Propagating Flower Bulbs

There are several methods of propagating bulbs e.g. from:- Seeds, Offsets, Bulbils, Scaling and Chipping.

Seed Method

The most obvious method is to sow seeds of the species, however the resultant plants may not come true to the parent as is the case with many seed sown species, plus they may take several years to come into flower.


Typical Cycle from Seed to Bulb

Depending upon species it may take up to seven years for the bulbs to reach flowering size.

On reaching flowering size treat the species as you would with commercially acquired bulbs.

Extracted Seeds
Progress after 1 Year
Progress after 2 Years
Progress after 3 Years
Progress after 4 Years
Progress after 5 Years
Mature Bulb
Typical top growth over the first three years from sowing seeds

Offset Method

Some bulbous species e.g. Gladiolus, Lily and Tulips produce offsets, these can be removed when bulbs are lifted in summer, these will produce plants identical to the parent plant.


  • Detach the offsets, dust or wash them with a fungicide then pot them up in suitable size pots of potting compost with added sand / grit.

  • Place in a cold frame to grow on, dependent on size of offset, and the species, they may take up to five years to flower.
Gladiolus Corm and cormlet offsets

Larger, hardy offsets can be replanted out in the open ground or nursery bed immediately.

Bulbs can be forced to produce offsets but at the expense of flowers.

This is done making a notch in the base plate of the bulb/s then planting the bulb/s quite shallow.

The offsets will appear from the wound in the base plate this, and with the shallow planting will allow offsets to develop quicker.

Bulbil Method

Some lily cultivars produce black pea-sized bulbils in the leaf axils.


Bulbils on plant

  • The ripe bulbils part readily from the stems and should be sown in well-drained compost.

  • Lightly press them into the surface of the compost, space them about 25mm (1”) then leave them until there are signs of rooting then cover with 12mm (1/2”) of compost.

  • When the seed leaf is 75-100mm long, pot up singly into 75mm pots, and grow on in a cold frame.
Sown Bulbils
Potted up

The following spring plant them out into a nursery bed to mature to flowering size.

The following spring after that plant out into their final quarters.

Scaling Method

Bulb scales provide an ideal method of increasing hybrid lilies.


Lily Bulb

Propagate scales:

It may take up to three months for tiny bulbils to form on the chips, when they do, plant them up individually into 75mm (3") pots and grow them on at a temperature of 10°C (50°F).

They should produce leaves the following year.

Chipping Method

Chipping is similar to scaling and is more suitable for bulbs such as Chionodoxa, Narcissus, and Hippeastrums.


The size of these segments is subject to the size of the bulb.

For example a narcissus sized bulb should be cut into four segments whereas a bulb of hippeastrum size may be cut into eight.

It may take up to three months for tiny bulbils to form on the chips.

After the bulbils form, plant them up into individual 50 mm (2") pots and grow them on at a temperature of 10°C (50°F).

They should produce leaves the following year.

Allow the leaves to die back, pot them up if necessary and grow on for another couple of years before planting them out into their final quarters.

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