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Thread: Have bulbils, what do I do with them?

  1. #1
    bazzaboy is offline Tuber
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    Default Have bulbils, what do I do with them?

    Polite answers appreciated.

    The ones I have are allium (onion family) “babingtonii”, evidently grown mainly for flowers though presumably could be used as a herb for flavouring or possibly even as a Spring Onion (not sure about that aspect)? But my questions really relate to best way of growing on any onion/garlic/leek bulbils….

    Via Search and Google I’ve established that bulbils are different from seeds inasmuch as bulbils will form exact clones of the parent plant whilst seeds will generate various hybrids. Bulbils grow on the flower stalk of alliums/garlic/leeks (under the flower) and as the name suggests look like very small bulbs (or tiny onion sets) – see pic.

    GYO site has several helpful comments from expert grapes plus a very useful reference to a Canadian garlic farm at
    Organic Garlic Bulbils For Sale

    One interesting comment is “The downside [of using bulbils] is that it takes several years to grow full sized bulbs from bulbils and you need to harvest and replant each year of the propagation process.”

    Help! Some questions:
    1. When I sow bulbils do I plant them like tiny sets inserted into the compost with root end in soil and pointy/growth end still visible or do I plant them like seeds completely under the compost?
    2. What then grows, just a stalk or what?
    3. So whatever grows I “harvest” in autumn…. i.e. I dig the whole lot up and dry them out, protect from frost and waterlogged soil etc, dry out and remove/dump any top growth and replant the hopefully slightly larger bulbils the following Spring…. Is that right? Is that’s what’s needed?
    4. Repeat that process until bulbils are larger and can look after themselves at which point presumably they start producing bulbils and have become a perennial herbaceous clump….? Bulbil heaven!

    Comments, bright ideas and sympathy appreciated.
    .

  2. #2
    veggiechicken's Avatar
    veggiechicken is offline Warning, May contain nuts
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    Given that you are growing what I consider to be a wild leek, which thrives on its own without an annual digging up and drying off I would treat them like a perennial onion/chive. Just put the bulbil into some soil, maybe in a module, and let them throw up a shoot. Pot on when large enough, or plant out in their permanent spot and just let them get on with it! I am, of course, speaking off the top of my head as I have never grown them myself and you can disregard all of this waffle if an experienced gardener comes along! You seem to have enough bulbils to try various methods and it may be worth keeping some growing in a large pot that you can bring indoors to over winter, just as insurance!
    Was that polite enough?
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  3. #3
    allotment grower is offline Seedling
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    the bulbils are formed in alliums , garlic .etc

    as the plant develops the bulb tiny versions of the parent plant are produced

    on elephant garlic i collected the bulbils and repotted at a later date..

    some are formed on wild garlic in patch on my allotment i leave them there and they re amerge in the spring...

    also alliums bulbs are prone to slug damage check in winter and lift if needed to and repot bulb..
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    keep it organic and taste and see the difference..

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  4. #4
    zazen999 is offline Funky Cold Ribena
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    You need to get those into compost asap. Or they will dry out.
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    Snadger is offline Dundiggin
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    There's a thread somewhere on pods,pips,king pods,grass etc.

    What happens is the allium throws up a seed head. The bulbils form on the top and usually start sprouting whilst still on the plant. In the natural scheme of things the head will then become too heavy and bend over touching the ground. Once on the ground the bulbils will then root into the surrounding soil.

    I have leeks grown from sprouted bulbils that I potted up in October and they are now planted in trays in the greenhouse.

    If i was you I would just push them into the surface of the compost in a tray and give them a bit of bottom heat (possibly over a radiator or in a propagator) Once they root and send up a couple of leaves, prick them out into pots and transplant outdoors in the springtime.
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  6. #6
    bazzaboy is offline Tuber
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    What an extraordinary site this is, at noon you don’t know what you’re doing and by evening you’ve done it! Many thanks for the answers and suggestions, I’ve sown the bulbils in modules and will see what happens….

    Very polite VC, thank you. I’m a bit surprised when you say you’ve never grown them as I thought it was a comment by you that set me off on this adventure! If I get positive results I’ll send you some as they seem to have a special place in Wales (though I’m at a loss why bulbils are a fairly regular price but seeds astronomical – are they one and the same thing?)

    Thanks for alerting me to the slug warning, AG and the drying problem ZZ. I did find some of the GYO posts on grass, pips etc, Snadger, couldn’t totally sort it but I begin to understand why leek show growers grow from bulbils. Live and learn with GYO! Thanks all.
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    veggiechicken's Avatar
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    Yes Bazza, I confess, 'twas I who sowed the seeds (bulbils) in your mind. I haven't grown them but see them growing en masse frequently. Methinks the time has come to buy some Chiltern bulbils for myself - I feel a seed order coming on!!
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  8. #8
    bazzaboy is offline Tuber
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    Quote Originally Posted by veggiechicken View Post
    Yes Bazza, I confess, 'twas I who sowed the seeds (bulbils) in your mind. I haven't grown them but see them growing en masse frequently. Methinks the time has come to buy some Chiltern bulbils for myself - I feel a seed order coming on!!
    LOL.... well if you need advice how to plant them you must feel free to ask me, don't hesitate...

    They are Code 75K at Chilterns who note them as "rare" but only charge £2.70 for about 40 bulbils - as opposed to the seeds we found elsewhere which were £1.50 PER SEED! You'd have to sell BBB3B to buy a packet of those!

    p.s. as you forecast I found Chilterns an interesting quirky catalogue with descriptions such as "Discovered in Assam as recently as 1928.....", very cool , thank you for the recommendation.
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