Cannas, dahlias and gladiolus have been mainstays of gardens throughout the United States for decades. Those gardeners who live in USDA zones 8 through 11 can allow these frost sensitive plants to remain in the soil because even if their foliage is damaged the bulb or tuber that grows underground will not be impacted by cooler temperatures. Gardeners in colder zones, where the ground freezes, don’t have this luxury and many just allow these plants to die off and then purchase new ones the following spring. Many gardeners have never been told that it is possible to save these bulbs and tubers and plant them again next year; you just need to know how to do it. Blooming Secrets is all about helping you to maximize your enjoyment of gardening so if you have a favorite colored dahlia or a canna that you’ve grown to love we can teach you how to properly store these tender bulbs to plant again next spring!

After the foliage of these plants has been killed, usually by the first significant frost, dig up the bulb or tuber and shake off as much of the dirt as you can. You want to be sure you dig them up before the ground freezes in your area otherwise, they will die. The next step is to remove the dead foliage leaving about 2 to 3 inches of the stem on the bulb or tuber. You then need to let them dry out for 7 to 10 days making sure to bring them indoors if freezing temperatures are in the forecast.

Once they are dried out the bulbs and tubers are ready to be stored. A cardboard box or paper bags are good containers but you can pretty much use any container that is handy. Don’t use a container that is air tight like a jar with a lid because that will trap moisture and rot the bulb or tuber. You want to line the container with a material such as peat moss or sawdust; personally, I use paper that has gone through my shredder and that has worked well for me.  Before you place the bulbs and tubers in the box and cover them with the remaining material you can dust them with sulfur powder which does help prevent mold and fungus. This is really a matter of choice and you can successfully store bulbs without the powder. At this time you also want to label the bulbs or tubers so you know what type they are and what color it is when you plant it next spring.

The next important decision is where to store the container with the bulbs and tubers. The storage area must be dry as moisture can promote mold and fungus to form on the bulbs and tubers or they might rot. The area also must maintain a temperature of around 50 degrees. A garage can work if you have a protected area but a corner of the basement might be a better choice. You also want to set a reminder for yourself to check on the bulbs and tubers periodically during the winter months. You want to check to be sure they don’t get moldy or get too dry and start to shrivel up. You should discard any bulb or tuber that gets soft and if they start to shrivel it is ok to mist them with a little bit of water.

This technique can be used with pretty much any tender bulb or tuber so if you have a favorite plant that you want to save for next year why not give this a try.

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