Propagating Tunicate Bulbs

by Rebekah Miller • Spring 2003

Flowering bulbs produce some of the biggest, most attractive, most beautiful flowers in gardens around the world. Many of these beautiful bulbs are old heirlooms that have been planted by loved ones in the past. In order to multiply and preserve these special plants, it is beneficial to know proper bulb propagation methods. Following are descriptions of some of the most effective methods used to propagate tunicate bulbs.

Offsets are the “baby bulbs” that develop naturally at the base of the parent bulb. When separated from the parent bulb and planted, offsets produce vegetative growth for a few years until mature enough to flower.

In scooping, the entire basal plate of a mature bulb is scooped out with a curved scalpel or small knife. Scooped bulbs are then placed in a warm (70°F), dark location for about two weeks. During the third week, adventitious bulblets will begin to form. Temperature should be increased to 85°F and relative humidity should be at 85%. When new roots form, the bulblets can be planted. It may be four to five years before bulbs flower. Hyacinth and Scilla are principally propagated by this method.

In this method, three cuts are made at the base of a mature bulb to form 6 pie-shaped sections. Cuts should reach just below the widest point of the bulb. The bulb is then placed in a warm, dark, humid location for a few months. When bulblets form, the mother bulb and bulblets can be planted. It usually takes three to four years for bulblets to reach flowering size. This method is commonly used on hyacinths, Scilla and narcissus.

A sectioned bulb is cut into five to ten pie-shaped sections, each with part of the base attached. Sections are treated as scored and cored bulbs.

Tunicate bulbs can also be propagated by leaf cuttings. Leaves are taken when they are well developed and green. One leaf may be cut into two or three pieces. Each piece is planted in a rooting medium and should be kept moist and given bottom heat. When bulblets form, they may be planted in soil. Grape hyacinth and hyacinth are among the bulbs that can be propagated by this method.

These are all ways to propagate and multiply tunicate bulbs. These methods will result in a yard full of color and beauty, giving you pleasure and enjoyment for years to come.