Don’t let winter wreck your tender spring and summer bulbs and tubers. Before the ground becomes too hard to dig, gather and store next year’s dahlias, gladioli, canna, and elephant ears — to name a few. Here’s how.
- Gather bulbs after the first hard frost, after foliage is dead. Cut back leaves to 2-4 inches before storing.
- Insert a fork or spade 1 ft. from the base of each plant and dig in a circle, taking care not to cut or scape bulbs or tubers.
- Clean bulbs and tubers with a soft brush or gentle wash. Dry before storing.
- Dust bulbs and tubers with a fungicide to help prevent rot.
- Pack in containers that breathe, like cardboard boxes, and in a medium that helps keep moisture and temperature constant, like sawdust, coarse vermiculite, shredded newspaper, or sphagnum peat moss. Make sure bulbs don’t touch each other.
- Store bulbs in a cool (40-50 degree F), dry location, like a basement that doesn’t get wet or a closet.
- Check bulbs monthly to make sure they’re resting peacefully. Discard mushy or rotted bulbs. If you see any insects, treat with insecticide.
- Divide canna and elephant ear bulbs and tubers, and then “cure” in a dry place for a few days to toughen skins. Wrap in newspaper to store.
- Only store dahlia tubers that host at least one “eye,” a round protrusion from which new plants grow.
- Before storing, label each bulb with a permanent marker. Be sure to note the bulb’s color.
- Plastic produce bags that contain holes for circulation are good for bulb storage.
- Even if you store all bulbs correctly, you’ll likely lose about 10%.