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Digging and Storing Glorious Summer Bulbs
by Debra Levey Larson
August 25, 2013

While you’re storing your summer clothes for the winter, Greg Stack recommends doing the same thing with your tender summer bulbs.

“If you’ve invested in cannas, tuberose begonias, dahlias, gladiolas, caladium or elephant ears, you may want to take a little time this fall to gather them up and save these bulbs for next season. It’s easier than you think and doesn’t really require a special place or container. If you have a cool, dry, dark location you have a suitable bulb-storage area.”

There are no absolute rules for storing bulbs over the winter, Stack noted. But there are some general considerations to be aware of and follow to be successful.

“Keep the bulbs, cool, dry and above freezing; don’t store in airtight containers that might encourage rot or fungus; check on them regularly for signs of drying or mold; don’t store bulbs in a refrigerator where ethylene gas from fruits and vegetables can damage them; and remember to label by color and type of bulb,” he explained.
Stack offered guidelines for some of the more popular summer flowering bulbs:

Tuberose begonia: Allow a very light frost to kill back the tops. Dig the tubers from the garden or pot and set them in a shaded, cool area to dry for about a week, leaving about 5 inches of the stem still attached. After a week of drying, lightly brush away any loose soil, and the top should separate easily from the tuber. Store them in trays filled with peat moss or sawdust in an area that is dark, well ventilated and about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

Caladium: Dig caladium before a frost and put them in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area to allow foliage to dry. Cut back the foliage and pack the tubers loosely in peat moss. Caladium does not like to be stored cool. The tubers will be damaged as a result. Choose an area that is dark, well ventilated and about 65 to 70 degrees.

Canna: Canna is very easy to store. After a frost has blackened the tops, dig the plants up and cut back the tops to about 2 inches. Allow the clumps to dry¬, then store the entire clump, soil still attached, in bushel baskets or cardboard boxes in an area that is dark, well ventilated and about 45 to 50 degrees. In the spring, shake off the excess soil, divide the clump so each division has at least three eyes, and replant.

Dahlia: Dahlia should be dug after a very light frost. Dig the tubers and cut back the stems to about 2 inches and allow the tubers to air dry. After drying, place them in containers filled with peat moss or sawdust in an area that is dark, well ventilated and about 45 to 50 degrees. Dahlia tubers don’t like to dry out completely. When in storage, check on them regularly for signs of dehydration or shriveling. If necessary, mist lightly to add some moisture to keep them plump. Do not keep the peat moss wet, however.

Gladiolus: Dig these plants in the fall after they turn yellow or after a frost. Cut the stems back to about 1 inch and allow the corms to dry in a cool, shaded area. Before storing, remove the old shriveled portion (last year’s corn), keeping the plump, new corm. Store in dry peat or sand or hang in mesh bags in a dark, well-ventilated area at about 45 to 50 degrees.

Elephant ears: These spectacular tropical plants are easy to store over the winter by allowing a very light frost to kill back the tops slightly. Dig the plants and allow the tubers to air dry. Cut back the tops and store the tubers in containers filled with peat in a cool, dark area.

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