Propagating Bulbs and corms

Can hyacinths be propagated at home? I would like to grow some to give friends at Christmas.

Hyacinth propagation is a long-term pursuit, but the bulbs can be encouraged to produce bulblets quite simply by two methods, called scooping and scoring. They are carried out at the end of the summer; and as their names imply, they involve cutting into the basal plate of the bulb. After the base has been scooped or scored to expose the inner scales, the surface should be dusted with a fungicide to prevent rot. Place the bulbs upside-down in a tray of dry sand and maintain a temperature of 21°C (70°F). New bulblets will develop in two or three months, and at this stage the bulbs should be planted, still upside down, to just below compost level in a pot. Place them in a cold frame for the winter.

In the spring the bulblets will shoot, while the old bulbs will die off. The small bulbs can then be re-planted and will flower in about three to four years. They will not, however, flower in time for Christmas: hyacinths need to be specially prepared by the bulb merchant or grower in order to flower so early in the season.

How can I increase the lilies I have in my garden, so that I can plant in drifts rather than in regimented lines?

Lily bulbs have loose scales which can be pulled off and propagated. The job is best done in October and November and strong healthy bulbs should be used. Gently remove the scales (they must be completely intact) and dust them with a fungicide powder. Mix them with damp peat and grit in a polythene bag and store them in a warm place. In about eight weeks, when bulbils have appeared at their base, the scales should be planted in pots of sandy compost so that their tips are just above the surface. Keep the young plants warm. The following spring the bulbils will produce leaves. Harden off the plants , and transfer them to their permanent position in the autumn.

The Lilium X maculatum in my garden have produced tiny bulbs in the leaf axils. If I pick and pot them on how long will I have to wait before they are ready for planting out?

The bulbils should be picked when mature; this is indicated by their changing in colour, and also by the leaves of the parent plant turning yellow. Place them on the surface of trays of a sandy compost, cover them with grit, and put them in a cold frame. They must remain there for at least 12 months before you plant them. They will probably flower the following year.

I have been told that some lilies can be propagated from bulblets. Where on the plant can I find these and how will I recognise them?

The bulblets (small bulbs) grow from the parent bulb of some species, such as the tiger lily (Lilium tigrinum). The best time to look for the bulblets is in late summer, when the plants are dying back after flowering. Bulblets should not be confused with bulbils, which are found in the leaf axils of some species.

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