Any tulip breeders? :)

sunandshadowJanuary 28, 2010

I caught tulipmania this past fall. I tried to get about 10 bulbs each of 2 dozen varieties. Planted most of them outside, but I was impatient so I figured I could force some in my basement and get a head start on the breeding. Well, it has not been going so great! lol

I refrigerated 20 bulbs for a month, then planted them in tubs of pre-fertilized soil, under flourescent grow lights. Probably my first mistake was not using sterilized soil or potting mix because fruit flies immediately hatched out of the soil. -_- Two bulbs died due to fungus, but the other 10 all sprouted. The Claudias all did great - The third is flowering currently and I'm hoping it lasts long enough to be bred with the first bulb of a different variety which is going to bloom in about two days.

However, one of the bulbs produced full-sized leaves (lighter green than the others) but did not produce a flower stem. Then a brown stain started to spread up the stem from ground level, and then the leaves/stem fell off. Is this bulb a goner, and do I need to immediately dig it up and discard it and the soil around it? There is another bulb in the container with it.

Also, several of my tulips got an inch high and just stopped growing. o.O Would this be because my basement isn't quite warm enough? I thought I was giving them the right amount of water, and they have plenty of light...

For future reference, do any of you wash/soak tulip bulbs in some sort of antifungal/antibacterial solution before planting, and are you careful to used sterilized soil? Or should I just ignore the fruit flies and assume the fungused bulbs were bad when I got them?

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Your 'fruit flies' are most likely fungus gnats and an indication you've kept the potting soil too moist. That would also explain your fungal problems with the bulbs. For forcing bulbs, it is not necessary to treat them with any anti-disease agents or used sterilized soil. Any good quality, fast draining potting soil will work, but just keep it barely moist to the touch.

4 weeks is also not a long enough chill period for the tulips to develop properly and that may also have had an impact on the performance of the bulbs, with stunted growth and failure to bloom. They need around 13 weeks of temps around 40F to vernalize and set flowers. Usually a typical chill period for indoor forcing is 10-12 weeks. It doesn't hurt to chill them longer but it is not great to chill them for less time.

Another helpful thing to know is that not all tulips can be forced equally as well. Some varieties just respond to this treatment better than others and are most often recommended for this method.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 9:00AM
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not a breeder, but live in zone 7B. That means we have to chill our tulips for 3 months.

I've had tulips only get about 2 inches tall...insufficient chill time! I've gotten foliage without buds...insufficient chill time.

My best guess? insufficient chill time. 30 days in the fridge isn't enough to mimic winter and spring. sorry...

    Bookmark   January 29, 2010 at 4:11PM
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Ah, if insufficient chill time can cause them to stop growing at a few inches tall, that was probably the reason.

I googled fungus gnats, but the bugs I have don't look like that, they really look like fruit flies. I got a bottle of organic oil spray that kills fungus and insects, so maybe that will help.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2010 at 5:53PM
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Adult fungus gnats look very much like adult fruit flies and many folks confuse the two. Fruit flies will not be present unless there is fruit for them to lay eggs and feed - they don't dwell in potting soil. OTOH, fungus gnats DO live in soil, especially soil with an organic base and that stays very moist - they lay eggs just under the soil surface and the larvae feeds on rotting organic matter in the soil.

Sprays are not all that helpful with regards to the larvae and if you don't kill the larvae as well as the flying adults, you will continue to have problems. There's several suggested recommendations - repot with fesh soil and keep the pot dryer (don't water excessively). Or if it is difficult to repot, remove the top layer of soil, about a half inch or so, and top with coarse sand. Removing the soil removes larvae and the sand makes a very inhospitable nursery for new eggs/larvae.

Since these are bulbs and not doing all that well anyway, I'd just remove those infested with the gnats and either discard or plant outside for normal tulip growth.

Potted bulbs need very little water - only enough to keep the soil just barely moist.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 9:04AM
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