Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dividing Fall Flowering Bulbs

Have you promised some of your fall flowering bulbs to a neighbor or are you hoping your friend will share some with you? When you transplant them will make a difference to the likelihood that they will bloom again next fall and not skip a year. It is important to understand their habits so that you move them at the correct time.

Many fall flowering bulbs, such as spider lily, autumn crocus and oxblood lily, emerge in late summer or early fall with showy flowers on leafless stems. When the flowers are mostly done blooming, leaves will emerge around the flower stalk. After the spent flower stalk is removed, the strap-like leaves will continue to grow. After the leaves reach their full size they will provide some evergreen color over the winter and persist into the spring.

Sometime during the spring, the leaves will begin to yellow and die back. It is important to wait until the leaves have died mostly back before dividing them so that the bulbs will be properly fed and mature enough to move and have a good chance of blooming again next fall. If you move them too soon, even if you plant them right away, you will get leaves but not necessarily blooms during the next fall.

The photos in this article are of the same spider lily clump. The first is of the blooms last fall and the second was taken recently. The bulbs are almost dormant as evidenced by the yellowing and the brown and dry leaves. This clump is still a little small to divide however. More bulbs will develop over time to make the clump larger.

When your fall flowering bulbs have multiplied enough to divide, I recommend using a spading fork. You are less likely to knick a bulb than with a shovel. If you have waited until the bulbs are mature, there will be little or no roots left on the bulbs and you can keep them in a mesh bag and transplant them later. If you have harvested them too soon as evidenced by lots of roots, you should replant them in their new spots as soon as possible.

Happy Harvesting

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