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by Michael Smith
(Cleveland, Ohio, United States)


I have been trying to identify a plant my girlfriend received and have been unable to with my internet searches. I can provide pictures as my description may be inadequate, but it is a green onion looking bulb with two inch wide long fronds growing from the bulb. It has split into two large and one small bulb and the original bulb has now sprouted about fifteen nickel sized bulbs that have started to grow and it is about to flower again (with a white flower that looks feathery at first).
I was wondering if you could help me identify this plant as well as help me separate the small bulbs to grow separate plants so we can grow more to give to friends and ensure that this one does not get too crowded. I hope you can help and thank you so much!

Michael Smith

Hi Michael, it would definitely help to have a picture of the flower; my experience of this type of plant (ie: tropical bulb, possibly) is so limited I can’t tell you right off the top what its name is.

However, I can help you with the propagation part of it, because all bulbs, regardless of what the name, all have a few characteristics in common.

I’m going to suggest that the small little bulblets are actually seedlings, which you will most likely just be able to carefully pull off the adult plant, put them into their own individual pots, and let them grow to full size as gifts. This might take a while, so start them off in quite small pots.

To separate the other bulbs, take the whole thing out of the pot, and gently loosen the soil. It works best if the plant is dry, and the soil will just fall off. I would wait until after it blooms for this step.

Inspect the roots, and cut off any that are really long, diseased (black and shriveled) with a sharp razor blade or scissors.

Pull the bulbs apart, it’s fine if a few roots get damaged in the process; they’ll make more once they get planted in fresh soil.

Now, here’s what I would do to make sure I wasn’t going to introduce any kind of problem. I would use dry potting soil, and then refrain from watering for a day or so until the bulb and any freshly cut roots have had a chance to callous over. After that, water with tepid water and stand back.

I might also cut off most of the leaves (like leave a third of their length) so as to prevent wilting.

They’ll look a bit sad for a week or so, but you’ll see new growth fairly quickly, after which time you’ll know they’re out of the woods, and well on their way to recovery.

Best of luck with your plant surgery!

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