Non-Hardy Bulb Care

Non-Hardy Bulb Care
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If your ground freezes in the winter you'll need to dig up and store gladiolus, cannas, dahlias and tuberous begonias. You can dig them when they have yellowed and begun to die back, or wait till after the first heavy frost but before the soil freezes. You don't want to wait and dig when it's too difficult because the corms or rhizomes may be damaged. Always label your bulbs clearly as you store them to avoid confusion in the spring. Makes notes of the location and anything you want to change next year. Also, don't cover your bulbs or seal them up in any way. You should store them in an open box, bag or tub with wood shaving, sand, peat or something similar.
Your basement should work for storage as long as you use the coolest part, as far away from the furnace or water heater as possible. Sheds or attached garages should only be used if the temperatures don't get below freezing inside.

Gladiolas should be cut to leave only about an inch of the stem. Store them at about 70 degrees for a month to dry the corms, then divide the bulbs, and clean them up of debris, old stems etc. and then let them sit at 70 degrees again for about a week, then store them uncovered at about 50 degrees. Glads should not be washed with water to remove soil. Brushing away the soil gently is enough. Store them in a box or tub lined with peat or sand if you wish.

Dahlias should be cut back about 3 inches above the tuber. Clean up any damaged part of the roots, and place them upside down in the sun (on the porch or deck works well-away from neighborhood rodents) for a few hours. When dry, store them at about 40 degrees in a box or tub covered lightly with peat or sand. Check occasionally during the winter. If they look like they are drying out badly sprinkle them with a small amount of water. It's usually better to divide dahlias in the spring. Each part must have at least one "bud" attached to the tubers.

Tuberous begonia stems should be cut to about 5 inches, then dried around 70 degrees for 2-3 weeks. Once they are dry remove any dried matter and cover them with peat, perlite or sand. They should be stored around 40-50 degrees as well. The basement works well, but don't use a shed, garage or any place that may freeze.

Cannas should be cut so the stem is about 2-3 inches high, then dig up the rhizomes very carefully, loosening the soil as you go, so as to not cause damage. Remove any soil carefully with a gentle spray of the hose. Allow the cannas to dry in a shady ventilated location, then store in a box or tub with peat or vermiculite at about 55 degrees. If you live in Zones 7 through 10 you can leave the cannas in the ground and mulch thickly with straw, grass clippings or chopped up leaves. Cannas can be divided as long as they have at least 3 eyes on each section that is divided. Simply break them by hand.

Elephant Ears should also be dug since they are a tropical plant before a hard frost. They most likely will only survive in Zone 8 and up otherwise. Cut off the leaves, but don't wash or remove the soil. Dig the tubers carefully and allow them to air dry in the shade for about 2 weeks or inside if it's too cold. After they are dry you can remove the soil and dead leaves or stalks. Store them in peat moss in a shallow container. You don't want them to get too cold or moist-they need a dry, cool location for storage.


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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