Cleaning bulbs

Jane McGary
Tue, 07 Jul 2009 15:43:17 PDT
I'm repotting part of my bulb collection now and, as usual, wondering 
about cleaning them. Just how much of the dead tissue should be 
removed from various kinds of bulbs? I generally remove anything 
that's loose enough to fall away with gentle pressure, without 
tearing at the living tissue. But I wonder how much the accumulation 
of old tunics and so on contributes to the health of the plant? Do 
multiple layers of tunic insulate the bulb? Or do they smother it and 
cause it to decline? What about the old tissue at the bases of some 
irid corms? Does the plant derive nutrition from its dead tissue from 
previous years, or is this debris simply a medium for fungi and 
bacteria? In nature, many layers of tissue would build up over the 
years, and I see some bulbous and cormous plants in the garden that I 
know haven't been significantly disturbed for 20 years or more but 
are still flowering well.

Comments from experts welcome!

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon, USA

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