Might Have A Rotting Bulb- Please Help!

tigerdawn(7)October 31, 2009

I have an amaryllis that I've had for several years. It's even made some baby bulbs that are doing well in their own pots. It was doing fine until recently when I noticed the leaves starting to yellow. I figured it was since I brought it indoors for the winter and it was going dormant. But now the bulb itself is looking wierd and black. Is it possible to save my plant? If so, how?

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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

I'd have to ask if, appearances aside...is the bulb soft? What does it look like if you were to peel away all the dried outter layers? (the brown papery layers).It's obvious that it hasn't plumped up during the summer, but and bulbs that are smaller than their original size can be saved. But...if it feels soft, that's more of an indication of rot. Rot can work from the top down, the bottom up, or the inside out! A rotting bulb can be salvaged (you can make more of the same variety) by cutting the rot away and using a method called cuttage. Both Jodi and I (and many others) have done this. You end up cutting the rot away under very clean conditions and putting the pieces in baggies of moist vermiculite. In several months you will have small bulbs.

Good luck...without knowing what the apppearance of the bulb is under the layers (soft and mushy), it's hard to tell.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 9:57PM
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Here's what it looked like when I peeled the outer layers away. It is about the same amount of firm as my other bulbs.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 10:17PM
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Noni Morrison

The bulb appears healthy. It is probably, as you said, going dormant. Let it have a break in a cool dark place and the soil on the dry side, then bring it into light and heat and try to restart it.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2009 at 10:35PM
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I notice quite a bit of root material at the soil surface... this tells me that the roots are pot-bound and are searching for oxygen... they're trying to breathe and the soil type is not allowing this. The soil may be relatively collapsed due to decomposition. It may require re-potting into new soil, but do not disturb it quite yet.

I would stop watering and allow it to go dormant... place the pot in a cool, dark place... a spare room, a basement, a garage... and allow it a dormancy. After about 10-12 weeks or so, new growth should begin to appear. At this point, bring the pot back into a warm, bright room and resume watering. Water carefully... this type of potting soil will hold onto moisture at the root ball for almost too long.

While your bulb is dormant, I invite you to join us and take a look at some of the different potting mediums some of us are using... they are more aerated and porous, more orchid or bonsai-like, and they allow for the proper exchange of oxygen and gases to the root system, which is essential for healthy growth.

I'm including a link to a very good article that explains soils and water retention, and gives a lot of excellent information on how to have healthy roots in a container situation, and describes the mediums quite a few us of are now using.

There are also several threads here in this forum that show and explain the different mediums that work best in a container situation.

The one thing I'm not too certain of is when the best time to re-pot your particular bulb would be... it's obvious that it hasn't gained much size in its present condition, but I would say it definitely needs new soil. I would allow it a good dormancy, withholding water... and when it begins to show growth again, I would remove it from its pot, clean all the old soil from its root system, clean up the bulb by removing all the dead leaves, dried bulb layers, and any dead roots... then, I would dust the bulb with a light coat of Captan anti-fungal powder as a preventative against rot and fungi... then, I would re-pot the bulb into a fresh medium that will allow the roots to breathe, leaving about 1/2 to 2/3 of the actual bulb above soil level.

The medium type that many of us use is made up of small pine bark pieces, perlite, and either granite chips or turface... or something very close to that mixture. We're looking for a medium that is more inorganic, does not decompose fast, allows for good aeration, drains well and quickly, and allows us to control the moisture and fertilizer levels. We've begun to mix our own mediums because the retail market doesn't carry anything pre-made that gives us what we want.

A regular bagged potting soil is mainly organic, is very silty in nature, and collapses rather fast. This sends a plants' roots in search of oxygen, and they end up close to the surface or sides of a pot. A soil that is too fine will hold too much moisture for too long, also, which is not good for hippeastrum bulbs.

At any rate, once your bulb has rested and you've re-potted it and brought it back into a warm, bright room to grow, it will either begin to put up flower scapes or leaves. If it received enough sunlight, feed, and care to recharge its energy, it will flower... but if it hasn't, then it will grow leaves and it may be another cycle before buds appear again.

Either way, by giving your bulb what it needs, it will flower again for you... it simply may skip one bloom cycle to recover.

I recommend doing a bit of reading here in this forum, and also in the Container Gardening Forum. Both contain excellent information... here, for hippeastrum bulb care in particular... and the Container Gardening Forum for information on the best medium types for your bulb.

Here is what the medium I use looks like...

Here is a bulb potted in this inorganic type of medium...

I hope this helps... and if you have any other questions, we'd be happy to try to answer them for you.

Happy Gardening!

Here is a link that might be useful: Container Soils - Water Movement & Retention IX

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 6:27AM
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I do not want to scare anyone. However, this looks a lot like my infected bulbs looked like. The outter leaves dying and the inner leaves being red at the base. Of course, i know almost every damage in hippeastrums leaves or bulb eventually turns reddish, but his looks very familiar. If i was you, i would take the bulb out of the potting mix, carefully peel off the papery outter leaves and closely examine it. Especially where the bulb curls into the basal plate. Just to make sure.

You wrote the bulb had been outside... I would check the whole bulb, to make sure nothing fishy is happening there. My bulbs looked very fine and firm to the touch. They were just loosing their leaves. Damage was not noticeable unless one got the bulbs ouy of the potting mix.

When i had the time to get them out and see what was going on, it was too late. My bulbs were infected with Narcissus Bulb Fly. I'm not saying yours are infected too, but some other (less harmful) pests like woodlice, slugs, earwigs, etc. also "operate" beneath the surface.

Of course, i hope for you everything will be ok and there is no rotting or anything else. But it is better to be safe than sorry :-)


    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 9:58AM
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Thanks for all the helpful info! When I first became concerned about it, I turned the pot on its side and the whole thing- roots and soil- came out in one big clump. I knew it should be repotted but I wasn't sure if now was the right time to do it.

I've been mixing my own soil for my hoyas so I'm familiar with all that. I'm excited to look around and see what the amaryllises like to live in.

I'm concerned about the bulb having an underlying problem but I don't want to damage it even further by washing all the soil off and redoing it at the wrong time. Would the shock be too much right now or is it worth the risk? I have 3 of its babies and they're doing well but I still would like to keep the mother bulb if possible.

Thank you again for all your help.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 10:37AM
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kaboehm (zone 9a, TX USA)

Repotting now would give you the chance to remove dead roots and inspect the basal plate. Also, even though it might have a small setback, overall it would be better for the bulb.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 11:25AM
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I agree... I would carefully work the old soil away from the roots, and get rid of it. You may have to tease the roots apart, but even if a few break, the bulb will grow new ones once its re-potted. No worries... these bulbs are fairly resilient.

Peel away all the dead outer layers of the bulb, and get rid of any dead roots. If the bulb looks healthy once you have it cleaned up, just dust it with a little bit of Captan anti-fungal powder as a preventative measure, and re-pot the bulb into an aerated, porous medium.

I agree that it's better to find out now if there are any problems... the tiny set back from a re-potting won't harm the bulb.

Let us know what you discover... and, I am interested to learn what type of medium you choose!

    Bookmark   November 1, 2009 at 7:11PM
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Well, I don't know if I did it right but hopefully it'll be ok. I took off the old soil and rinsed the bulb and roots. Then I took off the icky outer layers of the bulb and the mushy leaves. I made a mix with what I had on hand: crushed rock from my greenhouse floor, pearlite, vermiculite, and just a little orchid potting mix. I repotted the bulb in a large terra cotta pot. The old pot didn't even have a drainage hole!! I know better than that! What was I thinking?! Anyway. Here it is now. Hopefully it survives. Oh, and the bulb was like the interior of an onion and the basal plate and large roots reminded me of water chestnuts. I don't know if that's how they're supposed to feel or not. :-)

    Bookmark   November 2, 2009 at 8:34PM
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Looking good! Just take extra care to be sure about watering time, and your bulb will be fine!

I've found that hippeastrum culture is more like succulent culture... they prefer to dry out in between waterings. If you're not sure about watering, and can't get your finger deep enough into the medium to check for certain, you can use a bamboo or wooden skewer inserted into the medium to check for moisture.

Just buy a pack of those cheap shish-ka-bob wooden skewers from the grocery store... you can get a pack of about 100 for a dollar or so... insert one into the medium on an angle so the end is somewhere around the root ball, and leave it there.

Take it out and press it to your cheek to check for moisture... if it feels cool and damp, hold off... but if it comes out dry to the touch, you know it's time for watering. It's an old orchid watering trick!

Hippeastrum roots are usually nice and fleshy and white when alive and well... and brown and flat when dead or rotting.

I always water until some flows out through the drainage hole... then, I allow it to sit for a little while to soak up what it might need... then, I dump what's left in the saucers. I never let them sit in water, though.

Your bulb looks good... as long as it's nice and firm, and the roots looked healthy, you should have no problems.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 9:02AM
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Thank you for all the advice and encouragement! I'm glad my bulb wasn't as bad off as I thought. It was a gift from some good friends I haven't seen in a long time and I'd hate to lose it. I have some of those skewers and i think I'll try them on my other plants too. What a great idea!!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2009 at 8:19PM
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No problem! I'm happy to share what I have learned... and even though what works for me won't necessarily work for everyone, perhaps it will prompt others to find out more about their own climates and the best ways for them to garden.

The skewer trick works great for mediums you can't really get your finger down into... like orchid bark and such.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2009 at 9:41AM
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Doesn't the pot look way too big for a hippeastrum. They normally only need a couple inches by each side of the bulb to the pot. They like to be root bounded slightly.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 4:31PM
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Actually, that's a fallacy. I just learned a little bit about this subject... something I'd never really thought about.

The one purpose of any living thing is to procreate... to send it's genetic material forward, to save it for posterity. If a plant feels at all threatened or stressed, it will rush to procreate... as in offset, or flower in the hopes of pollination leading to seed production.

When a plant's roots are pot-bound, and there's no more room in the pot to grow, the plant feels stressed or threatened... and may think that death is imminent. It will then try to procreate by blooming.

If the medium you are using is aerated and porous enough to dry out within a decent amount of time, pot size is not so critical... and in fact, a larger pot is better.

However, in the case of regular bagged, peat-based organic potting mix, the water retention is such that the moisture will stay hung up for a rather long period of time, and if the pot is too large, this can be potentially fatal, causing root rot and a decline in plant health. So, medium will play a critical role in pot size.

I'm attaching a link to a thread that discusses this subject further... it's rather interesting, really... I never thought about this before... but it all makes perfect sense now!

Please read on...

Here is a link that might be useful: some plants bloom better being rootbound??

    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 8:28PM
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