth depending on the type of lily) they are moved into cold storage for their first “winter.” After six to eight weeks of temperatures just above freezing, the bulblets are ready to be planted either outdoors or in a greenhouse.

Step #6. Scatter in weed-free, perfectly drained ground, covering the bulblets with only one inch of soil. Keep bulblets evenly moist the first summer, checking soil moisture before irrigation. Do not allow the soil to completely dry, or all growth will stop for the summer. Most cultivars will send up tiny stems from 4 to 12 inches in height, depending on the Lilium type.

Step #7. These yearlings may be harvested and moved to a permanent location in October. Most will have one or two flowers the second year, but Asiatics require an additional two years of growth and Orientals, three years, before they are of commercial size.

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