What happend to my bulbs, gross! & questions.

julianne75June 25, 2008

So I planted over a 200 bulbs 1/2 which were Iris bulbs, not rizhomes. They didn't flower last year and nothing but a couple of gladiolas came up this year. So I dug it all up. In the area where the iris was I only found about 6 bulbs which had rooted but nothing else. No evidence of infestation, moles etc... only a few grubs but nothing overly concerning. Then I dug up over by my deck, this area that had the majority of gladiolas, lillies, and several other bulbs. The few bulbs I found were very mushy and when opened covered in hundreds of tiny white bugs that look like tiny grains of fast moving rice. I have reseached every bug I could find and nothing quite looks like what I found. Not grubs, whitefly, bulb mites, and several other varieties. When I described them to my local nursery he said thrips but when I looked those up, not those either. This area was so infested I couldn't believe it. I used a bayer grub plus and its been sitting for over a week. I planted morning glory seeds right next to this patch and its thriving. I was going to replace the dirt and replant this weekend. But I am wonderign if I need to treat under my deck and what should I use so this area does not become infested again.

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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I would be surprised if the tiny white bugs were the cause of your dead bulbs. They are probably just something that came along to eat the rotting bulbs.

When did you plant them? I would guess it was spring of last year? If so, they might have grown ok last year and not flowered due to some problem with the bulbs. How is the soil in that area? and how is the drainage during the winter?

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 9:57PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

Were the glads you planted the hardy ones? Most are not hardy, and the ones I just checked are only hardy to zone 5.

I'm wondering what kind of iris you planted that weren't the bearded ones from rhizomes. ...but as Kato said...whatever the critters are, they likely moved in to the area to eat the rotten bulbs.

Sorry you had such bad luck. It is very important to be sure and check the hardiness zone of things before planting. You cannot trust what a package says, unless it specifically says it is for your zone. Many plants sold here locally are labeled as perennials, and they are, in a warmer zone...just not here.


Here is a link that might be useful: Some Hardy Glads

    Bookmark   June 25, 2008 at 10:53PM
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Kato & Chem, thank you both for your posts. The Iris were mostly drawrf and I believe Siberian? I planted them last spring and there was a lot of foliage and maybe 6 of the gads came up. Only 3 came up this year and absolutely no foliage what-so-ever from anything else in that area. I dug it all up and salvage the good bulbs. The iris's were in a different location. Out of the 200 bulbs I found 10, I think. They were just gone. I put them all in a container and will see what happens.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 4:18PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

My money is on drainage problems. Did the bulbs smell rotten? I planted bulbs ONCE in soil that had not been well prepared and amended. I could smell them before I dug them up to check out the trouble. If you garden on clay, you cannot just dig a little hole and put the bulb in it. The ground has to be loosened. Otherwise, you're just making a little pocket where groundwater will collect and stay.

The other possibility is that the iris bulbs were planted too deeply. Alot of the small bulbous iris are little and don't need much depth. I'm still betting that you soil is too tight.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2008 at 5:29PM
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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

If you think back to the place where you bought the bulbs - and how they were kept before you planted them, too.

If they were held for a long time after lifting. If the store had them in a hot place. If they gently baked in the sun for too long before packaging...

This year I bought three packets of Iris reticulata - from a source that has previously been reliable. They were all planted in the same mix and put into pots.

I don't recall what raised my suspicions. Three identical pots in a row, all well-drained. I tipped out my suspect and discovered that of the four bulbs I had planted three had turned to gluey mush in their tunics. No grubs. No gluggy soil. One survivor. One of the original bulbs was 'corky' and obviously dead before I planted.

I think I'd look at pre-planting overheating as a possible cause of failure and take precautions as I can in future.

PS if you lost reticulatas and juno irises - you have all my sympathy for your disappointment.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2008 at 4:03AM
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Actually I replaced all of the soil with Miracle grow organic garden soil and the area doesn't have any drainage problems. I have several new plants in the same area that are doing fine. I bet the bulbs were bad to begin with. I am going to try to plant some new bulbs this fall and see what happens.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2008 at 8:00PM
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I know exactly the bugs that you are talking about because I have had them myself. I think they are a type of bug known as "springtails". Google that name and then filter for images only. I am betting you will find I am correct. They are "mostly" harmless, but.... well, just keep reading. I amend my clay soil, and I have a patch that hasn't been clayey for a very long time. They actually take up residence in the area that drains much more freely. And I have had them take residence in the bulbs that grew really well too. It is hit and miss for me though. Some bulbs manage to get away. Either way - the little white bugs are slow eaters. My solution is to plant my summer-flowering bulbs in the spring and dig them up after the first frost has killed the foliage. And to plant my spring-flowering bulbs in the fall and dig those up after the summer heat has killed the foliage. This way the little white bugs usually eat less than the bulb grows and they aren't left to keep eating when the bulb is not growing and dormant. I do hypothesize that a small amount of rot is a window for their entrance though. The springtails actually love to eat the already rotting material. This is why they don't burrow into the bulb, but rather eat layer after layer of the rotting outside material. They are actually a sign of good soil health. If the bulb experiences no rot at all, then they do not take up residence. But if the bulb has some rot and the bugs make a colony there then I am betting that their activity keeps the rotting process moving along - it would make sense evolutionarily since they are going to need to keep eating. I hypothesize that they produce some kind of enzyme or chemical that keeps the rotting process moving along which is normally good for decaying matter in the soil, but not so good for your bulbs once they are crawling all over the rotten outer layer. SO: in conclusion, make sure your soil drains at least decently so you are preventing or slowing the rotting process to begin with, and pull them out of the ground once the foliage dies so the critters cannot keep eating and undo all the work that the plant has done storing energy in the bulb.

I hope that helps :)

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:03PM
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The "springtails" that live exclusively in the ground have often evolved away from their springs because that defense mechanism is no longer necessary. There are thousands of species of them with thousands more estimated to be discovered. I think that it is NOT wise to spray any chemicals to get rid of them since they are a sing of GOOD soil health and form one of the core species of an ecosystem.

Here is an article:

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:15PM
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Yet another link where this was already discussed:

Springtails on Youtube:

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 12:28PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL

I'd bet on fungus gnats or other similar moisture-loving pests after hearing about the miracle grow soil. Sad, soggy stuff.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 11:40AM
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KristiePDX(8b, sunset 6)

Thank you so much Poppy! That was very informative. Livig in the soggy PNW that info will surely come in handy.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 12:40PM
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You're welcome! :-)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2012 at 3:01PM
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