A couple of things I’d like to know about

January 5, 2008
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Categories: Bulb Information, Growing Daffodils, Planting

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This week I got in a shipment of daffodil bulbs, and quite a few of the bulbs are not solid, if that’s the right word. When I “pinch” them a bit, they collapse. Is my thinking correct that these are useless?
Y’all have advised me that daff bulbs planted close together will produce flowers of less quality in succeeeding years. If part of the problem is diminished intake of nutrients, due to “competition” and other factors, can I effectively provide supplementary nutrients, and can that be done from above the bulb, instead of digging up the bulbs, replanting the nutrients, and then replanting the bulbs?
Jim Chaney McComb, Mississippi zone 8a USA

5 responses to “A couple of things I’d like to know about”

  1. Bill Lee says:

    I haven’t seen any answers from any of the experts yet, Jim, so I’m going to offer my opinions. If the bulb is simply dessicated (all dried up so it turns to dust) but the basal plate (the little hard ring at the base of the bulb where the roots come out) is still intact, it just might generate a new plant given enough years. However, if the bulb collapses in a mushy way I would put it immediately out for the trash collector. These mushy bulbs are more likely to be mushy because of a disease or a parasite and you want no remnants of that anywhere near your garden. I don’t care what you may have paid for the bulb–the risk is too great.
    Y’all have advised me that daff bulbs planted close together will produce flowers of less quality in succeeding years. If part of the problem is diminished intake of nutrients, due to “competition” and other factors, can I effectively provide supplementary nutrients, and can that be done from above the bulb, instead of digging up the bulbs, replanting the nutrients, and then replanting the bulbs?
    ===>I think most of us top-dress. Fall, when the roots are developing, logically seems like the best time. Maybe again in the spring. I know that a number of top-notch exhibitors dig their bulbs on a 3-year rotation, replenishing soil nutrients when they replant. A periodic soil test is probably also a good idea.
    Now, everyone, please feel free to contradict me. I’ve given you a starting point.
    Bill Lee

  2. Sandra Stewart says:

    Hi Jim!
    Where did they come from? If they are just soft, they may have been frozen in shipment (pretty likely with the weather we’ve been having) and will probably be all right. I got two crates of bulbs one time from Lavern Brusven (ADS member in Montana) that he sent me because his ground was frozen and wasn’t thawing out until spring. When I opened the boxes, I could actually see cold air still coming out! But my weather was warm and I left them in the garage for a couple of weeks. They felt a little soft and were white on the outside layer of the bulb skin. I was finally forced to plant them when they shot out green leaves two inches high! There were one or two that went bad in the box, but not enough to notice.
    By the way, I just talked to Lavern before the holidays and he emailed me that he is back home this week enjoying unusually warm weather for January right now. I don’t know if any of y’all have ever planted bulbs from Montana, but they are fabulous…as big and fat as those from foreign lands! I was really impressed and still am. All the bulbs I’ve received from Lavern were still robust and blooming here last spring…even some old white ones that are supposed to be susceptible to basal rot.
    If they are really soft, my method is to stand next to the garbage bag and count how many bad bulbs you get that squish when you squeeze them in your hand like a tennis ball. Then I put the mushed ones in the trash and notify the sender of the condition so they can correct it for themselves (and for you too if you paid money). If the bulbs are black inside or smell bad, they had bulb flies in them.
    Regarding nutrients/fertilizer, I ALWAYS top dress everything through mulch, even when I’m first planting. Of course, this will require watering in if you’re not getting much rainfall. I never put any fertilizer in the soil under the bulbs or dig them up until I’m ready to divide them. That’s been my problem for the last few years…I can always dig up more bulbs that I can find a place to plant back 😉
    Never, ever be digging around in your bulbs to see if they are growing! It’s like watching water waiting for it to boil…a big waste of time.
    Let us know what you’re planting!
    Sandra Stewart Jasper Alabama

  3. Sandra Stewart says:

    Bill, when are you going to admit that you’re an expert, too ??!!! Where do people think I got all my knowledge??? collecting it from people like you!!
    Avoiding hard labor…Sandra

  4. Keith Kridler says:

    I think that everyone who responded to this thread gave you expert advice! I agree you ALWAYS need to read and heed the advice coming from Bill Lee’s posts!
    A daffodil expert is just someone who has killed more daffodils and made more mistakes than you have but they continue to keep buying and trying. They continue to share what worked for them and what failed:-))
    A couple of things to remember about bulbs!!!
    This is JANUARY you CANNOT expect apples, potatoes or DAFFODIL bulbs to still be in the same perfect, “firm fleshed” condition that they were dug in now a full 6 months ago.
    Bulbs continue to breathe and lose moisture all during their storage time. They begin by sacrificing the moisture in the outer rings or layers of the bulb. Normally you can pop off a couple layers or a couple of skins off of the bulb and you can find a firm middle to the bulb.
    If stored in a hot “big box store” at 70*F and low humidity then by now the entire bulb is getting just a little soft just like a bag of potatoes will quickly get soft and begin to sprout now when you buy them and bring them home!
    Daffodil bulbs will actually keep getting smaller and smaller the longer you keep them in storage. Some will become softer to feel and lighter in weight and not lose so much in size.
    I like to set up a strong fan to blow across a big batch of bulbs then roll the bulbs vigorously between my hands and the bottom of trays and this will blow away dirt, loose bulbs skins, mold spores ETC. Do this outside!
    You quickly get a feel for which of the bulbs are solid enough to plant. Really dried out husks will blow away.
    If the bulbs are just soft from storage and still living we then soak them in a solution of liquid fertilizer. I normally take a five gallon plastic bucket of bulbs and pour in about three gallons of warm to the touch liquid fertilizer water. The bulbs want to float so I then weight them down and push all of them under the fertilizer water and allow them to soak for several hours or even overnight if they are really dried out.
    This lets them rehydrate much quicker than if you placed really dried out bulbs in regular soil. This also lets the bulbs pull up much needed macro and micro nutrients out of this solution for use later. It speeds up root development over just planting them in moist soil. A five gallon bucket filled with dried out bulbs will EASILY soak up one gallon of fertilizer water!
    IF the bulbs are REALLY dried out and have lots of loose layers of skin I add a few drops of dish soap to each bucket as this helps the fertilizer water soak into the bulbs quicker. Dried skins repel plain water.
    If you soak the bulbs overnight then they should feel better the next day IF they are alive and well. Bulbs that are really soft should probably be cut through with a sharp knife to let you to see if they are alive or dead. Cut from the point of the bulb straight down the middle to dissect the middle of the basal plate. Then if you discover you just cut a $20 bulb in two that was really OK then you can learn how to save these cut pieces and double your investment:-))
    No one mentioned it but you also use your nose! I can open up a box of daffodils and with one whiff you can smell if it includes ANY bulbs that are actually rotten! Totally dried out bulbs also have their own musky scent.
    I will try to post some pictures later today since it is 66*F and perfect planting weather here in Texas. Keith Kridler Mt. Pleasant, Texas

  5. Bill Lee says:

    A daffodil expert is just someone who has killed more daffodils and made more mistakes than you have but they continue to keep buying and trying.

    That describes me pretty well!
    Keith’s advice on soaking dried out bulbs in a fertilizer solution was new to me. I’m going to remember that! Even old dogs can learn new tricks.
    Bill Lee


    Start the year off right.