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Tuberose rhizomes

Although we often think of tuberose as a bulb, like lily of the valley and bearded irises, they are actually rhizomatous perennials, putting out new offsets each growing season and spreading in colonies or patches. Unlike true bulbs, their plant parts are not wholly contained in their root structures, so dividing them must be done carefully (which you should do if you overwinter them in cooler climates). Once separated, each rhizome should have eyelets. Here in Vermont, I go through a specific process of dividing my tuberose each spring. First, I remove them from their storage in peat moss, which is truly a messy ordeal. I wear a mask and even then am usually blowing black matter out of my nose for a few days. Dividing what has become thousands of tuberose offspring takes several weeks. When I replant them, they are each sprayed with an organic mixture of cold pressed neem oil and warm water that I mix myself. Tuberose are beloved by aphids and other insects that will weaken the plant. The application of neem oil makes them distasteful. The image shows a colony of tuberose to be divided, some mature bulbs I have separated off, and a tiny young offset at very bottom that will hopefully put out new growth. You can expect a mature bulb to put out 1-5 flowering spikes each growing season. These spikes resemble asparagus, and indeed tuberose is a member of the family Asparagaceae. Since it is in the Agave genus, the binomial nomenclature for tuberose was changed recently from Polianthes tuberosa to Agave amica. And even though its common name derives from Latin, this monocot is not native to Europe but to pre-conquest central and southern Mexico where it was originally domesticated by Nahua. In Nahuatl the plant is "Omixochitl," meaning "bone flower" ("omitl": "bone;" "xochitl": "flower"). Unfortunately any botanical record seems to have been lost to or erased by colonization, along with so many other Nahua histories. I consider myself a steward of this ancient flower, growing, caring for, and enfleuraging them. Next year they will have a greenhouse, where they may not need to rest over the winter, but can go right back into soil after being lifted and divided.
© 2021, Abby Hinsman for Wild Veil Perfume.