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Bulbs From Seed FAQ

There have been a few questions lately asking how to grow bulbous plants from seed.Over the past few years I have chosen many bulbous plants from various society seed exchanges and have found the following way of dealing with them successful.

  • 1.Pots.
    Depending on the quantity of seed available, I use 3" square plastic pots.You waste less space in the frame if square pots are used.

  • 2.Sowing medium.
    The seedlings and young plants will remain in their pots for up to two years after germination.I fill the bottom half of the pot with a mixture of 50/50 John Innes No2 and Grit with added Bonemeal.The top half is a 50/50 mix of John Innes No1 and Grit.Freshly germinated seedlings do not need much nutrition, so the top half is a hungry mix to avoid any problems with scorching. When the root systems start to develop and search for food, there is some available in the bottom half of the pot.

  • 3.Sowing.
    Seed is sown thinly over the surface of the compost, covered with a layer of grit, watered and labelled.The pots are placed in a frame that is open to all the elements apart from a cover of Netlon shading material.Any seeds that require stratification will be subjected to frost in the frame.

  • 4.Germination.
    Hopefully by the spring, seedlings will have emerged.They will behave in exactly the same way as their parents.So when that potfull of Narcissus seedlings die down they are not dead.Do not prick any seedlings out into individual pots.The bulbs are far too small to cope with this.They are best left in the pot to grow on.
    They can be fed with a half strength dose of Miracle Grow or Phostrogen.

  • 5.Spring in year 2.
    The seedlings should have resumed growth, they can be fed and cared for during the spring and early summer.Once the foliage has died down the pots can be knocked out and the contents inspected.If they are a reasonable size, say no smaller than a pea, they can be potted up individually, if not, the whole potfull can be repotted using fresh compost.Try to place them in the pot at the same depth as you found them.

  • 6.Year 3.
    By the end of the summer your bulbs should be of a size to pot them individually.Some will not be of a flowering size and you have to be patient.Every year I pot each one on in August, and they are subjected to the same growing regime as established flowering plants.

  • 7. Enjoy.

Growing these plants from seed is very rewarding, especially when they first flower, and a collection of rare and expensive plants can be built up relative ease and economy.If you sow bulbous plants each year, you will soon have plants flowering for their first time every year.In many cases you cannot easily buy some of the plants offered in seed exchanges and this is the only way of obtaining them.Seed companies offer a limited selection of bulbous plant seeds, however, there are specialist companies who deal exclusively in seeds of bulbous plants.

Written by Martin Froggatt. March 2000

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