Title: Flowering bulb culture in Florida
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00026128/00001
 Material Information
Title: Flowering bulb culture in Florida
Alternate Title: Bulletin 48 ; Florida Agricultural Extension Service
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Brown, T. A.
Publisher: Agricultural Extension Division, University of Florida
Publication Date: June, 1928
Copyright Date: 1928
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00026128
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aab7709 - LTQF
amt6585 - LTUF
47284610 - OCLC
002570276 - AlephBibNum


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The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source

site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.

Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
of Florida

Bulletin 48

(Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914)




County Agent, Volusia County, Florida

Fig. 1.-A field of Easter lilies.

Bulletins will be sent free upon application to the Agricultural Extension
Division, Gainesville, Florida

June, 1928

P. K. YONGE, Chairman, Pensacola
W. B. DAVIS, Perry
E. W. LANE, Jacksonville
J. T. DIAMOND, Secretary, Tallahassee


J. M. FARR, A. M., PH.D., Acting President of the University
WILMON NEWELL, D.Sc.. Director
A. P. SPENCER, M.S., Vice-Director and County Agent Leader
ERNEST G. MOORE, M.S., Assistant Editor
GRACE GREENE, Secretary to County Agent Leader

W. T. NETTLES, B.S., District Agent
H. G. CLAYTON, M.S.A., District Agent
J. LEE SMITH, District Agent
R. W. BLACKLOCK, A.B., Boys' Club Agent
HAMLIN L. BROWN, B.S., Dairy Specialist
E. F. DEBUSK, B.S., Citrus Pathologist and Entomologist
N. R. MEHRHOF, M. AGR., Poultryman

VIRGINIA P. MOORE, Assistant State Agent
LUCY BELLE SETTLE, B.S., District Agent
RUBY MCDAVID, District Agent
MARY E. KEOWN, M.S., District Agent
ISABELLE S. THURSBY, B.S., Food and Marketing Agent
MARY A. STENNIS, M.A., Home Dairy and Nutrition Agent



For many years, there have been growing in dooryards in
central Florida many different kinds of flowering bulbs, and for
as many years there have been disappointments on account of
the failure of certain other bulbs to do well under Florida condi-
tions. Until recently there have been few attempts to grow
flowering bulbs on a commercial basis. However, the interest in
commercial production of bulbs has grown quite rapidly and
there now appears to be so great a demand for information on
bulb culture that an attempt has been made here to set out some
of the ideas and practices that seem to have had an important
bearing towards successful bulb culture in Florida up to this
It will be borne in mind that no technical discussion will be at-
tempted, but that this information has been gathered from the
experience and observations of pioneers and amateurs who have
been studying bulb growing under conditions of climate, soils,
rainfall, etc., in Florida which are widely different from those in
Northern States and Foreign countries.
Many questions covering bulb growing in Florida have not
been solved and this bulletin makes no pretense of being the
final word.

One of the first questions asked by a person just going into
bulb growing, is, "How many bulbs does it take to plant an
acre?" The answer to this will of course depend on the width
of the rows and the distance apart in the rows the bulbs are
planted. Small slabs will be planted closer together than mother
bulbs or commercial bulbs, and more of the slabs would naturally
be required to the acre. In general, the number of bulbs to the
acre ranges from 50,000 to 100,000.


The Gladiolus is now one of the most common of the flowering
bulbs, and can be grown well in season in almost every state in
the Union, where reasonable cultural care is exercised.

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While the origin seems to have been in South Africa, the
American public has taken this delightful flower on its merits
and adopted it for its own. No American flower garden is com-
plete without it in many varieties, of which there are thousands.


The varieties of primulinus hybrids, evolved from the cross-
ing 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 gen-
erally grown for the florist's trade:

Alice Tiplady Orange
America Lavender pink
Brenchleyensis Bright red
Chicago White Pure white with lavender
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. 0. W. Halliday Pink with yellow throat
Niagara Primrose yellow
Panama Deep pink
Peace White with lilac feather-
ing in throat
Schwaben Yellow with garnet blotch
in throat


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 gar-
den. On the other hand, the easiest and most satisfactory 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
Standard sizes of bulbs are: No. 1, 11/2 inches and over in
diameter; No. 2, 1 to 11/2 inches; No. 3, 1 to 11/ inches; No.
4, -3. to 1 inch; No. 5, 1/ to %/. inch; and No. 6, 14 to 1 inch in
diameter. The best planting stock for the average beginner
probably is the two-year old bulb that is from 1i4 to 2 inches
in diameter and thick from top to bottom. Such bulb is called

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

by commercial growers as fat, or plump, and is usually a vigor-
ous grower and bloomer. This will include the sizes numbered
1 and 2. Smaller ones will often bloom well but are not so vig-
orous 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 in-
duce 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 small corms or cormels (bulb-
lets), that will range in
size from a No. 6 down
to the size of a pea, and
which should be careful-
ly saved at digging time
for replanting and the
subsequent 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 Fig. 2.-Gladiolus, showing old bulb, new
with a wet sack for three bulb and increase.
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
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

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(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 same ground.
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 discarded.

While Gladioli will grow and bloom fairly well in almost any
well drained soil that has been well worked and contains plenty
of moisture, they do best on a heavy loam where Irish potatoes
will grow well. The culture and fertilizer usually given potatoes
seem to suit bulbs. Bulbs should not be planted on very new
ground that is full of palmetto roots, or has too much lime, re-
cently applied. The land should be well subdued and in good
state of tilth. The more humus the better, if it is well rotted
down and mixed with the soil, but it should not consist of raw
manures or any agency that will stimulate decay, or trouble is
likely to follow. Commercial fertilizers may and should be used,
mixed in the row at planting time and as a side-dressing later.
A light application of nitrate of soda is sometimes found very
beneficial if applied just before blooming time.

Bulbs grown in the North, being planted in May and June and
harvested in October, should not be planted much before Christ-
mas 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

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

growth, and then planting must be done at once or top growth
will start and vitality of the bulbs will be rapidly depleted.
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 uniformly.
However, this point seems not to have been definitely 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 production of flowers for profitable mar-
kets, 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 North. Cormels (bulb-
lets) should be planted about 50 to the foot in straight rows
that have a very definite V-shaped bottom, to simplify cultiva-
tion 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 approach maturity.
Blooming bulbs should be planted six inches deep and a dis-
tance apart equal to the width of a bulb, thus allowing for ex-
pansion 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 de-
velop 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 firm-
ly 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 re-
planted or stored.
In dooryards, many people prefer to plant blooming bulbs six
inches apart each way, in Dutch beds or in borders or designs.
In the open field for commercial production, most growers plant
in single rows to enable them to cultivate with horse power,

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thereby reducing the cost. In this case, the distance between the
rows will be governed largely by the type of cultivation used
and the moisture conditions. The average grower finds that in
order to get through between the rows at blooming 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 manner 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 a good six inches in the soil or
the heavy bloom stalk will pull the plant over in the sand at
the first strong wind.

In the dooryard beds, there may not be any occasion to dig
every year. We have seen bulbs left in the ground three or four
growing seasons and yet put up excellent bloom, although sod-
ded together in the rows or clumps very thickly, because the
numbers had been multiplied by a new crop of cormels at each
growth. This was in very strong land, and while the original
bulbs had disintegrated, the younger ones had replaced them in
the blooming ranks.
Cormels planted in September and October make their reg-
ular growth and die down in the early spring, although some
will be delayed until others are half grown. This necessitates
digging while some are immature, which is not usually consid-
ered much loss. If left in the ground for the late ones to mature,
some of the earlier ones will be growing again before these lat-
est ones are ready to dig. One must decide when to dig by watch-
ing the general average.
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 nar-
row 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. Natu-
rally, 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 bulbs are.

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

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 proba-
bility 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 merchantable

Northern growers of Gladioli, who have but one season each
year for production, tell us that from 75 to 120 days are required
from planting time to bloom, according to variety. However, in
Florida, much less time is sometimes required, and it is diffi-
cult 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 open.
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 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

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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 be-
come bruised. The hamper should be marked on top with large
plain label indicating the nature of contents and cautioning ex-
press employees to keep right side up, or injury to the flowers
will surely follow.
In cutting flowers for the house or show window, several
flowers on each spike should be open, and the others will open
as the first ones fade. They should not be placed in a draft as
they evaporate water readily. Each day the stems should be
cut fresh, taking off a half inch each time. Fresh water should
be provided each day. With proper care thus given daily, all of
the buds should open eventually and as the old blooms fade they
should be pulled off to keep the bouquet looking fresh. In this
way it should last for several days and be a delight to the eye
of any lover of beauty.
The fact that the Gladiolus bloom has no scent whatever
makes it especially desirable for the sick room, and the wonder-
ful colors make it a source of delight wherever seen.
After the main crop of bloom has been cut, the culls that have
not made proper development, are stubby or not true to type,
should be pulled up and discarded before their identity has been
lost, and the more careful the grower is in his roguing, the more
satisfaction will he have with succeeding crops.

This dainty member of the flowering bulb group, belonging
in the class with the Amaryllis, seems to be one of the oldest
cultivated flowers of which we have a record. Greek mythology
relates the story of a very beautiful youth named Narcissus, who,
gazing into a quiet pool, became so enamoured of his own beauty

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

that he pined away to only a spirit. The Gods gave his name to
the dainty flower which is known and admired the world over.
Originally a native of southern Europe and Asia, it has been
naturalized in all parts of the civilized world and has become a
great favorite with gardeners everywhere. Owing to its adapta-
bility to forcing under glass or in bowls of water and gravel, it
has become one of the foremost flowering bulbs in the trade.

Fig. 3.-Bloom of the paperwhite Narcissus.

Different countries have bred up different strains of Narcissi
until the varieties are now numbered in hundreds. There are 11
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 the Polyanthus in Southern France, Italy and China. It is
a I

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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 variety.
The Polyanthus (Tagetta and Tagetta hybrids) varieties usu-
ally found in Florida commercial plantings are the Paperwhite,
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 types do equally well and are
handled in much the same manner. 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 Seminole counties.


As with every other flowering bulb, the type variation in
Narcissi is so great when plants are grown from seed that com-
mercial producers depend entirely upon propagation from the
natural division of the bulbs. This occurs at a certain stage of
growth by means of offsets or slabs separating from the mother
bulb, which, when planted separately, under proper cultural con-
ditions 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 planted in the greenhouse and forced for bloom, the only
object is to get the finest bloom in the shortest possible time.
After this the bulbs are usually discarded and destroyed, but if
they are carried on to maturity and properly handled they may
be returned to the field and rejuvenated for propagation purposes.
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

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

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 weak-
ening the blooming ability of the later generations. Such 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 m o t h e r
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 the sec-
ond year they should keep up
the supply of slabs, enabling
the grower to turn off some- ,\
thing each year thereafter.
Some of the larger slabs will
split again instead of round-
ing up, and some of the small-
er ones will not make a round
bulb of the size required by
the trade and must be plant-
ed back with the growing-on Fig. 4.-The Narcissus bulb of com-
stock if typical of ihe variety. merce-natural size.
This does not imply that the grower should increase his plant-
ing stock with bulbs that will not make the grade, but on the
contrary, 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.

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While good Narcissus bulbs will make a nice growth of foli-
age and bloom well in nothing but water, using the food stored in
the bulb, it stands to reason that this ex-
hausts the vi- tality of the bulb to such an
extent that it will not be much good again.
By the same token, bulbs that are planted
in very poor soil will apparently make a
fair 1 y good growth but will not be found
to have the L vigor expected when planted
out another season, and are very disap-
pointing in re- suits.
The best re- sults to date have been found
where the bulbs have been grown in a
heavy loam which is found suitable for
Irish potatoes and vegetables. A heavy type
of orange grove soil, hammock soil or
"flatwoods," seems to be ideal
for this crop, and should be
well worked to a
good depth to in-
sure ample root-
ing space an d
drainage. While
Narcissus will
stand being sub-
merged in water
for a few hours
during a heavy
rainfall, the
roots should not
be subjected to
continuous wet
conditions in the
field. The souring
i i of the soil and
the absence of air
Fig. 5.-Narcissus mother bulb and slabs (below).
The mother bulb cleaned of slabs and roots is will cause a
shown above. sloughing off of
the roots and the development of basal rot, which is very dis-
astrous. At the same time a good soil moisture must be main-
tained for best results, the same as with any vegetable crop.

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

Little has been done as yet to determine just what fertilizer
combinations will give best results with Narcissi, but so far
most growers have found that a good Irish potato fertilizer
analyzing around 5-7-5 (N. P. K.), about half from organic and
half from inorganic sources, has produced satisfactory results.
Some growers seem to think that more potash than 5 percent
should be used, and we concede that much is yet to be learned
by field trials.
Where the single row method is followed, with 50 to 70 thou-
sand bulbs per acre, one half to one ton of fertilizer is broadcast
on the land and disked in, or drilled into the row and reworked
to mix with the soil before planting. Some growers side-dress
with another application when the bloom period is about over.
Others claim that this is not necessary, having a tendency to.
promote a second growth, and is therefore undesirable. Late ap-
plications of fertilizer or water should be avoided on this ac-
count, as they may stimulate a second growth which leaves the
bulbs soft after digging, resulting in some decay of the centers
and great difficulty in grading for market.

Owing to the fact that this crop requires a long growing pe-
riod, 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 favorable. Later dig-
ging 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 drainage.
Where 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"

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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 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

Fig. 6.-Mother bulb and offsets of the Narcissus

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 start-
ing to root, if not held down by plenty of covering. Subsequent
workings will draw the soil from the middle up to the rows and

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

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, straight and one exact
distance apart in every case.
Implements for cultivating are varied, according to the size
of planting and type of cultivation-whether ridged or flat.
Some use nothing but a garden cultivator and others use a sweep.
In large plantings, a potato ridger or two-horse corn plow is
sometimes used. In case of the latter, care must be taken to
avoid running the shovels so deep as to disturb the roots.

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 im-
portant items of successful bulb culture.
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 desir-
able 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 importance 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 seed-
ing, which will conserve some strength for the bulb and sim-
plify the inspection of later bloom for rogues.

Narcissi should not be harvested until the tops have complete-
ly died down at maturity, which is usually the latter part of
May or early June. But they should be dug before summer rains

Florida Cooperative Extension

start the bulbs into second growth. If dug in a growing condi-
tion, 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 re-
maining 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.

Fig. 7.-Slab (left) and flowering Narcissus bulb.

The larger growers are now quite universally using a mechan-
ical potato digger for lifting the crop. This is proving 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 storage.

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida


As soon as the bulbs are dug, they should be taken at once
to the storage or curing shed, which should be absolutely dry
and well ventilated. It should be arranged so that the sun will
not shine directly on the bulbs at any time, the most approved
type of shed being located east and west the long way, with a
driveway through the center and the bins on each side. A build-
ing 24 feet wide has been found very satisfactory, providing an
8-foot driveway and bins 8 feet wide.

Fig. 8.-One type of bulb curing shed.

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 heat-
ing. If piled up when freshly dug, or even left in field barrels or
crates over night, bulbs are likely to be injured 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 prevent the bulbs rolling out. Provision
should be made to lock the shed to prevent the innocently curi-

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ous visitor from handling 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 leakage
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 pro-
tect 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 protection 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 examine 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 letting the air
through. If the bulbs should be wet when stored this stirring is
essential until they become thoroughly dry.

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 remainder of the top, may
be easily cleaned off. As the slabs 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 circumference 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
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

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

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 em-
bryo may be found similar embryos of foliage, which later de-
velop 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 to be very unsatisfactory 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 opera-
tion 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. A table is made with a
regular series of two inch auger holes in the top, the series be-
ing 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 operator and the bulbs all drop through a chute
into the packing case, which is then known to contain exactly
a certain number of bulbs.

As yet there is no set standard for the packing case, two or
three different types being in use. The one most generally ap-
proved seems to be one that is light and strong, having the

Florida Cooperative Extension

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 centi-
meter bulb measures 13 centimeters in horizontal circumference.
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 circumference or 1.6 inches
in diameter. As the sizes advance, a less number will fill the
crate. Thus 1,000 13 centimeter bulbs, 900 14 centimeter, and
800 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 301/2" x 1434" x 14" and holding 1,000 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 times to avoid getting the bulbs
wet after curing has begun or they will immediately start root-
ing and growth, even though absolutely free from soil. After
packing, the bulbs may be kept for several months in dry, cool
storage without any damage whatever.

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.
The practice of shipping the bloom, in most cases, has been
found unsatisfactory, and is considered rather unfair to the
forcer to whom one expects to sell bulbs. It is difficult to get
the bloom to Northern markets in good condition. It is consid-

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

ered bad practice to cut any foliage with the bloom. Therefore
the shipped flowers are not usually in first class condition to go
into competition with the product of the greenhouse and con-
sequently cheapen the product unfairly.


The Easter lily best adapted to Florida conditions, appears to
be the Harrisii, which is of the longiflorum 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 Regale, Candidium, Ru-
brum, 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 numbers and adapt-
ing themselves to our climate. The other varieties of the longi-
florum species, such as Gigantum, Formosum and Erabu, have
not as yet met with as much success as the Harrisii, perhaps
owing to the fact that the latter has been naturalized here for
many more years than any of the others.
In Florida, the Easter Lily does not seed as freely as in some
other localities, and for this reason most of the increase is ob-
tained by vegetative propagation, viz: stem bulblets and scales.
(See U. S. D. A. Farmers' Bulletin No. 962.)


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 sea-
sons. This is the most natural method of propagation, but where
the grower wishes to increase his stock more rapidly, he mnay
do so by breaking the mature bulbs apart and using the result-
ant scales of the bulb for propagation.
The general method following the breaking up of the bulbs is
to layer the scales immediately in some moisture carrying me-
dium, such as clean coarse sand or peat muck soil that has been
thoroughly decomposed and is in good mechanical condition.
Care must be exercised to avoid any possible agency of decay, as

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the scales will rot at the least hint of infection. Some success is
had with scale propagation by scattering them on the ground
where they will have shade through the middle of the day, and
covering with a light mulch of leaves.
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 supplied by spraying
water over the surface with an ordinary fly spray atomizer. In
about three weeks, tiny pipps should appear on the concave
side of the scale base where it was broken loose from the par-
ent base. Within a short time, these will assume the form of
small bulblets, which are quite identical with those grown natu-
rally on the stem on mature plants.
They are now ready to plant out in the open. If preparation
was started in August, the bulblets should be large enough to
plant out about the first of October, which is usually after sum-
mer 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 ap-
pears, in order to conserve the strength for the bulb develop-
ment. 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 circumfer-
ence and, unlike the Narcissus, lilies are always quoted by sizes
in inches of circumference.

Almost any well drained soil will, if properly handled, grow
Easter lilies, the range running from Marion County clay to
East Coast dune sand. The clay-sand-loam in the vicinity of
Eustis, Mt. Dora, Leesburg and Umatilla has produced strong,
vigorous plants with the least cultural troubles that we have
seen, although individual successes have been observed all over
central Florida.

Flowering Bulb Culi,, b in Florida


The planting season for Easter lilies in Florida is usually Sep-
tember 1 to November 1. Since lilies must not be cultivated 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 return the soil to cover
about four inches again, avoiding any possibility of manure or
any other decaying agency coming in contact with the bulbs.
A light application of commercial fertilizer, such as is used
on vegetables, should be raked into the top soil, and a light
mulch of well rotted manure applied on the surface. Very little
cultivation, if any, should be practiced and after the plants are
well up, additional mulching may be added. Occasional feedings
of liquid manure or dissolved nitrate of soda in small quantities
are beneficial to the plants. Grass and weeds should be kept
pulled out of the beds, but one must be very careful not to dis-
turb the surface roots, as the plants are very sensitive to root
injury. Merely walking across the bed will often result in the
yellowing of the foliage and consequent stunting of the plants.


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 Sep-
tember). 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 root-
ing 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 bulblets, without
disturbing the old bulbs at all. Where the soil is reasonably well
drained, it seems advisable not to disturb the old bulbs, unless

Florida Cooperative Extension

needed, for two or three years at a time, after which they should
be lifted and divided, to prevent root-binding in clumps.


The Easter lily is considered not only a splendid plant for bed-
ding 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 prop-
erly 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 seed, 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 appearance 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 re-
cut and placed in water, when they will open quite naturally.

This is one of the favorite flowers for the dooryard in Flor-
ida, usually blooming in spring-February, March and April.
While it has not been produced in commercial quantities until
very recently, the Amaryllis should soon take its rightful place
as a bedding and pot plant. The small red species, Johnsonii,
found in such great numbers in dooryards from Palatka to Lake-
land, has been grown here for many years. It is a great favorite
for borders and beds, owing to its ability to shift for itself under
almost any conditions, especially in the lighter sandy soils.
The so-called hybrids are the result of long years of careful

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida

cross-pollination of the best obtainable stock. It is with these
that there seems to be the best opportunity for commercial pro-
duction. When properly hand pollinated they will produce good
crops of seed, although they are slow to propagate 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 usu-
ally measure more than three inches across, and are confined to
the one color, red,
while the hybrids
frequently attain
a size of eight
inches across the
face of the flow-
er and the colors
range from near-
ly pure white to
the deepest ma-
roon, with many
different patterns
of white back-
ground striped or
splotched w i t h
brilliant colors of
red and pink.
Amaryllis seem
to adapt them-
selves to a wide
range of soils,
but the best re-
sults appear to
be attained on a
strong loam ap-
proaching stiff-
ness. Hammock
or heavy flat-
woods vegetable
or potato soils
or potato soils Fig. 9.-The Amarvllis.
are excellent if
well drained and irrigated when needed. Good drainage is very

Florida Cooperative Extension

essential but not more so than plenty of moisture during the
growing season.

The soil should be well worked to a depth of six or eight
inches and in a good mechanical condition. Half a ton of com-
plete fertilizer, such as is used on potatoes and vegetables in
about three applications during February, May and September,
supplemented by well rotted stable manure, if possible, to keep
up the humus content of the soil, may be broadcast or sown in
the drills and well mixed with the soil. The rows should be about
30 inches apart and the bulbs spaced 4 to 6 inches in the row,
planted just deep enough so that they are covered about two
inches after the soil has settled.


For maximum seed production, hand pollination must be prac-
ticed 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 first three days
it is in sight and before it is self-pollinated, as the latter condi-
tion usually does not produce much seed.
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 re-
moved and planted at once.
Some growers plant the seed in flats under half shade slatted
sheds, while others 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 soggy. 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
Frequent applications of liquid manure and some commercial
fertilizer with light cultivation, will keep the plants in a thrifty
condition. They may be lined out in field formation in early
spring, when they should have a diameter of about three quar-
ters of an inch.

Flowering Bulb Culture in Florida


Crinum, sometimes called "spider lily," is a large type of the
Amaryllis family which is very common in Florida dooryards.
It grows in almost any kind of soils, making a rapid growth
where conditions are favorable. In early spring and summer it
sends up heavy bloom stalks which bear clusters of three to five
flowers of an open trumpet shape, usually white in color, with
stripes of red or pink. The bulbs have a tendency to grow large,
often reaching six inches in diameter. Natural propagation is
generous from both offsets and seed. The seed, however, do not
grow readily un-
less gathered and
handled with as
some care. Hab-
its of growth and
cultural practices
are very similar
to those of the
Amaryllis, but no
great commercial
value has yet
been placed o n
the Crinum.
Eucharis (com-
monly called
Christmas L i 1 y
or Amazon Lily)
is one of the
Amaryllis family,
growing from a
fleshy white bulb,
and having dark
green wax y Fig. 10.-The Eucharis (Amazon lily).
leaves as wide as
a man's hand. This is an ideal pot plant, as the heavy clump of
foliage stays green the year round, the pure white waxy flowers,
several of which are produced in a cluster at the top of each
stalk, blooming as early as December and as late as early March.

Florida Cooperative Extension

The natural increase is from offsets and is rather slow, hence
the numbers are comparatively few.
Eucharis is grown best in large pots or boxes, and appreciates
some shade. It is rather sensitive to cold and is used mainly for
porch boxes and dooryards where it may be protected from frost
damage. It is supposed to be native to northern South America.

While this is a member of the bulb group that has been grown
in Florida for a good many years, it does not seem to be very
well known. California produces most of the bulbs for the trade.
The bulbs are small, 12 to 1 inch in diameter and conical in
shape. The bloom stems are seldom more than a foot in length
and the small trumpet shaped flowers set in a double row along
the upper third of the stem, usually six to a dozen in number.
There are several varieties of color, but the best we have seen
in Florida have been the yellows and whites. Very little work
has been done with Freesias here, and about all that we can say
is to try several colors, planting the bulbs in early September
so that the bloom period will be past and the bulbs matured be-
fore mid-winter cold kills the tops. A spring crop is sometimes
produced by planting in late February, but is not considered as
good as the fall crop.

This dainty little flower is perhaps most easily described as
the "vest pocket edition" of the Gladiolus, having somewhat the
same character of bulb and foliage and producing its flowers on
delicate spikes slightly similar, and of a wide range of colors.
The bulbs are planted in early spring-February and March-
and will bloom in July. When foliage dies down in the fall, the
bulbs may be dug and stored the same as Gladiolus, or may be
left in the ground for two or three seasons at a time until the
clumps become root-bound. Any good soil, well drained, will
grow Montbretias, and they appear to appreciate a location that
is partly shaded.
This is another of the bulbs similar to the Gladiolus, having
much the same type of bulb and foliage. The bloom stalks at-
tain a height of 30 to 36 inches and the flowers are produced on

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