When to start watering--Second time around

Mary Sue Ittner msittner@mcn.org
Fri, 03 Oct 2003 08:38:47 PDT
Dear All,

Last year about this time we had an extremely interesting discussion about 
when to start watering our winter growing bulbs, especially if we have 
protected them in dormancy or live in an area where it is dry in summer. If 
you were not part of our list then you might want to look at the archives 
for October 2003:

When I was in South Africa I asked people when they started watering their 
bulbs. Gordon Summerfield said if his bulbs had not started into growth by 
April 15 (October 15 I guess that would make it in the northern hemisphere) 
he watered them very well then. Others said that seemed about right, but 
they'd water any others earlier if they showed signs of life. I don't 
believe anyone said they watered their bulbs in summer, but they do get 
some rainfall in summer so that no doubt makes a difference. Members of our 
list who insisted that they lost their bulbs without watering them in 
summer were mostly from Southern California which has a much shorter 
rainfall season with less rain than we get in Northern California and I 
expect higher night time temperatures as well.

I had an extremely interesting discussion with Alan Horstmann about this 
subject of when to start watering. He observed that in the wild there were 
many South African bulbs that had a very short growing season in response 
to the amount of rainfall they get. If those are watered early they are in 
growth much longer than they normally would be and if they bloom in their 
regular time frame their leaves may have become untidy. So he is going to 
experiment with starting to water some of these much later to see if they 
would then become a more attractive pot subject. Genera he mentioned he was 
thinking about experimenting with were Tritonias and Ixias. This resonated 
with me since many of these bloom really late in the season for me and with 
all the rain I get their leaves look awful by then. Many of them are coming 
up now as I watered them before I left and that means they would be in 
growth from September-October to when they start drying up in May, a very 
long time.

He also talked about some of the Lachenalias that come from very dry 
habitats. Some of these also are from cold areas. Gordon had told us to 
water them from below and shelter them from the dew which he thought caused 
more problems than rain so he was growing them under cover. My notes from 
Alan were species like L. isopetala, zebrina, doleritica, obscura, and even 
mutabilis (although this last one has a wider distribution so it may depend 
on its origins.) Alan had a very tiny Lachenalia he was growing that was 
quite choice that he had keyed out to be mutabilis.

Finally Alan had some gorgeous pots of Daubenya aurea in bloom. Most of us 
who would have seen them would have wanted to add them to their collection. 
Alan told us that he had the very best luck getting them to bloom this year 
after taking them out of the soil and storing them dry for three months in 
the refrigerator to provide the proper cooling before potting them. So mine 
that did not come up last year at all I dumped out of the soil when I got 
back and they are getting chilled. Since this is a bit late to start we 
will see how the delayed planting works.

Mary Sue

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