Tender Summer-blooming bulbs are some of the brightest, flowers to enjoy. Of course, this beauty comes with a small “fee”…we must provide a comfortable place for them to rest during the Winter. These bulbs would turn to mush if allowed to freeze: Gladiolus, Cannas, Elephant Ears, Dahlias and others.
In lieu of buying new each Spring, you can dig and store the bulbs/rhizomes to enjoy them again and again. You will find that they are so easy to take care of, you must add to your collection each year and give offsets to your friends. They will LOVE you for that! Essentially, the storage practice is the same for most bulbs and rhizomes. Gardener have developed their own ideas of what method works best for them. Check out the Tender Bulb Storage playlist on our YouTube Channel for various means of safe storage.
Many gardeners prefer to use peat moss as their primary storage media. I AGREE! Sphagnum Peat Moss (available in a compressed bale) keeps the bulbs very protected, separated, dark and dry while allowing them to retain their internal moisture. My favorite method is to insert a plastic bag into a Banker Box (cardboard file storage box with a removable lid). I line the bottom of the bag in the box with Peat Moss, add a layer of freshly dug, prepared and dry bulbs, then another layer of Peat Moss. I continue this process (not allowing any of the bulbs to touch) until the box is full. This method keeps the bulbs very organized. At this time, I either fold the top of the bag over and cover with the lid, or leave the sides of the bag over the box edges and place the lid on. The reason I use a plastic bag to line the box is because it will be stored in either a basement or garage (that doesn’t freeze) and I would prefer to not have insects or other critters residing in the Peat over the Winter.
When you watch the videos, you will find that there are many opinions about how to go about storing. THREE points I would like to make:
• I prefer to dig the bulbs and then lay them out on newspaper in a protected, dry area until the foliage dries up, then cut it off.
• For easier excavation in the Fall, add excessive amounts of organic material such as Pine Bark Soil Conditioner, Organic Soil Conditioner or Cotton Bur Compost when installing them in the Spring. The soil will be perfect for maximum performance of your plants AND it will be easy to remove them when needed.
• It is not necessary to remove all of the garden soil. If, however, you are removing them when the ground is slightly muddy, you will need to hose them off and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing.