As the weather cools, the foliage on your tender bulbs begin to turn yellow. Now is the time to dig them up before they are damaged by freezing soil.
Cannas and caladiums along with dahlias and tuberous begonias need to be dug from your garden. Very gently dig the bulbs by loosing the soil all the way around the plant for several inches or more from the main stem. Use a pitch fork or spade to carefully remove the plant from the ground, making sure not to damage the main bulb or underground food storage structure.
Clean the bulbs by shaking off the soil and rinsing them. An easy way to rinse them is by laying them on a screen over your compost pile and using a gentle stream of water to wash the soil off the plants and onto the compost pile for recycling.
When digging gladiolus plants, cut the leaves close to the base, leaving no more than one inch of stem. Dry the corms in a well-ventilated place out of the sun and wind and not subject to freezing temperatures for several days.
Once they are dried, carefully remove and divide the corms. Discard stems, husks, and any shriveled corms at the base of the cluster.
Dig dahlias and cut the tops back to 3 inches above the root. Remove loose soil by hand and discard any diseased or shriveled ones and put those in the sun for several days to dry. Again, keep out of cold and wind.
Store the dahlias roots in a shallow container covered with sand, or peat moss
Cannas, tuberous begonias, or caladiums should be dug and air dried in a well-ventilated area of 70 to 80 degrees. Cannas and caladiums need one week to dry while tuberous begonias need up to three weeks to dry.
When they are dried remove any foliage and cover the tubers with peat moss or sand – keep in 40 to 50 degree temperatures and caladiums at 55 to 60 degree temperatures.
Label your plants. In the spring it’s easy to forget what’s what and it’s impossible to tell what colors you have. With larger roots, write the name and color directly on them with a permanent markers. For smaller ones, you may want to use paper bags (not plastic) as your storage container, so that you can label each bag.
Check on your bulbs several times throughout the winter. Throw away any shriveled ones, and remove any packing material that becomes rotten or moldy. Small rotten spots can be cut away with a sterile, sharp knife. If you see the bulbs beginning to wrinkle, mist the packaging materials with a little water. You will be rewarded with beautiful blooms next year.
Charlene Thornhill is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves Daily Advocate readers weekly with her community column Along the Garden Path. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.