Bulbs in the open present no difficulties, they are amongst the easiest of all garden plants to cultivate, but bulbs in the home frequently cause trouble. The too frequent use of bulb fibre instead of a loamy; the fashionable use of bowls which lack in the place of proper or pans; and the neglect to provide the bulbs with a cool room whilst rooting, are the chief causes of trouble. Most bulbs are happier in a compost made up of fibrous loam, peat and sand, rather than in one of the prepared fibres which contains charcoal, oyster shell and coconut fibre, all ingredients which are intended to keep the rooting-medium sweet and to help with drainage where bowls are being used.
Those who have the disadvantage of living in a city flat may be compelled to use fibre, but at best it is only a poor substitute for the correctly prepared soil compost which will not only provide food for the growing plant but which will enable moisture to be controlled to a far greater degree. The ideal growing medium for bulbs is an earthenware pot or pan with drainage holes, which are also useful in permitting a correct circulation of air as well as regulating moisture. A pot containing a loamy compost will also enable staking (where necessary) to be done correctly. Again, fibre will require more frequent waterings with the result that moisture cannot be nearly so well regulated as with a compost of loam and peat. Fibre somehow lacks ‘body’, like the synthetic mushroom compost which contains no animal manure, and first-class results are rarely attainable.
Watering is also a cause of worry to many. Lack of moisture will cause a stunted flower, over-will cause rotting of the and possibly no flower at all. The foliage, too, will either collapse or turn yellow. This brings us to the question of providing a cool room while the bulbs are forming . This is absolutely essential, for without a strong rooting system a top-quality flower cannot be expected. Many believe that a warm will best encourage growth; so it will, but it will encourage top growth too, and before the roots have correctly developed. Where possible, place the bulbs in a plunge bed outdoors, beneath a wall facing due north or in any position away from the sun. Cover them with ashes or dry soil and leave them on an average of eight to ten weeks to develop their roots. Failing this, plant them in a dark cellar, or in a garage, covering them with soil, or any place so long as the bulbs are cool. There they will not require after the soaking they should be given immediately after planting. But fancy bowls which contain no drainage should be placed either in a cellar or garage or shaded frame for if entirely unprotected and autumn rains are heavy, the bulbs may suffer by standing in water for long periods.
If the bulbs have to be placed in a darkened place indoors then let it be somewhere where it is cool, under the stairs, or in the wash-kitchen. A cupboard in a warm room will spell only disaster. Never rush the rooting period thinking that the bulbs will bloom more quickly. If they are not well rooted they may never bloom at all, rather give them an extra week than a week too few. Plant each variety and species according to its requirements, too deep or too shallow planting may, too, cause failure. And remember to introduce all bulbs, whether growing in the home or on a commercial scale in a warm, to the light and to the warmer conditions by degrees. Allow them to become gradually accustomed to the higher temperatures and from complete darkness to light.
Bulbs are most accommodating; they may be flowered to perfection in a window-box, in a frame, in tubs, even in an attic. In fact almost anywhere with the minimum of expense and provided their cultural requirements are attended to in detail. But do plant as early as possible.
It is a great failing to plant too late, just because bulbs are so accommodating and will give at least someeven if planting is delayed until the year end. Bulbs that bloom during the first six months of the year should be planted whilst still dormant, during August and September, and if one has to wait for the finish of a summer bedding display, then make mid-October the limit for all bulbs. This will allow outdoor bulbs to build up a strong root system to enable the bulbs to combat adverse winter weather conditions, excessive moisture frequently killing off late planted bulbs.