Newbie questions

Jane McGary via pbs
Tue, 27 Apr 2021 12:39:32 PDT
Although I don't grow South African bulbs, I can answer Paul's questions 
to some extent. Here in the maritime Northwest we also had a very 
unseasonal heat wave in April, and the drought is still going on. We 
will have to start irrigating our gardens at least a month early, and 
spring flowering is truncated to some degree.

Young bulb seedlings are best kept out of full sun. In nature most would 
be shaded by taller vegetation. A shade cloth helps on a sunny cold 
frame. My seedlings are in a shed with a large skylight, which is so 
covered with tree pollen in spring that it acts somewhat as a shade. 
More sensitive genera are on plant stands on a roofed patio. Once the 
seedlings have withered, they should be stored where they won't get too 
hot. I put them on lower shelves in the shed and cover them with 
upside-down flats, and sprinkle them very occasionally -- not soaking, 
just moistening to keep some humidity in the soil. Some bulb species 
have a tendency to keep growing well into what would be the mature 
plants' dormant period; Narcissus are especially prone to this, and I 
keep them watered as long as they are in vigorous growth. I move the 
second-year seed pots back up to the top shelves and water them well 
when ambient temperatures drop in fall, around mid-September most years. 
This routine pertains to winter-growing (Mediterranean-cycle) bulbs; 
summer-growing ones like Lilium live on the patio.

Do not "prick out" bulb seedlings in growth. If they have germinated too 
thickly, thin them out if they're not rare species (leave some of the 
smaller ones, because they may be interesting color variants). However, 
you can give them some extra room by carefully tipping out the seedlings 
in their moist soil ball and replanting it in a larger pot, gently 
stretching it out if you can do that without smashing the plants. I do 
this often with 2-1/2 inch pots used for sowing a large number of seeds 
received as seed exchange surplus. You can also do this 
transfer-in-growth if a seed pot develops a very large plant too soon, 
risking damage to a big tuberous root. Paeonia and Lilium seedlings that 
have grown on through summer can be potted on in fall.

I mark pots of seedlings that will need to be moved on each summer. 
Usually I leave Crocus for two years, and also anything that has only 
one or two seedlings. Some pots will have viable seeds that haven't 
germinated the first year, so I may spread the top layer of seed-pot 
soil on the next pot. I use the soil from old pots as an addition to the 
plunge sand in the bulb house, and more plants often appear there as a 
result (usually tulips that I can't identify); the crevices between the 
pots are happy homes for many species.

Jane McGary, Portland, Oregon, USA

On 4/27/2021 11:14 AM, Paul McCarthy via pbs wrote:
> inch, my temperature logger inside the cold frame showed max temps of 85 or
> so on the sunniest days. Growth looked good. But then we had unseasonable
> heat on April 1 (85F!) and the cold frame got up to 110F briefly when I
> didn't prop it open far enough. Ouch. Things got brown after that.
> Should I stop watering
> them now and put them in full shade, or part shade? Do I treat the
> amaryllids differently and still give them water once a month or something?
> Was I wrong to have them in full sun, even in my mild climate? Even if I
> hadn't made that mistake of frying the plants on a hot day, I was still
> unsure about how much sun to give them in their first year, and when to
> expect to stop watering them. Is the dry dormancy period in the first year
> usually about 6 months? Or 3 months? Should I have pricked out the freesias
> into individual growing pots, or maybe just sewed them more sparsely? So
> many questions!
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