Bulletin No. 19 News Series June, 1938 N
John M. Scott
STATE OF FLORIDA
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NATHAN MAYO, Commissioner
Prepared and Publishedi in Co-operation with the Collerg of
Agricnlture, University of Florida, Gainesville.
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Commercial Bulb Production
By JOHN M. SCOTT
Prepared and Published in Co-operation with the College of Agriculture,
University of Florida, Gainesville
HE commercial production of bulbs in Florida dates back
some 25 years or more, but during the past few years the
industry has expanded very rapidly. The early bulb
growers in Florida had very limited plantings and their in-
come was secured almost entirely from the sale of cut flowers.
Today, however, the growing of bulbs for cut flowers, except
for the local trade, is almost a thing of the past. Flowers
that are produced by greenhouses in the North generally
satisfy the trade better than blooms shipped from Florida.
Commercial bulb plantings have been made in widely
scattered areas in the State, but the largest acreages will be
found in Alachua, Baker, Clay, DeSoto, Duval, Lake, Manatee.
Marion, Orange, Palm Beach, Polk, Seminole and Volusia
counties. Plantings made in the State during 1928 are esti-
mated at between 60,000,000 and 100,000,000 bulbs, or be-
tween 1,200 and 1,300 acres.
No attempt will be made to discuss bulb growing for orna-
mental purposes in the home. Information along this line
may be secured from some of the references given at the end
of this bulletin, particularly from Florida Extension Bulletin
No. 48. "Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida."
Almost any good soil that is well drained and contains
plenty of moisture is satisfactory for bulbs. The fertile loams
such as are suitable for growing Irish potatoes, cabbage.
lettuce, or, in fact, almost any truck crop, will grow sound
and solid bulbs of good size capable of producing excellent
flowers. Bulbs grown on heavy muck soils may appear to
be as large or larger than those grown on loam soils, but they
are not usually as solid or compact.
New ground is not apt to prove very satisfactory, particu-
larly if there is much lime or if it is full of palmetto roots.
Humus, however, is very desirable, provided it is well rotted
down so there will be no danger of stimulating decay.
Fig, I, 1'iCnln lll ullis,
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA 5
The preparation of the soil for bulbs is very much the
same as for any truck crop. When there is much trash or
growth on the surface, it is generally advisable to disk the
ground two or three times after plowing, or as often as neces-
sary, to thoroughly cut up all weeds and trash and work it in
the soil. This must be done so as to allow thorough decompo-
sition before the bulbs are planted.
It is always desirable to have the soil well filled with
humus, which may be supplied by an application of well rot-
ted stable manure or by turning under a heavy cover crop.
Care must be taken, however, to see that the material has
thoroughly decomposed before the bulbs are planted, or in-
jury will result to the bulbs.
When the land is inclined to be wet. it is ofte.i necessary
to plow it up in beds and open up all ditches so as to provide
drainage. The calla lily seems to be able to stand more water
than most other bulbs, but neither the calla lily nor narcissus
can stand continuous wet conditions in the field.
A sufficient amount of research work has not been done
in Florida to definitely state just how much fertilizer to ap-
ply per acre, or just what the formula should be. Tle general
practice is to use a good vegetable fertilizer analyzing around
5 percent ammonia. 7 percent available phosphoric acid, and
5 percent potash, although many growers increase the per-
centage of potash.
From one half to one ton of commercial fertilizer is usual-
ly applied to the land about ten (lays before the bulbs are
planned, or else it is drilled in the rows and thoroughly mixed
with the soil before planting. Very often another applica-
tion is applied as a side-dressing later on.
With amaryllis the fertilizer is commonly applied in about
three applications. preferably during February. May and
By planting in twenty-four-, twenty-eight-, or thirty-inch
rows, an opportunity is given to cultivate with horse power or
garden tractor. When the rows are as close as eighteen inches
apart, cultivation: v. ill have to be done with the hand hoe.
Not a great deal of cultivation is needed, as in the winter
there are not so many weeds growing. The general practice
with most growers is to give three or four cultivations with a
sweep or any other light one-horse cultivator.
6 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
NUMBER OF BULBS REQUIRED TO PLANT ONE ACRE
The number of bulbs required to plant one acre will de-
pend entirely on how close together they are planted. When
planted in thirty-inch rows and three inches apart in the row,
about 69,000 bulbs will plant one acre. If planted in twenty-
four-inch rows and three inches apart in the row. about 87,-
000 bulbs are required for one acre. When rows are 18 inches
apart with the bulbs three or four inches apart in the row,
around 115,000 to 120,000 bulbs are required for an acre.
Splits may be planted closer together in the row, one inch
apart in the row being common, which will take around 200,-
000 to the acre.
A serious drawback to bulb growing is the amount of
capital required to purchase a supply of bulbs for planting,
as from 50,000 to 100,000 bulbs are generally required for
each acre. It is therefore the safest plan for the person just
starting in the business to begin on a small scale until he has
learned the best method for handling the crop.
TYPES OF BULBS GROWN
As the commercial production of bulbs is a new industry
in Florida, there is a great variation in the types of bulbs that
are grown in the State both experimentally and on a commer-
cial scale. Gladioli and narcissi are perhaps the most popu-
lar, although there is a considerable acreage planted to a
number of others.
The methods of planting and handling each type of bulb
varies somewhat so that a separate discussion of each type
will be more fitting. Florida Extension Bulletin No. 48, by
T. A. Brown, published in June, 1928, contains the latest and
most complete data available on bulb culture in Florida.
The information given below has been taken entirely from
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA
The varieties of primnulinus hybrids, involved from the
crossing of Gladiolus primulinus with various large-flowered
species, are to be numbered by the score. No effort is made
to list the varieties in full. the following being some which are
more generally grown for the florist's trade:
Varieties Color of Bloom
Alice Tiplady ..........a......... O nge
America ...... .......... .... Lavender pink
Brenchleyensis ................ B ight red
Chicago White ...............Pure white with lavender markings
Flora ..................... ....... Golden yellow
Halley .............................. Salmon pink
Maiden's Blush ...............Blush pink
Mrs. Francis King ............Flame pink
Mrs. Frank Pendleton......Rose pink with velvety red blotch in throat
Mrs. O. W. Il:lliday ........Pink with yellow throat
Niagara ............................Primrose yellow
Panama .. ........................Deep pink
Peace .................................. white with lilac feathering in throat
Schwaben .............. ....Y allow with garnet blotch in throat
WHAT TO PLANT
While the variations of color and type are the results of
both natural and cross pollination, usually little satisfaction
will be found in planting seed for the production of bulbs for
the garden. On the other hand, the easiest and most satis-
factory means of reproduction is from the small corms
(Cormels)-in Florida commonly called bulblets-that form
within the root system of the new bulb which replaces the old
one with every current growth.
Standard sizes of bulbs are: No. 1, 1,.2 inches and over in
diameter; No. 2, I1/. to 1'~ inches; No. 3, 1 to 11/, inches; No.
4, :!. to 1 inch; No. 5, 1 to !. inch; and No. 6, ./. to 14 inch
in diameter. The best planting stock for the average begin-
ner probably is the two-year-old bulb that is from 1'i. to 2
inches in diameter and thick from top to bottom. Such a
bulb is called by commercial growers as fat, or plump, and is
usually a vigorous grower and bloomer. This will include the
sizes numbered I and 2. Smaller ones will often bloom well
but are not so vigorous and should not be allowed to bloom.
They should have the spike cut out as soon as it appears above
the foliage, so as to induce better growth and vigor for next
season. When properly handled, this larger sized bulb should
not only bloom, but should produce from a dozen to a hundred
'*Fl. A Ig'i. IExt. Div. Bul. 48.
8 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
ail l incrnsiis.. (iiourlh,..y I'iorl .i Agricilturalll
small corms or coir.els (builbtets) that will range in size
from a No. 6 down to the size of a pea, and which should be
carefully saved at digging time for replanting and the sub-
sequent production of large bulbs for bloom.
In this climate, these cormels may be planted at once after
digging, or may be packed in dry sand for several weeks'
storage, or they may be dried and put away for a year before
planting. In the latter case, owing to excessive drying and
hardening of the shell, it is advisable to cover the cormels
with water for a day and then pour off the water and cover the
wet cormels again with a wet sack for three or four days to
soften before planting. The resulting growth should produce
no bloom in most cases, but a good foliage and bulbs up to an
inch in diameter, and will likely make a great many new
cormels the first year.
In northern climates where the ground freezes, the cormels
II I l
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Fig. 39, 6 ll ImI Ildels 11 ni jjrL, u 1111jing n fin,! gri),lill
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
that remain in the ground will be killed and there is no danger
from mixtures resulting from those left in the soil at digging
time. But in Florida, if the grower has more than one variety
(which is usually the case), a new place should be chosen each
time for planting, since even the most careful digger will
leave some cormels in the soil, which will come up later and
cause a hopeless mixture in the next crop, if planted on the
Many beginners seem to want to start with very large
bulbs, thinking that these should produce extra large, fine
blooms. But, as a rule, the bulb that has reached a diameter
of more than three inches has gotten very thin in comparison
and is too weak to produce a good bloom. It should be dis-
Bulbs grown in the North, being planted in May and June
and harvested in October, should not be planted much before
Christmas in Florida, as they will not be well enough cured in
most cases to start growth readily. In this climate, native-
grown stock may be planted at any time after it has had time
to cure, which will, of course, depend on the stage of maturity
at which it was dug. If dug as soon as foliage begins to
yellow, more time will necessarily be required for curing than
if allowed to die down in the field.
Curing should be done in any dry, well ventilated place,
and the length of time required will vary from six weeks to
four months. If cured entirely in ordinary storage, the best
way to tell when bulbs are ready to replant is to watch for
signs of growth, and then planting must be done at once or
top growth will start and vitality of the bulbs will be rapidly
When the first eyes begin to swell, some growers prefer
to place the bulbs in cold storage for two or three weeks to
chill them thoroughly, claiming that they come up more uni-
formly. However, this point seems not to have been definite-
ly settled. It is true that when planted before the curing
process is complete, the bulbs do not sprout evenly and the
rows often appear very uneven and ragged.
The season for planting in Florida may include every
month in the year, but for the )roluction of flowers for
profitable markets, gladioli should be planted in September
and October for fall and in January and February for spring.
thus bringing the bloom when there is none produced in the
NL, O, (llalloll Iieginnlng I(n 1 l,1, Nintr y iays aftfr planting,
`i i !''X,
B~t^^rll %llif ^ Zllrflt i..
12 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
North. Corme:s bulbletss) should be planted about 50 to the
foot in straight rows that have a very definite V-shaped bot-
tom, to simplify cultivation and regulate depth. The depth
should be 3 to 4 inches. Care must be taken to keep plenty
of moisture to the young bulbs at all times until they ap-
Blooming bulbs should be planted six inches deep and a
distance apart equal to the width of a bulb, thus allowing for
expansion and growth. At each growing period it will be
found that the old bulb when planted, puts up a top growth as
soon as, if not before, root growth starts. After the top gets
started a new bulb starts to form just on top of the old one
and this new bulb puts out a set of roots independent of those
of the old bulb. When the new bulb approaches maturity and
has bloomed, it puts out a set of rhizomes that resemble short
roots, which develop the small corms or cormels bulbletss) at
their ends. By the time the top begins to die down, these
cormels are ready to dig with the parent bulb. The old bulb
will be found quite firmly fastened to the new one at digging
time, but after they have been in storage for 10 days or two
weeks, can be readily pulled off, at which time the cormels
may be separated also and replanted or stored.
In the open field for commercial production, most growers
plant in single rows to enable them to cultivate with horse
power, thereby reducing the cost. In this case, the distance
between the rows will be governed largely by the type of culti-
vation used and the moisture conditions. The average grower
finds that in order to get through between the rows at bloom-
ing time they should be about 30 inches apart. In "flatwoods"
land, where drainage is very essential, it seems advisable to
ridge the ground and work the soil up to the plants in a man-
ner similar to the way potatoes are worked. In the drier
soils where drainage is not essential, it is just as well to
plant flat and cultivate likewise. In any event, the bulbs
should be planted six inches deep or the heavy bloom stalk
will pull the plant over with the first strong wind.
Cormels planted in September and October make their
regular growth and die down in the early spring, although
some will be delayed until others are half grown. This neces-
sitates digging while some are immature, which is not usually
considered much loss. If left in the ground for the late ones
to mature, some of the earlier ones will be growing again
before the latest ones are ready to dig. One must decide
when to dig by watching the general average.
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA
Commercial crops should be dug at the end of every
growing season, just as soon as the average tops are yellowing
and ready to die down. The tops should be cut off with a
sharp hoe. The rows may be barred off with a small plow,
leaving just the narrow strip containing the bulbs. This may
be carefully picked up with a shovel, being sure to get the
cormels, and the whole sifted through a screen having about
eight meshes to the inch. Naturally, the soil must be dry.
Some Northern growers use a tile scoop such as is used to
level the ditches before laying tile, and this may be set at
just the right angle to scoop up the core of soil in which the
After screening, the bulbs are taken to the curing shed
and spread out in trays or shallow bins to dry, after which
they are separated and cleaned and returned to the bins until
market or planting time.
Great care must be exercised at all times to keep from
getting the different varieties mixed, as, once mixed, there is
no probability of getting the varieties separated without
several seasons' careful roguing and waste.
In cleaning the bulbs, the outer husk may be removed to
give the bulbs a nice appearance, but enough husk must be
left on to prevent excessive drying of the eyes or buds. A
bulb that has been completely peeled is not considered good
CUTTING THE BLOOM
Northern growers of gladioli, who have but one season
each year for production, tell us that from 75 t: 120 days are
required from planting time to bloom, according to variety.
However, in Florida much less time is sometimes required, and
it is difficult to say just how long the average period will be.
In the case of the smaller bulbs, one year from cormels,
unless they are exceptionally vigorous, it is not advisable to
let the bloom mature at all and most growers go over and cut
out the spikes just as soon as they are far enough out of the
foliage to get at, so as to put all of the strength into bulb
growth. With the regular bloom crop, where bloom is to be
marketed, the spikes are cut just as the first bud begins to
The foliage should not be cut off or the vitality of the bulb
will be reduced. The spike should be cut with a small-bladed
knife that can be slipped down between the leaves, getting as
much stalk as possible. The spikes may be tied in bunches of
25 and packed in paper-lined crates that are practically air-
tight, without moisture of any kind and shipped by parcel
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
post. The crates should be long enough that the spikes will
lie out straight. A light block should be nailed down across
the stems to prevent slipping and bruising the spikes.
As soon as the receiver gets the package, he will recut the
stems and put them in water to fill and revive. While they
will be quite wilted, they will straighten and open up when
they get in the water. If the spikes are filled before being
packed, or if water is kept on the stems while lying in the
crate, the spikes will endeavor to straighten to an upright
position and become crooked and will stay that way, spoiling
the appearance of the bloom spike.
If the shipping distance requires more than 36 hours, it is
sometimes found advisable to ship in paper-lined hampers
with wet sphagnum moss in the bottom, upon which the cut
ends of the stems may rest in order to take up moisture. In
this case the hamper should be well filled and then shaken
down so that all of the stems will come in contact with the
moss and there will not be slack space for the spikes to shake
around and become bruised. The hamper should be marked
on top with large plain label indicating the nature of contents
and cautioning express employees to keep right side up, or
injury to the flowers will surely follow.
Different countries have bred up different strains of nar-
cissi until the varieties are now numbered in hundreds. There
are eleven main divisions or groups of narcissi. Foremost
are the Trumpet Daffodil, Jonquilla, Poeticus and Poetaz
(Polyanthus) groups with many variations in each type. The
first three were bred and introduced mainly in the British
Isles and the Netherlands, and Polyanthus in southern France,
Italy and China. It is with this southern strain that we are
most concerned, because our climatic conditions are more
nearly similar to those in the native home of this tender
The Polyanthus (Tazetta and Tazetta hybrids) varieties
usually found in Florida commercial plantings are the Paper-
white, Grand Soleil d'Or, and Chinese Sacred Lily. Double
Roman, Pearl, and several others are being tried with some
success. The heaviest importations for commercial use have
always been the Paperwhite and this variety now far exceeds
in number anything else produced in Florida, so much so that
it is considered the standard in all discussion of narcissus
types among our growers, although the other Polyanthus
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA 15
types do equally well and are handled in much the same man-
ner. The hardy varieties adapted to Northern conditions
appear to be rather unsatisfactory throughout the major
portion of Florida. For many years the Polyanthus type of
narcissus has been grown in Alachua county by Mr. T. K.
Godbey, but since 1925 plantings have increased very rapidly
until it is now a standard crop in many counties, the bulk of
the crop being located in Alachua, Duval, Clay, Volusia and
Fig. 5. Bloom of the Papcrwhite Narcissus. Courtesy Fl. .\Agri. Ext. Div.
WHAT TO PLANT
As with every other flowering bulb, the type variation in
narcissi is so great when plants are grown from seed that
commercial producers depend entirely upon propagation
from the natural division of the bulbs. This occurs at a cer-
tain stage of growth by means of offsets or slabs separating
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
from the mother bulb which, when planted separately, under
proper cultural conditions will round out to a size that should
produce a good bloom the following year. This is the bulb
of commerce, which should be round, firm, and single-nosed
(evidence of one set of foliage).
When the mature round type of bulb is planted in the
open field, it should not only bloom well the first season. but
should grow and divide, often making two or three or more
slabs. Aside from the Chinese Sacred Lily, which may make
six or eight slabs, growers generally look with disfavor on
the bulb that makes more than four slabs, as this sometimes
results in weakening the blooming ability of later genera-
tions. Such a plant is said to become grassy.
After being dug and cured in dry storage for some time,
the slabs are broken loose and planted to produce round bulbs
for market and the mother bulb is again planted to produce
more increase, which it will continue to do indefinitely under
proper cultural conditions. This mother bulb is the grower's
capital stock, and should not be disposed of or neglected.
It will be seen that. starting with round marketable bulbs
as planting stock, it will be two seasons before one again has
round bulbs to sell, but by planting the mother bulbs back
Fig. 6. Molherr bulb and offset* of the Narrlcius. (ourter.i Fla. Agri. Ext. DIv.
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA 17
the second year they should keep up the supply of slabs, en-
abling the grower to turn off something each year thereafter.
Some of the larger slabs will split again instead of rounding
up, and some of the smaller ones will not make a round bulb
of the size required by the trade and must be planted back
with the growing-on stock if typical of the variety. This
does not imply that the grower should increase his planting
stock with bulbs that will not make the grade, but on the con-
trary, for the purpose of keeping the stocks up to a high
standard, some of the very best type round bulbs should be
planted back each year separately as nursery stock from
which to build up the strain.
At planting time, a careful watch should be kept for any
bulbs that are soft or diseased, or that are apparently not
true to type, and these should be destroyed to avoid getting
anything started in the field that is not wanted.
Owing to the fact that this crop requires a long growing
period, it has been found best to plant reasonably early in
the fall, September or October, but plantings made as late as
December will do fairly well under favorable conditions. The
early fall plantings will be matured and ready to dig by late
May while the weather conditions are generally most favor-
able. Later digging operations are frequently handicapped
by summer rains, and in some cases the bulbs start rooting
an undesirable second growth. Also, the bulbs that are dug
out of dry soil are in much better condition to go into storage
than those dug wet.
The location for a planting should be carefully considered,
since a heavy investment is to be made. One should see that
adequate drainage is assured, the soil is free from Bermuda
or other grasses that are expensive to control, and is in a
good mechanical condition.
The rows are laid off with any suitable implement and
the depth is decided largely by the thoroughness of the drain-
age. Where the land is tile drained or there is no likelihood
of excessive water, furrows should be five or six inches deep,
but where there is danger of excess moisture, such as the
average "flatwoods" field, it seems advisable to plow the field
in lands, leaving an open water furrow every 50 feet to carry
off excessive rainfall. The rows may be run across these
beds so that water draining off between them will be carried
off into the water furrows more readily. In this case the
planting furrows should not be more than four inches deep.
Sufficient furrows for this may be made with a sled-runner
Kig, ), ,, flirl a' f Nmlrcisms, ,,lbs, I'll riwllilf vriiely 111 left anidi illln' Saernl Ill ri'h,
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Fig. 8 hillfrdiiii, Sardol
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
type of marker having three or five runners made of 2 x 4'
scantling and weighted down to run the proper depth. The
bulbs are placed in the furrow about as far apart as the
thickness of the bulb itself, thus allowing room for growth
expansion. Next, the row is covered with soil, usually by
means of a wheel-plow furrow, to prevent the sun cooking
them, as they are very easily ruined by sunburning. Bulbs
should not be exposed to the hot sun more than 30 minutes.
Within a day or two a good ridge of soil is thrown on top
of the row to a depth of six inches, to prevent the bulbs from
heaving out of the soil, which they will certainly do when
starting to root, if not held down by plenty of covering. Sub-
sequently workings will draw the soil from the middle up to
the rows and leave them distinctly ridged. This completes
the planting and cultivation will be needed only to keep down
weeds and grass and maintain a good ridge.
Care must be exercised in cultivation to avoid breaking
the roots, which spread widely. For convenience in working,
the rows should be about three feet apart.
Narcissi should not be harvested until the tops have com-
pletely died down at maturity, which is usually the latter part
of May or early June. But they should be dug before summer
rains start the bulbs into second growth. If dug in a growing
condition, the vitality of the bulb is likely to be impaired.
The smaller growers usually dig by hand, barring the rows
off with a small plow and lifting the bulbs with a potato rake,
or by running the plow directly under the row and turning
it over so that the bulbs may be picked up from the bottom of
the furrow slice. Great care should be exercised to get all
of the bulbs, as any remaining in the soil are likely to be
completely ruined or lost and those coming up the following
season will be found weak, and in the wrong place to fit into
the current planting.
The larger growers are now quite universally using a
mechanical potato digger for lifting the crop. This is prov-
ing to be far the best, from the standpoint of both economy
and efficiency. In all cases the bulbs should be picked up at
once and taken to the shade, as an hour's exposure to the
hot sun is likely to result in sunburn and later, a dry rot in
As soon as the bulbs are dug, they should be taken at once
to the storage or curing shed, which should be absolutely dry
1'l I'lll ralitn r N 'rcissl In bloom.,
.I It. 1M %
Itu .% Qh
a I. I r
Fill H, Digging Narcili bulbo Ait meciig'lml dIlger,
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA 23
and well ventilated. It should be arranged so that the sun
will not shine directly on the bulbs at any time, to the most
approved type of shed being located east and west the long
way, with a driveway through the center and bins on each
side. A building 24 feet wide has been found very satisfac-
tory, providing an 8-foot driveway and bins 8 feet wide.
The bins should be built of strong material, as the load
they must carry will be heavy. The bulbs should not be
placed in them to a depth of more than six or eight inches,
to avoid heating. If piled up when freshly dug, or even left
in field barrels or crates over night, bulbs are likely to be in-
jured by heating. A good method of arranging the bins is
to cut the floor boards to standard lengths and leave them
loose, so that as one level is filled the next floor above may be
laid. The floors should not be closer than 12 inches, leaving
several inches air space between the bulbs in one bin and the
floor above. Side boards should be fitted to the bins to pre-
vent the bulbs rolling out. Provision should be made to lock
the shed to prevent the innocently curious visitor from hand-
ling the bulbs, taking out a bulb here and there and replacing
it in a bin of another variety.
The roof of the shed should be well built to prevent leak-
age on the bulbs. A cupola, or ventilator, the full length of
the comb has been found advisable for the maintenance of a
good circulation of air. The eaves should be broad and low,
to protect the bulbs from blowing storms, and the sides
should be left open except for a closely woven poultry netting,
to prevent handling of the bulbs from the outside. Gables
and ends of the building should be fully enclosed as a pro-
tection from sun and rain, although the doors to the drive
may be slatted to aid in air circulation.
During the first two weeks of storage, it is well to ex-
amine the bulbs daily to determine if any heating is taking
place. If so, the bulbs may be stirred by means of a cypress
pole pushed through them in the bins, loosening them and let-
ting the air through. If the bulbs should be wet when stored
this stirring is essential until they become thoroughly dry.
CLEANING AND GRADING NARCISSI
After the bulbs have been in storage for six or eight
weeks and are thoroughly dried and cured, the separation of
the grades may take place. At this time, the slabs will be
found somewhat loosened from the mother bulb and can be
easily separated with the fingers; the outer husk is dried and
loose, and this, together with the dried roots and any re-
mainder of the top, may be easily cleaned off. As the slabs
g "~"~II H
Fig, 11, A IllI dlig irl house,
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA 25
are separated from the mother bulbs they should be placed in.
separate bins and later planted separately, as that is what
the marketable bulbs are grown from. The mothers should
be kept separate for planting, to produce more slabs. All
round, single nosed bulbs, 12 centimeters and more in circum-
ference, should be carefully cleaned and prepared for market.
Bulbs from which slabs have been taken, or that have been.
injured in any manner, should not be put in this grade.
TESTING FOR BLOOMING QUALITY
About the first of September, grower and buyer begin to
search for evidence of blooming quality. A market sized bulb
is selected at random and split from top to bottom, exposing
the exact center of the vertical layers of the bulb. At the
base of the center should be found a tiny cluster of embryo
buds, folded in an almost transparent envelope, which a few
weeks later will have advanced almost to the top of the bulb.
Until this embryo has become well advanced, the bulbs should
not be forced into growth or the result will be that the growth
of foliage takes the strength away from the bloom and the
forcer will complain of the bulbs being grassy. On either
side of this little bloom embryo may be found similar embryos
of foliage, which later develop into the offsets or slabs.
After the grading is finished, the next step is sizing the-
bulbs that are to be marketed. Some small growers use a
board fitted with holes of various sizes, and all work is done
by hand, but the larger growers, finding this very unsatisfac-
tory and expensive, have imported mechanical sizers from
Holland, which, working by a system of oscillating shakers,
convey the bulbs over wooden screens through which the
sizing is done very efficiently and rapidly.
Since the sales are based on the count in thousands, this"
operation is of major importance. In Europe, where labor
is cheap, this is all done by hand. So far, the same has been!
true here in general. But a counting table was evolved in
1927 that should be in general use within a short time ,,
table is made with a regular series of two-inch auger holes
in the top, the series being in number 250 or 500. A false-
bottom of slats is arranged closely underneath the table top,
so that when shoved home the slats will form the bottom of
each hole or pocket. A shovelful of bulbs is thrown on the,
table and one bulb placed in each hole until all are occupied,.
when the false bottom is pulled about two inches by the.
1- /I _ _I 1 1
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA
operator and the bulbs all drop through a chute into the
packing case, which is then known to contain exactly a cer-
tain number of bulbs.
THE PACKING CASE
As yet there is no set standard for the packing case, two
or three different types being in use. The one most generally
approved seems to be one that is light and strong, having the
boards properly spaced for ventilation and of a size that will
hold 1,000 bulbs of 13 centimeters, this being the size to
which most crops of narcissi seem to run the heaviest. A 13-
centimeter bulb measures 13 centimeters in horizontal circum-
ference. One centimeter is 0.3937 inch, or approximately 2.5
centimeters are required to make one inch. A 13-centimeter
bulb is thus slightly over 5.1 inches in horizontal circumfer-
ence or 1.6 inches in diameter. As the sizes advance, a less
number will fill the crate. Thus, one thousand 13-centimeter
bulbs, nine hundred 14-centimeter, and eight hundred 15-
centimeter bulbs will be required per crate. A crate 301/2"
x 13" x 11" is in use for Paperwhites. It is made of heavy
veneer, wire-bound and having a panelled head. It was
found very satisfactory.
Because the Chinese Sacred Lily and Soleil d'Or bulbs are
coarser and larger, a larger crate was adopted as a standard.
being 301/" x 14:!%." x 14" and holding one thousand 14-
centimeter bulbs. In any case, the bulbs should not occupy
quite all of the space in the crate, but should have room to
shift when the crate is turned over, as tight packing will
lessen the ventilation and may cause heating.
Care must be exercised at all time. to avoid getting the
bulbs wet after curing has begun or they will immediately
start rooting and growth, even though absolutely free from
soil. After packing, the bulbs may be kept for several months
in dry, cool storage without any danger whatever.
THE EASTER LI LY
The Easter lily best adapted to Florida conditions appears
to be the Harrisii, which is of the longifloumm type commonly
called the Bermuda Lily. It is too tender to be much of a suc-
cess in the more rugged climates of the North. It is found
in dooryards from Lake City south, seemingly quite at home.
Until recently, no efforts have been made to commercialize it
to any extent. The hardier lilies, such as the Regal, Canadi-
dum, Rubrum, etc., will make a fine growth and bloom the
first year when planted here, but seem to become exhausted
and disappear in succeeding seasons instead of growing in
DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
numbers and adapting themselves to our climate. The other
varieties of the longiflorum species, such as Giganteum,
Formosum and Erabu, have not as yet met with as much suc-
cess as the Harrisii, perhaps owing to the fact that the latter
has been naturalized here for many more years than any of
In Florida, the Easter Lily does not seed as freely as in
some other localities, and for this reason most of the increase
is obtained by vegetative propagation, viz.: stem bulblets and
PROPAGATION OF EASTER LILIES
With the approach of maturity, the bloom stem develops
a setting of tiny bulblets at the leaf eyes that are just at, and
just below, the soil surface. These root independently the
following season and develop to a blooming size in one or
two growing seasons. This is the most natural method of
propagation, but where the grower wishes to increase his stock
more rapidly, he may do so by breaking the mature bulbs
apart and using the resultant scales of the bulb for propa-
The general method following the breaking up of the bulbs
is to layer the scales immediately in some moisture-carrying
medium, such as clean, coarse sand or peat muck soil that has
been thoroughly decomposed and is in good mechanical condi-
tion. Care must be exercised to avoid any possible agency
of decay, as the scales will rot at the least hint of infec-
tion. Some success is had with scale propagation by scat-
tering them on the ground where they will have shade through
the middle of the day, and covering with a light mulch of
The usual method employed is to propagate in boxes.
sifting in a light layer of sand or other suitable material, and
then covering this with a layer of the scales, another layer of
sand, another layer of scales, etc., until the box is full. The
sand should contain barely enough moisture to prevent the
scales from drying out. The moisture content should be
carefully watched, maintaining only enough moisture to keep
the scales from wilting. The sand should be examined twice
a week, and, if necessary, additional moisture may be sup-
plied by spraying water over the surface with an ordinary fly
spray atomizer. In about three weeks, tiny pips should ap-
pear on the concave side of the scale base where it was broken
loose from the parent base. Within a short time, these will
assume the form of small bulblets, which are quite identical
with those grown naturally on the stem on mature plants.
1 ig. U, Easter lil IIC 1 ] blooli,
30 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
They are now ready to plant out in the open. If prepara-
tion was started in August, the bulblets should be large
enough to plant out about the first of October, which is usual-
ly after summer rains and heat are over. Occasionally, the
larger of these bulblets will grow rapidly enough to put up a
stem six or eight inches high the first season, and even, in
rare instances one flower. But growers usually cut the bud
just as soon as it appears, in order to conserve the strength
for the bulb development. The season's growth should bring
the bulbs to a size that will develop two or three flowers. The
first size bulb in commercial grading should be from 6 to 7
inches in circumference and, unlike the narcissus, lilies are
always quoted by sizes in inches of circumference.
The planting season for Easter lilies in Florida is usually
September 1 to November 1. Since lilies must not be culti-
vated after the bloom stems have reached a height of three
or four inches, the Dutch bed method of planting is advised.
Lay the soil off to a depth of about four inches and rake the
bottom of the bed level. Space the blooming sized bulbs about
six inches apart each way, setting them upright (smaller
sized bulbs may be planted closer and not so deep) and re-
turn the soil to cover about four inches again, avoiding any
possibility of manure or any other decaying agency coming
in contact with the bulbs.
DIGGING AND STORING OF THE BULBS
Unlike most other bulbs, the Easter lily bulb should never
be dried out excessively or it will wilt and shrivel, thereby
losing much of its vitality. The natural season for the growth
to start is in the fall, with the approach of cool weather.
The bulbs may be left in the ground all summer, and, if dug
at all, should be lifted just before rooting starts (usually late
August and September). They may be immediately rebedded,
or kept in a cool place away from drying air currents for
several weeks. Imported bulbs are generally packed in tight
boxes of dry soil and are immediately placed in cold or cool
storage to prevent either rooting or excessive drying.
If at digging time the grower wishes to leave the old
bulbs and remove the natural stem increase, he may carefully
dig down around the old stem and remove it with the bulb-
lets, without disturbing the old bulbs at all. Where the soil
is reasonably well drained, it seems advisable not to disturb
the old bulbs, unless needed. for two or three years at a time,
after which they should be lifted and divided, to prevent root-
binding in clumps.
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA 31
CUTTING THE BLOOM
The Easter lily is considered not only a splendid plant for
bedding and potting, but also one of the finest for cut flowers.
The care and cutting of the bloom are important. Usually
the longer the stem, the more desirable the lily as a cut
flower. But one must bear in mind that the plant grown in
the open will not be likely to have as high a stalk as that
grown under glass or in part shade. Where the object is to
produce bulbs as well as bloom, the stems should not be cut
too close to the ground. At least six or eight inches of stalk
should be left to assist in properly maturing the bulb and
should not be again molested until it naturally dies down,
which in most cases will be in late June.
Unless one wishes to attempt to produce seeds, the anthers
should be removed as soon as the bloom opens, in order to
avoid the shattering of the yellow pollen over the pure white
interior of the flower, which spoils its appearance. This may
be done with the fingers and will be well repaid in the appear-
ance of the flowers when on display.
The bloom may be shipped some distance by parcel post
or express if cut when the buds begin to show white. The
stalks are tied in bunches of six and rolled tightly in paper
with the buds straightened out carefully, and several bunches
packed in a well lined box or crate that is long enough to
prevent bruising the buds. Upon opening the package, the
stems should be recut and placed in water, when they will
open quite naturally.
The so-called hybrids are the result of long years of care-
ful cross-pollination of the best obtainable stock. It is with
these that there seems, to be the best opportunity for commer-
cial production. When properly hand pollinated, they will
produce good crops of seed, although they are slow to propa-
gate by natural division, while the Johnsonii is the opposite,
producing many offsets and almost no seed.
The individual flowers of the common amaryllis do not
usually measure more than three inches across, and are con-
fined to the one color, red, while the hybrids frequently at-
tain a size of eight inches across the face of the flower and
the colors range from nearly pure white to the deepest
maroon, with many different patterns of white background
striped or splotched with brilliant colors of red and pink.
The bulbs may be planted in rows about 30 inches apart
and spaced four to six inches in the row, planted just deep
32 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
enough so that they are covered about two inches after the
soil has settled.
Fig. 14. The Am;aryllis. Courtesy Fla. Agrl. Ext. Div.
GROWING FROM SEED
For maximum seed production, hand pollination must be
practiced with amaryllis, taking pollen from one flower to
use in the next, being careful to use pollen from the very
finest bloom. The pollen is dusted over the pistil during the
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA
first three days it is in sight and before it is self-poili::ated.
as the latter condition usually does not produce much :;cod.
Seed ripen four to five weeks after pollination. As soon
as the pods turn dark and show signs of cracking open they
should be gathered and dried for a few days. The seed should
then be removed and planted at once.
Some growers plant the seed in flats under half shade
slatted sheds, while ethers prepare a bed with a tobacco cloth
covering, similar to the usual celery seedbed. Care must be
exercised to keep an even moisture in the bed without having
it wet enough to be siggy. When the plants are well started.
it is well to raise the shade, allowing some sunlight. This
should be increased as the weather cools off, until the shade
may be discontinued by November.
Frequent applications of liquid manure and some com-
mercial fertilizer with light cultivation, wi!l keep the plants
in a thrifty condition. They may be lined out in field forma-
tion in early spring, when they should have a diameter of
about three-quarters of an inch.
CAL LLA LLY
The cail. iily is a tuber inste.:d of a bulb, an.l is no t a all
related to the lily family. However, it is usually classed or
grouped wit.1 the flo,vering bulbs, cv.-wig to its habits of
growth and the fact that its bl:om is shared somewhat like
the individual Hlower of a lily. The foliage is medium dark
green with a large sized leaf, mounted on a fleshy stem from
12 to 30 inlc::e high. The bloom is a single )ptal shaped like
a cornucopia. Usually white shading to a delicate green cast
in the throat. ('ne of the newer var'ete:-. Zc' ,:dcs:chia
clll otiana or golden calla, is a beautiful yellNw with light
green leaves splotched with white. This is very new to Flor-
ida and is winning favor wherever seen. The White Calla
is Zalti'dcschia aehlliopi'a.
The tubers grow and increa.:e ve-y rapidl;- and, were it
not for a heavy decay most seasons, would soon be plentiful.
The parent tuber, when planted, begins to form increase as
soon as the tops are fully grown. The increase is in the form
of tiny tubers which grow from the eyes of the old one.
starting their own roots and foliage when about the size of
acorns. If in a favorable location they will spread to a solid
mass of roots and tubers in a year or two of growth.
The tubers are planted for commercial production in
34 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
Fig. 1.' Tnhers and offslioots of the Callai lily. Couro esy Fla. AI\ :-::t. DlT-
much the same form as any of the bulbs, 4 inches deep in
rows about 30 to 36 inches apart. Flat cultivation seems to
be the general practice. The foliage soon spreads out enough
to shade the ground, so that about all that is necessary is to
keep down the weeds.
So far as we know, the tubers should be left in the
ground until needed for other planting, which will probably
be towards spring, when they may be dug and replanted
while they have the least foliage. Many growers are troubled
with the tubers decaying in storage with a dry rot common-
ly called chalking. A methods of preventing this has not yet
come to our attention, although efforts are being made to
avoid this damage.
BULB PRODUCTION IN FLORIDA 35
For years the hyacinth has been considered one of the
foremost flowering bulbs of commerce in Europe and the
United States but, until recently, has not been considered
adaptable to Florida climatic conditions, and very little data
are available on results of trial plantings. One grower near
Daytona Beach, who has been trying hyacinths for the past
three seasons, now believes that both the Roman and Dutch
varieties will succeed if properly handled.
The practice has been to plant in the early fall and the
crop is matured and ready to lift in May. The same fertilizers
and handling methods as with narcissus are used. Some are
planted in Dutch beds and some in single rows, and seemed
satisfactory. Cultivation has been flat, and somewhat less
frequent than with narcissus.
A recent inspection of this crop showed the bulbs to have
made excellent growth and normal increase by division. The
bulbs, which were in storage, were clean, well shaped and
firm, and compared very favorably with Northern grown stock.
One objection so far has been that the bloom stems, when
grown in the open, are short.
A little experimental work has been done with the Crinum,
Eurcharis, Freesias. Montbretia. and Watsonia. but so far
these bulbs are of minor commercial importance in Florida.
Tulips have not been successful in Florida, although North-
ern grown bulbs have been fairly successful when planted
in the late fall.
Cannas, although not a true bulb, are classed as such by
many people. They are generally planted from the first of
February up to May or the first of June, as they do not stand
the winter cold very satisfactorily. Digging is started in
November and continues for some time, often up to March
In all plantings of bulbs of every kind there are always a
few scattering ones that are odd varieties, degenerates or
otherwise undesirable mixtures. To eliminate this condition
as closely as possible, a constant watch, especially during the
blooming period, must be maintained. Everything that is
not true to type should be removed immediately before its
identity is lost. This requires a number of inspections and
is considered one of the most important items of successful
36 DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
When the rogue is a standard variety, it is well to move
it to its own plot in another field, but if it is not of a very
desirable standard variety the best practice is to destroy it
and avoid getting it back into the stock through someone's
carelessness. Too much stress cannot be laid on the import-
ance of keeping the stock free from mixtures and the grower
who makes a constant effort to keep his stock up to the
highest possible standard will be well repaid for his efforts
when going into trade competition.
While the roguing process is taking place at blooming
time, where the bloom is not sent to market, it is well to pull
the heads off all bloom of the main crop when fully open to
prevent seeding, which will conserve some strength for the
bu!b and simplify the inspection of !ater bloom for rogues.
The bulbs produced in Florida have so far been marketed
through established wholesale distributors in the North. This
practice has been very satisfactory, owing to the economy of
shipping in car-lots and to being handled by established firms
who have been in the business for years. Smaller growers
have clubbed together in assembling shipments, or sold
through some larger shipper.
DISEASE AND INSECTS
Although insects and diseases are not as yet a serious
menace to bulbs in Florida, it is reasonable to suppose that
this many be due to the newness of the industry in the State.
Growers who desire information along this line should write
to the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Gainesville,
Fla., and the United States Department of Agriculture,
Washington, D. C.
LITERATURE ON BULB GROWING
The bulletins listed below will be of coVnsidcrable value to
anyone who desires to go deeper into the subject of bulb
growing, particularly Bulletin No. 48 by the Florida Exten-
l. Florida Agricultural Extension Division, Bulletin 48,
"Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida."
2. United States Department of Agricul:uic Bulletin No.
797, "Commercial Dutch-Bulb Culture in the United States."
'. United States Department of Agriculture Bulletin No-
.11)82. "The Production of Tulip Bulbs."
BULB PRODUCTION IN, FLORIDA 37
4. Department Bulletin No. 1270, U. S. Department of
Agriculture, "The Production of Narcissus Bulbs."
5. Department Bulletin No. 1327, U. S. Department of
Agriculture, "Production of Grape-Hyacinth Bulbs."
6. Department Bulletin No. 1331, U. S. Department of
Agriculture, "The Madonna Lily."
7. Department Bulletin No. 1459, U. S. Department of
Agriculture, "The Regal Lily."
8. Department Bulletin No. 1462, U. S. Department of
Agriculture, "American Bulbs under Glass."