You enjoyed your summer flowering bulbs* such as dahlias, gladiolas and elephant ears, all summer long and now winter is coming. It’s time to make a decision – leave the bulbs in the ground and treat them as annuals (meaning they won’t come back next year) or dig them up and store indoors until next spring. It’s up to you!
Is it all worth it?
Well, most bulbs will get bigger and better season after season if stored properly and, with dahlias and cannas, you will get more and more bulbs each year to enlarge your display or share with friends and neighbors.
On the other hand, many gardeners treat summer flowering bulbs as annuals and don’t bother lifting and storing bulbs in the fall. Why? Because its work! Some of us are just too busy in the fall and prefer to purchase new bulbs every year – and that is ok. Do what is best for you! Newly purchased bulbs and roots will perform just as well as the ones saved and provide opportunities to change color schemes and varieties.
So if you have decided to “lift” your bulbs, here is what you need to do. (Don’t worry, it’s easy!)
Lifting & Storing Bulbs
When the bulbs are ready to be lifted in the fall, cut back the stems to about 4-6 inches from the ground. Carefully dig up and lift the bulb or clumps. Dust the soil off the bulb. Let them dry out for a few days in a shady, frost-free area like a garage, shed or basement. Keep any clumps intact during storage; they can be divided before planting next season. Label your bulbs or clumps and pack them in a box or pot filled with peat moss or another similar medium. Do not store them in plastic bags.
A Guide to Specific Bulbs:
Lift: After hard frost (early to mid-November).
Special Note: Begonia tubers gradually get better each year for about 8 years, and then die. Replace with newly purchased tubers.
Lift: Before hard frost as the leaves decline (typically October).
Special Note: Storage works well for 2-3 years, after that corms will begin to decline and you will need to buy new corms.
Lift: Two weeks after foliage is killed off or blackened by frost (typically mid-November).
Special Note: Dahlias prefer to be stored in barely damp peat moss. Divide clumps before planting.
Lift: After hard frost (typically early to mid-November).
Special Note: Cannas prefer to be stored in barely damp peat moss. Divide clumps before planting.
Lift: Before hard frost, as the leaves decline (typically October).
Special Note: Roots live a long time and get larger and better with each passing season.
Lift: Before hard frost as leaves decline (typically October).
Special Note: Roots live a long time and gradually get larger and better with each passing season.
So the choice is up to you! Treat your summer flowering bulbs as an annual and purchase and replant new bulbs every year or dig your bulbs up this fall and replant them next spring. Either way we’re here to help you! Have more questions about how to store your bulbs? Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), give us a call (516-334-0066), stop by the store, or reach out to us on social media – we’re on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest & Instagram!
*For convenience, the term “bulb” is loosely used here to describe the fleshy underground roots, stems and plant parts known as tubers, rhizomes, corms, tuber-corms and true bulbs.