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Tender Bloomers - Overwinter Your Bulbs

By Bonnie Grant (BGrantMay 14, 2014
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There are two classifications for bulbs, corms and tubers regarding their hardiness. Hardy bulbs are generally those that bloom in spring and are planted in fall. They don't mind winter's chill and survive in ground for years. Tender varieties cannot tolerate freezing temperatures and will rot in ground or simply fail to bloom. In order to save these precious varieties you need to pull them out of the ground in fall and pack them away carefully to await spring planting.

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Not only bulbs need to be lifted in winter, but also their cousins, tender corms and tubers. Tubers especially are likely to be destroyed by a hard freeze. Both of these are simply storage organs for the next season's embryo and the food to sustain it until sprouting time. Bulbs are also storage organs, so the three are nearly synonymous and need similar special care for winter storage.
Bulbs are generally thought of as flowering plants but many produce amazing foliage. Alocasia and Caladium are two tender bulbs which need to be lifted if not planted in USDA zones above 10. Alocasia is also known as elephant's ear and has magnificent huge leaves. Caladium come in a variety of colors but the foliage is the star and the flowers are almost unnoticeable. Check the nursery information or store them to be on the safe side.

Tropical landscapes are irresistible and really emphasize the summer season. Some of the most impacting tropical flowers are Canna. They rise above long sword-like leaves on a stem that easily gets 6 feet tall. Calla lilies are another tender plant that has swan-like grace and swirled flowers. Dahlias are tubers but also tender plants. The variety of cultivars is endless as the plant is a classic club flower and hybridizes easily. Flower sizes range from the size of a baby's fist to a dinner plate with every color of the rainbow. Some fascinating tropical lilies can be grown in summer. Voodoo, Crinium, and Spider lily are all unique forms of short lived flowers with unusual colors and shapes, but don't forget to lift them or bulbs will succumb to cold.

No matter which bulbs you chose to plant, if you want summer bloomers you need to get the planting time right. A few plants such as daylilies can usually overwinter and go in the ground in fall, but the majority of these summer beauties must be planted in spring as soon as soil is workable. Nurseries and landscape centers are smart and don't have bulbs for sale until the proper planting season. As a rule, whatever is available is what it is time to plant. Choose a sunny location for most bulbs where the soil drains well. The truly tropical varieties such as Canna, Calla, Dahlia and tuberous Begonias will produce blooms sooner if started indoors in pots at least 6 weeks prior to planting out. This gives short season gardeners a chance to see their blooms before the chill of fall arrives and it is time to life the bulbs.

Storage of bulbs is crucial to protecting them from splitting and rotting in the cold. Wait until the foliage has died back if possible to help fuel the storage organ. There are two main ways to store these organs. Plants like gladiolus, crocosmia, freesia, tritonia and peacock flower are all cured and stored dry. Carefully dig out the bulb, corm or tuber. Bulbs should be dried for at least two weeks before being placed in a paper bag. Store them labeled in a dry location. Other plants and especially most tubers need moist storage. These would be dahlia, anenome, canna, tuberous begonias and others. Remove the foliage and wrap the tuber or bulb in sphagnum moss. Place them in plastic bags or containers with some hole punched. Check these types over the winter frequently. If you see any mold or rot, pull the root and cut out the affected part, then re-store.

Tender bulbs may lack the vigor of their hardy counterparts but they impart romance and tropical imagery to the landscape. It is well worth the time and effort to start them early and store them right for many years of enjoyment. Armed with the knowledge of proper bulb storage there will be no stopping you as you peruse those bulb catalogs.


  About Bonnie Grant  
Bonnie GrantBonnie is a contributing writer to Dave's Garden. She has been a garden and landscape, food and wine and DIY writer for six years. Her work can be found on eHow Home and Garden, Gardening Know How and Garden Guides, to name a few. Her work specializes in instructional articles and her lessons focus on how to be harmonious in daily hobbies and chores. Follow her on Google

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