The Q&A Archives: Care For Unidentified Bulbs

Question: Is there a general rule on care for bulbs if you don't know what they are? I dug a bunch of bulbs from my grandmother's yard (Alabama). They have been there since 1980 when they were dug from a long neglected yard in Pittsburg, PA. They have never bloomed in the south but supposedly bloomed in PA. They produced new bulbs from offshoots (like daffodils). The larger bulbs take 2 hands to wrap around them. They have leaves about 2-2 1/2" wide and about 18" long, each bulb averages 6 leaves. The leaves are not dying off like my daffodils so I'm guessing they are not spring bloomers. What should I do to get them producing blooms again?

Answer: I'll attempt to be a botannical Sherlock Holmes for you! Judging from the size of the bulbs, you may be dealing with a Crinum Lily or an Amaryllis.

As for a generic recommendation, I'd dig the bulbs in September. If they were not in a location with at least part sun, you should relocate them to a spot that has part to full sun. Work lots of composted organic matter into the soil. Dig a hole deep enough to plant the bulb with the neck just above the ground. Mix a handfull of bonemeal into the soil in the bottom of each planting hole, set the bulbs in and firm the soil around them. Make sure and leave the neck sticking up above the soil. Water well and when growth resumes in spring begin to fertilize with a complete liquid fertilizer every two weeks. Hope this helps!

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