Storing bulbs over winter

Tuberous begonias are hardy to zone 10.

In all but the warmest hardiness planting zones, many summer and fall flowering bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers will not survive a cold winter. Unlike hardy bulbs, which require a period of cold in order to bloom, these “tender bulbs” can’t handle the cold and need to be dug up, stored, and protected in colder climates. With a little practice, this can be done fairly easily and allows you to grow all sorts of plants that otherwise might not be winter hardy in your area.

Caladiums are tubers that can be treated as houseplants during the winter.

Tender bulbs that may need winter care include:

Cannas can be left in the ground in zones 7 and higher.

Digging and Storing Bulbs for the Winter

To overwinter your tender bulbs, follow these basic steps:

  1. As the weather cools, the foliage on your tender bulbs will begin to turn yellow. This often happens after a light frost but before a hard freeze. Now’s the time to dig them up, before they are damaged by freezing soil.
  2. Very gently dig your plants by loosing the soil all the way around the plant, several inches or more from the main stem. Use a fork or spade to carefully remove the plant from the ground, making sure not to damage the main bulb or underground food storage structure.
  3. 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.
  4. Place the bulbs in a dry place out of the sun and wind and not subject to freezing temperatures for a day or two to dry.
  5. At this point, most bulbs and tubers are ready to store. However, corms such as gladiolus, calla, acidanthera, crocosmia, freesia, tigrida, and tritonia now need a “curing period” of about three more weeks. These corms cure best at warm temperatures up to 85° F and should not be left out in freezing temperatures, so try to coincide this with a spell of warm weather or cure them indoors.
  6. Sort the bulbs, removing any diseased or shriveled ones.
  7. Cut off the stems and foliage.
  8. Treat the bulbs, if you wish, with a fungicide and/or pesticide powder.
  9. 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, you can write the name and color directly on them with a permanent marker, or gently tie on a labeled tag. For smaller ones, you may want to use paper bags (not plastic!) as your storage container, so that you can label each bag.
  10. Fill ventilated containers with a loose storage medium such as peat moss, vermiculite, newspapers, or sawdust. Some gardeners slightly dampen the storage medium, but you don’t want it wet enough to invite mold.
  11. Layer the bulbs in the storage medium – don’t let them touch each other.
  12. Put the containers in a cool, dry place around 50° F. A dry, unheated basement, garage, or crawl space is a great spot as long as temperatures stay above freezing.
  13. Check on your bulbs several times throughout the winter. Throw away any shriveled ones, and remove any packing material that is rotten or moldy. Small rotten spots can be cut away with a sterile, sharp knife. If you see bulbs beginning to wrinkle or look shrunken, mist the packing material with a little water.

My Taro often loses its leaves when I bring it indoors, but it soon sprouts anew.

Overwintering Bulbs as Houseplants

If you’d like, you can simply plant your tender bulbs in pots, and bring them indoors as houseplants for the winter. Many tender bulbs will do just fine this way, although be aware that they’ll grow and bloom on their own schedule. Plants are very sensitive to the length of daylight, temperature, and humidity, and these factors are difficult to control.

Replanting in the Spring

In the spring, after all danger of frost has passed and the soil is nicely thawed and warm, you can replant your tender bulbs. You can also divide them at this time if you want. For a head start, pot your tender bulbs indoors in very early spring, and move them outdoors when appropriate.

Elephant ears grow larger each year, so they’re worth saving.

Further Information

Wintertime Choices for Spring Bulb Procrastinators

Q. Help! I bought 100 daffodil bulbs , but only got 60 planted. What do I do (besides not ordering so many bulbs NEXT year)? Can I save the remaining 40 bulbs? If I plant them outdoors in early Spring, will they will bloom later that spring? Do I store them in a refrigerator in the meantime?

—Carol in Glenmoore, PA

I just picked up a bunch of fall bulbs from a garden center that was going to throw them out. The ground is too hard to plant them now. Can I put them in the freezer until next fall? Or should I plant them in pots filled with a sterile mix for summer bloom?

—Dick in Medford Lakes

I read an article in my local newspaper that said it’s ok to keep bulbs like tulips and daffodils in the freezer over the winter and plant them outside in the spring. What do you think about this? Thanks for your advice!

—Kristine in Reading, PA

A. I think that putting ‘naked’ bulbs—or even bulbs in pots—into a freezer would be a very bad idea. That so-called ‘garden writer’ should have his or her hand smacked with an ornamental allium!

As our resident bulb expert Art Wolk , winner of countless Philadelphia Flower Show blue ribbons and author of ” Bulb Forcing for the Beginner and Seriously Smitten ” has explained many times, you have to adhere to a very tight temperature range when trying to trick Spring bulbs into believing that they’re really outside in the ground. The ideal range, says Art, is 40 to 50 degrees F.—quite a distance from the zero F. that most freezers are set for.

Now, this basic question—”what do I do with the Spring bulbs I should have planted outside between Halloween and Thanksgiving now that it’s after New Year’s?”—is a very common one, and Art’s basic answer is generally to try and plant them outside anyway. Says Artski: “If the ground isn’t frozen solid, it’s much easier to try and get them to bloom by planting them directly in the garden. Yes, even this late in the game. With any luck, they should flower just a bit behind fall-planted bulbs. I occasionally have leftover daffodils and tulips that I’ve planted directly in the garden (not in pots) as late as January 20th, and they’ve bloomed just fine.”

But what about pots, Art? As I mentioned on the show last fall, I deliberately planted five pots of bulbs in a soil free mix and perlite, saturated them really well with water, let them drain and then put them in a ‘beer fridge’ we have in the basement that stays right around 45 degrees. I even dated them and specified the varieties, so I would know when they had chilled long enough (10 weeks for little bulbs like crocus; 12 to 14 weeks for tulips and daffs). I didn’t ‘need’ to do this—I’ve got plenty of outdoor space, but 1) it seemed like a fun thing to try; and 2) It would at least delay the inevitable Evil Squirrel attack on the poor plants.

My plan is to bring some of the pots into bright light indoors when their chilling time has been achieved and display them that way, and to take the others outside to a prominent location when the correct number of weeks has gone by. If I get the timing and temperature right, I expect them to behave like bulbs that were buried outdoors and bloom nicely for me.

“The only disadvantage of potting up and chilling forgotten bulbs”, says Art, “is the extra time and effort it takes. You have to have enough pots, enough soil-free mix, and the proper place to give them that all-important 40-50 degrees for root formation and flower-stem extension.”

He adds that if you have the pots and the mix, but not an extra fruit-free fridge (you can’t force bulbs in a fridge where fruits will also be stored), you can bury the pots outside with the lip of the pot flush with the soil line. (I like this idea; it’s much easier to dig one big hole in cold-to-frozen soil than a couple dozen little ones!) When Spring arrives, you can just leave them there in the ground or move the pots to a more visible area for better display right before the flowers open up.

So—just how late in the game can you do this kind of thing, Art? Say you notice you have unplanted bulbs in, say, April? Can you pot them up, chill them down and have tulips blooming in July?

“Not outdoors,” he assures us. “The summer heat in most regions would prevent the flowers from emerging — a condition known as ‘blindness’. Or, if they somehow managed to emerge, the bud wouldn’t develop into a good blossom — a condition known as bud blast.”

So get going, all you bulb procrastinators! It sounds like once you pass a certain point in the season, an old bulb is good for the compost pile and nothing else.

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Read these 5 simple steps on how to store tulip bulbs. Starts when tulip is in the ground and steps you through to storing properly until it’s time to plant them again.

My mom was an avid gardener. She loved tulips and planted many of them in the yard. As many tulip growers do, she stored the bulbs after each growing season. She had paper grocery bags full of them stored in the cool basement (where us kids also played, but we knew better than to disturb the precious bulbs).

Tulips have natural storage organs called bulbs, which places them in the geophytes category of flowers. They bloom in spring, which is why they are known as perennial flowers. There are many types of tulips that grow in all sorts of colors such as red, white, yellow, and pink.

They are large, bright, and stand out from the rest, which makes them a really popular choice amongst flowers for any given event. There are about 75 different species of the tulip flower. They have a really long history of cultivation, which makes their classification quite difficult and controversial.

Brief History of Tulips

Tulips were first cultivated in the Ottoman Empire and were imported to Holland in the 16th Century. The first book on tulips was written in 1592 by Carolus Clusius, which made tulips really popular in the region. His garden was even raided quite often for the bulbs, since they were highly sought after.

The Dutch Golden Age bought immense popularity for the colorful tulips. They became a must-have in festivals and paintings, so much so that they created the first economic bubble. This was known as the Tulip Mania in which people bought so many tulip bulbs that the price inflated unnaturally. They were used as money until the market crashed.

Nowadays, Holland is known as the home of tulips. It is called the ‘flower shop of the world’ because it produces the most beautiful flowers in the world. They have large fields of tulips in a pretty array of colors due to which many tulip festivals are held throughout the country when spring comes around. The Dutch were the first ones to take their love for tulips abroad and bought them to the United States.

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You can still find millions of different tulips and other flowers in the Kop Van Noord-Holland. The tulip field is a beautiful tourist spot where tulips are arranged into a sea of different colors. It starts in late April and lasts until early May, and it is definitely a must-see at least once in your life.

Storing Tulip Bulbs

Step 1: Cut off bulb stems

Firstly, while the tulip is still planted, you need to cut off the stems of the bulb after the flower dies; you can opt for pruning shears to complete this job. Once all the flowers are removed, use a pair of pruning shears to cut the stems off the bulb. This will prevent the loss of essential nutrients and energy in the bulb, which is why you need to make sure you trim the stem off as close to the base of the bulb as possible. You can keep the leaves on the tulips since they will provide necessary energy for the next season.

Step 2: Pull out the bulbs

Once the leaves begin to yellow and die, you should pull out the bulbs. The leaves usually take 6 weeks to become yellow after the blooming period has passed. This is a crucial time for the bulb where it begins to gather the energy from photosynthesis to help it bloom next season. You can easily dig the bulb from the ground once all the leaves have died.

Make sure that you do not overwater the bulbs after the leaves have begun to die. They can continue to thrive under occasional rain, but the bulbs will begin to rot if the soil is too wet. You can pull the bulb out of the ground by loosening the soil with a small garden shovel.

Step 3: Clean off the dirt from the bulbs

Clean off all the dirt and worms from the bulbs with a paper tower. You should also remove any signs of rot and browning with a paper towel. Store them in a cool and dry place for 2 days in a tray so that they dry out. Make sure they aren’t in direct sunlight so places like a shaded area or garage work really well. They will rot under sunlight since they develop moisture.

Step 4: Wrap the bulbs

Wrap the bulbs separately in newspapers, which will retain some level of moisture and retain the necessary temperature. You can also use sawdust and sphagnum moss instead of newspapers. Put them in a mesh bag so that there is a healthy flow of air.

Step 5: Storage location

Store the bulbs in a dark and dry place for 12 weeks. After that, you will need to put them in the crisper drawer of the fridge if you live in areas of milder winters. If temperatures don’t go below 10°C, you have to put them in the refrigerator.

Don’t store them near apples or other fruits and check for moldy or shriveled bulbs every two weeks. Remove and replace any newspaper that begins to mold or rot as well. You can gently apply mist with a spray bottle if they look shrunken or wrinkled. You should plant them 6 to 8 weeks before the first signs of frost appears.

Growing Tulips

Tulip bulbs need to be planted before the winters come since the ground can freeze up. The best thing to do to plant tulips is to use different varieties. This means that they will all have different bloom times from early to late spring, making your garden look beautiful throughout. You can get some indoor varieties as well as cut flowers.

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Tulips have three petals as well as three sepals and are usually shaped like a cup. Tulips can be planted in all sorts of settings which include garden plantings, bed, borders, natural woodland areas, and more. Most tulips reach a height of 6 inches to an amazing 2 feet. Each stem grows one tulip bulb and every plant can grow 2 to 6 broad leaves.

Tulips are perennial flowers scientifically but hybridizing has been going for centuries. This has weakened the ability of the tulip bulb to come back each year, which is why a lot of farmers and gardeners treat them as annual plants. They plant new bulbs every autumn, especially since the North America soil and climate can never replicate the original soil available in Russia, where tulips were originally born.

Planting Tulips

🔥 TIP: !

Parts of a tulip and planting instructions graphic

Tulips need to be planted in Zones 7 and 8 in a shady area. They need a place with full or at least an afternoon or morning sun. Make sure that the soil is drained well, and is fertile, dry or sandy, and lies somewhere between neutral and slightly acidic. Excess moisture will impede the growing process for the tulips.

Tulips need to be planted in the autumn, at least 6 to 8 weeks before extreme winters are expected; this is why the perfect planting time for tulips is November or December in the South and September or October in the north. You will have to chill the tulip bulbs in the refrigerator for at least 12 weeks before planting it if you experience milder winters in the region.

If you plan on planting tall varieties of tulips then make sure you have a proper shelter against the winds which can break the stems. Choose a larger planting side since the bulbs will need to be spaced 4 to 6 inches apart.

To plant the tulip bed, you will need a tiller or garden fork to loosen the soil. Create depth of 12 to 15 inches and mix in at least 2 to 4 inches of compost. Tulip bulbs need to be planted really deep –at least 8 inches deep. Make sure you allow room for drainage and remember that the bigger the bulb, the deeper they go. Plant the tulip bulb with the pointy end up, cover it up with soil and press firmly.

You will need to water the bulbs right after you plant them. They need water to trigger the growth but can’t bear wet roots when they eventually begin to grow. You need a balanced fertilizer if you are planning to grow perennial tulips. Tulips have their own storage system which contains all the nutrients that they will need for one whole year that is released with the use of compost and organic material.

Caring for Tulips

Make sure to never water your plants if they are affected by rain every week, since tulips do not like being over watered. During a dry spell, you definitely need to water the tulips until winter arrives and the ground freezes over. Wet soil, irrigation systems, and rainy summers will cause the tulips to die, which is why unless there is a drought you shouldn’t water the tulips.

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Preparing Bulbs For Winter: How To Store Bulbs For Winter

Whether you are storing tender summer blooming bulbs or more hardy spring bulbs that you did not get in the ground in time, knowing how to store bulbs for winter will ensure that these bulbs will be viable for planting in the spring. Let’s look at how to store garden bulbs over the winter.

Preparing Bulbs for Winter Storage

Cleaning – If your bulbs were dug up from the ground, gently brush off any excess dirt. Do not wash the bulbs as this can add excess water to the bulb and cause it to rot while you are storing bulbs for the winter.

Packing – Remove the bulbs from any plastic bags or containers. One of the things to keep in mind when you are learning how to store bulbs for winter is that if you store

your bulbs in a material that cannot “breathe,” the bulbs will rot.

Instead, pack your bulbs in a cardboard box for storing bulbs for the winter. When preparing bulbs for winter, layer the bulbs in the box with newspaper in between each layer. In each layer of bulbs, the bulbs should not be touching one another.

Storing Bulbs for the Winter

Location – The proper way on how to store bulbs for winter is to choose a cool but dry location for your bulbs. A closet is good. If your basement does not get too damp, this is also a good choice. If you are storing spring blooming bulbs, the garage is also a good.

Special directions for spring blooming bulbs – If you are not storing spring blooming bulbs in the garage, consider storing bulbs for the winter in your refrigerator. Spring blooming bulbs need at least six to eight weeks of cold in order to bloom. By preparing bulbs for winter and then spring in your fridge, you can still enjoy a bloom from them. Plant them as soon as the ground thaws in the spring.

Check on them occasionally – Another tip for how to store garden bulbs over the winter is to check them about once a month. Squeeze each one gently and toss any that have become mushy.

Now that you know how to store garden bulbs over the winter, you can keep your bulbs safe from Old Man Winter and enjoy their beauty next year.

Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog

Bulbs provide a good investment for money spent and supply years of spring color in your yard. Fall is the prime time for planting of hardy spring flowering bulbs. Most bulbs can be planted until the ground is frozen. I however, have planted tons of them in the Spring and have always been successful. I have been able to keep a few of my bulbs in the ground year round, but some have to be brought in. Since it is almost time for spring bulb preservation, I am giving you information on digging up and storing your spring and summer bulbs.

Digging and Storing Spring Bulbs

Once the foliage dies back or matures in the late spring or early summer, the bulb is dormant. Summer is the dormant period for spring bulbs. As the foliage dies back, the roots that nourish the bulbs also die back. With fall rains, the bulb comes out of summer dormancy and roots begin to grow again to provide the bulb nutrients and moisture.

Once the spring bulbs enter dormancy, the time is right to dig the bulbs if needed. Some bulbs benefit from digging to divide the bulbs and spread them out over the bed.

If the choice is to dig bulbs, they should be stored in a well ventilated place and replanted in the fall. Every five years daffodils and crocus should be dug and replanted to prevent overcrowding. The first sign of overcrowding will be a decrease in the flower size, uneven bloom and uneven plant height. When this occurs, dig, spread bulbs out and replant immediately.

Digging and Storing Summer Bulbs

Most summer flowering bulbs should be dug and stored when the leaves on the plants turn yellow. Use a spading fork to lift the bulbs from the ground. Wash off any soil that clings to the bulbs, except for bulbs that are stored in pots or with the soil around them.

Leave the soil on achimenes, begonia, canna, caladium, dahlia and ismene bulbs. Store these bulbs in clumps on a slightly moistened layer of peat moss or sawdust in a cool place. Wash and separate them just before planting.

Spread the washed bulbs in a shaded place to dry. When dry, store them away from sunlight in a cool, dry basement, cellar, garage or shed at 60° to 65°F. Avoid tempertures below 50° or above 70°F unless different instructions are given for a particular bulbs.

Inspect your bulbs for signs of disease. Keep only large, healthy bulbs that are firm and free of spots. Discard undersized bulbs.

If you have only a few bulbs, you can keep them in paper bags hung by strings from the ceiling or wall. Store large numbers of bulbs on trays with screen bottoms. Separate your bulbs by species or variety before storing them.

Be sure that air can circulate around your stored bulbs. Never store bulbs more than two or three layers deep. Deep piles of bulbs generate heat and decay.

Most flowering bulbs are best stored over a long period at temperatures between 60°F and 68°F. Try to keep the humidity in the storage area as low as possible. Never store bulbs in an area where ethylene gas produced by fruit is present. Bulbs can be stored in a container with peat moss, sand, perlite or vermiculite. Another common storage method is to place the bulbs in a very loose knit sack and hang in a sheltered, cool area. Do not divide or separate bulbs before storing them.

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Tips for Storing Garden Bulbs

Traditionally, flower bulbs – and many tubers – have been lifted every year from beds, borders and pots and then stored to ensure that they are not damaged by squirrels, mice and other vermin as it was thought they would flower less freely in subsequent years if left in the ground. Received wisdom is a funny thing; sometimes it perpetuates surprising practices with good reason, sometimes we should just move on.

Do Bulbs Need to Be Lifted and Stored?

In the case of bulbs, this lifting is often extra work at a time when most of us do not have extra pairs of hands in the garden. So, the first question is whether you really need to lift and store your spring bulbs? Bulbs are often bred to survive well and even naturalise in grass and borders. Many alliums and daffodils come into this category along with some tulip varieties that are recommended for naturalising like Negrita, Ballerina, Golden Apeldoorn and Spring Green – all wonderful perennial tulips varieties.

Rather than lifting, the trick to ensure your bulbs delight you year on year is to give them a high potash feed as they flower – a high nitrogen feed will just benefit the surrounding grass – and continue with a final feed as the leaves yellow and wilt. The extra nutrients are absorbed by the bulb to provide the oomph for next year’s flowers.

Bulb foliage should be left intact for six weeks after flowering so that the nutrients in the leaves can also be drawn back down into the bulb for the same reason. If you think that badgers or mice will rootle your bulbs out, then cover the area in which they are planted with chicken wire. The stalks and leaves will grow through it and hopefully, it deters would-be bulb eaters.

When Should You Lift and Store Bulbs?

However, there are various scenarios where it is advisable to put in the extra work of lifting and storing your garden bulbs for re-use the following year:

  • If you grew your bulbs in pots and wish to re-use the pots for other purposes over the summer.
  • If you have bulbs that have been growing in one spot or pot for several years they will have become overcrowded. Remove the top layer of compost to check whether the bulbs are crammed together too tightly or/and have produced extra new bulbs which are now too close to their parent bulb. If so, lift when dormant and replant at a more generous spacing.
  • If the risk of damage from wildlife like badgers, mice and squirrels is great.
  • Where the soil may become waterlogged in summer; most bulbs will rot if left in truly wet soil.
  • If you want to change the colour scheme or display in your borders each year.

How to Store Garden Bulbs

Timing and preparation are key when it comes to maximising the chances of storing your bulbs successfully. As mentioned, try to feed your bulbs with a high potash fertiliser. Then, once the flowers have faded, wait to lift the bulbs until leaves have gone yellow and wilted, which is generally about a 6 weeks after flowering. If you are in the reuse-pot-scenario, and you wish to redeploy your pots before full wilt has been achieved, then just transfer the contents of the pot to a spare area of the garden and replant the whole caboodle so that the leaves can die back naturally in the soil.

Whatever you choose, deadhead before the bulbs set seed by cutting off the stalk just below the flower head. In this way, you divert the energy that would have gone into seed production back down to the bulb. Allow any pots to dry out a little before lifting the bulbs out of the compost, or try to wait for a dryish period if the bulbs are in beds or borders. Carefully loosen the soil around the bulbs and remove them using a fork.

Discard any bulbs that look diseased, rotten or damaged. If any have formed decent sized bulblets or offsets, separate these off now to make new bulbs. Rub off any flaky, dry brown tunic tissue and soil using your hands leaving the bulb clean. Gently pull or cut off the dead foliage. Put the naked bulbs onto a wire tray to dry out overnight. Belts and braces gardeners will then use a soft brush to powder the bulbs with fungicide or sulphur to prevent mildews or moulds forming. Finally, put the bulbs into nets, or a cardboard box with newspaper crumpled between the layers of bulbs or paper (not plastic) bags that are clearly labelled with the bulb variety name. Use indelible ink for labelling!

These should then be stored somewhere frost free and dark until you wish to plant them in autumn. It is worth checking the bulbs over the summer to make sure that none have rotted or become soft which would lead to disease infecting the rest. Before planting, make sure they are still in good shape and put a tiny bit of fertiliser or bonemeal at the bottom of each planting hole to get them off to the best possible start in their new homes.

What to do if You didn’t get your Bulbs Planted

HELP! I ran out of time to plant my fall bulbs! Now what?

“I know you’re not supposed to plant fall bulbs in the spring but we were hit with hard winter weather rather early this year and I am left with at least 100 tulip and daffodil bulbs that were unable to get planted. Would they survive to bloom next year if I were to plant them now?”

~Dianne from Idaho

Dianne asks a very good question…and one I’ve heard quite often! We all know what it’s like to have the greatest plans for our yard that never seem to quite materialize. Sometimes you even get so motivated that you actually purchase the bulbs and yet they still never make it in the ground! Whether it’s a forgetful mind, the unpredictability of Mother Nature, or just plain running out of time, it’s okay: we’ve ALL done it. And the best news? It may not be too late for your bulbs!

These bulbs were bought with good intentions…anything you can do with them now?

The most important factor to consider when deciding what to do with fall bulbs which were never planted in fall is the conditions in which they have been stored. Were they kept in a cool, dry place since you bought them? Were they left out in the garage? Were they left on the warm kitchen table? Test your bulbs for firmness by squeezing them. Also look for signs of rot or blight by checking the outside of the bulbs for dark or mushy spots. If the bulbs feel firm and have a rather healthy-looking outside, then you’ve got yourself some winners! Most likely, if the bulb was left outside or in a very cold garage and was allowed to freeze, it is no longer salvageable.

So now that you’ve determined that your bulbs are still healthy enough to survive, it’s time to get them “chilled.” As you may or may not know, most fall bulbs (tulips, daffodils, and hyacinth to be specific) need to be chilled in order to grow and bloom properly in the springtime. When planting them in northern climates which receive consistently cool weather in the winter (Zones 3-8), this happens naturally. However, since your bulbs were not planted before the winter and now the ground is frozen, the bulbs can no longer be planted in the ground this year. This leaves you with two options:

  1. Plant the bulbs in one large (or a few small) pots. Plant them at the correct depth but don’t worry too

    These ‘Queen of Night’ Tulips need to be chilled in order to grow and bloom correctly.

    much about the spacing. As long as the bulbs aren’t on top of one another or smashed side-by-side, they’ll be fine. Place this pot in a cool but not freezing garage (upper 30’s and 40’s for temperature). If you do not have a garage or shed which meets this criteria, the pot can be left outside on a patio or deck as long as it is wrapped in something which will protect it from frost (such as burlap or bubble wrap). The bulbs will then receive their necessary “chilling” period but will not freeze. In approximately 10 to 12 weeks or so, you should start to see a little growth. Once this happens, move the pot to a nice sunny patio or lawn area (or remove the bubble warp). The bulbs will continue to grow and bloom just as they would in the ground. The bulbs can then be dug out of the pot and moved to a flowerbed either during their growing cycle or after the foliage has browned and dried. OR…

  2. Place the bulbs in a paper bag in the refrigerator. Be sure that the refrigerator is set at a temperature between 35°F and 50°F. Also, rid the refrigerator of any fruit (particularly apples) as these produce a plant hormone called “ethylene” when ripening which will cause flower bulbs to rot. After a period of 10-12 weeks, the bulbs may start to sprout. At this time, the ground outside should be thawed and the bulbs planted in the ground. They will then grow and bloom as normal!

One important thing to keep in mind when doing this is that the environment required by these bulbs is being artificially created. Therefore, be forgiving of your bulbs and do not expect them to be super all-star growers and bloomers the first year. It may take them a little while to readjust but after they have completed their first full growing season, you’ll never be able to tell the difference!

Because Dianne’s question was featured in the Bulb Blog, she received a $5.00 off coupon for her next Holland Bulb Farms order. Congratulations to her and thank you for the great question! Keep them coming and you may get a coupon, too!

Until next time,

Got a gardening question for Bridget? Email her at [email protected]! If she features your question in a post, you’ll receive a coupon of your next order at!

Know the Right Ways of Storing Tulip Bulbs? Read This to Find Out

Tulips are wonderful, long-lasting flowers that can be grown in one’s own backyard. After the blooming season, tulip bulbs can be stored carefully, and replanted the next fall during the flowering season. Let’s find out how to store these bulbs …

Tulips originated in Turkey and the word ‘tulip’ comes from the Turkish word, tulbend, meaning turban. This is because tulips resembled the turbans worn in Turkey at that time. Tulips, although classified along with perennials, have to be treated as annuals. They need well-drained soil and to improve the drainage, one can add sand and compost to the soil.

Once the foliage has died, the tulip bulbs are to be dug out and stored in a cool area. Then, they are to be replanted in the fall. Storing tulip bulbs is a great means of keeping the bulbs from blooming for several years to come. Once the tulips finish blooming, they begin to recharge themselves, for the next flowering season and start storing energy. After the recharging process is complete, the tulip bulbs lay dormant and wait to bloom afresh in the next season.

How to Store Tulip Bulbs for Fall Planting?

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Storing tulips bulbs is a simple task, but has to be done carefully, so that they will be ready to be planted in the fall. There are different ways in which you can store them.

In-ground Storage: Since tulip bulbs are quite hardy, they can be easily stored in the ground. In fact, storing them in the ground is the easiest and (as considered by some) the laziest way to store these bulbs. However, if these tulip bulbs freeze in the soil, then they die, which is why the climate of the region plays a crucial role in determining the way in which bulbs are stored. One can check with the hardiness zone to see if they can be stored in the ground. If the environment is suitable to store the bulbs, then, one can go about with in-ground storage.

However, bulbs stored in the ground, need to be protected from squirrels, who are prone to sniffing them out. The only way to protect the bulbs from the squirrels is by covering the ground with a wire mesh. The mesh will prevent the squirrels from digging the bulbs out and the holes in the mesh will permit the tulips from sprouting in the following spring. Another drawback of this storage method is that in modern gardens, tulips are often mixed with other plants, which bloom later in the year, causing the tulips to be over-watered during their dormant months. Over-watering not only hinders the tulip’s growth, but also leads to bulb rot.

Above-ground Storage: The best part about storing tulip bulbs above the ground, is that one can see the bulbs and divide them if possible. People planning to store tulip bulbs should wait for the tulip foliage to turn yellow. Yellowing implies completion of energy storage for the next year’s blossoming season. If the bulbs are removed early, they won’t have enough strength to grow in the following season but once the yellow indicator comes on, one can safely remove the bulbs from the ground. To prevent bulb rotting, clean off dirt and debris from the bulbs. Next, wash the bulbs and allow the bulbs to dry out in the sun for a week.

A layer of vermiculite, dry sand, or peat moss is to be spread at the bottom of a flat tray or container without a lid. Into this dry container, the bulbs are to be neatly placed, all the while ensuring that each bulb is covered by the sand-peat moss mixture. To store each bulb separately, one could use a styrofoam egg carton, or keep them in the segments of a cardboard box. The peat moss-sand mixture must be only one layer thick, for air circulation. This step is called packing of the tulip bulbs.

After packing, the next step is to keep the tulips in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area. Damp places can cause the bulbs to rot. Although moisture results in rotting, keeping the bulbs in dry places can cause them to dry out completely. Thus, the place chosen should ideally have average humidity, with the temperature being below 50ºF.

Storing these bulbs in the refrigerator is also not such a good idea. This is because certain fruits and vegetables release ethylene gas that can harm the bulbs. If one has a spare refrigerator, then one can go ahead with the refrigerator storage method. Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents and pests love to get their hands or rather claws on these bulbs and feast on them. One should choose a location that is inaccessible to these bulb thieves.

By following these simple guidelines one can prepare to harvest lovely tulips in spring. Taking care of tulips is not difficult and proper care yields glorious flowers. Damaged bulbs can recover, however, it is advisable to store the damaged bulbs separately, so as to ensure the safety of the healthy ones. Don’t forget to replant the bulbs the next fall!

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The foliage of spring-flowering bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, is beginning to turn yellow and brown and looking a little ratty in the landscape. So now is a good time to dig them up.

Here’s some tips to extricate the bulbs and get the best results for next year’s blooms:

If bulbs are growing in the lawn or close to tree or shrubs, consider leaving them to go dormant naturally. It’s not worth disturbing the root system of other plants to retrieve these bulbs.

To insure you don’t damage the bulbs when digging them up, use a garden fork. It will help loosen the soil but won’t sever any roots or cut any bulbs in half, which could happen when you use a shovel.

Once a bulb is above ground, knock off any loose soil, but do not wash them. Water can cause bulbs to rot. Cut off any foliage and roots on the bulbs.

Find a cool, dry, dark place to store the bulbs temporarily, but not the refrigerator — not yet. Spring bulbs need to sit out for 48 to 72 hours to dry slightly before storing them in the refrigerator. A wire rack or shelf is the optimum place to store them, but any shelf in the garage or closet in your home is a good temporary spot. Lay the bulbs out so they are not touching one another. You want to keep the air circulating between all bulbs.

After drying for a few days, pack up the bulbs. Brown paper bags work great for storing. The bulbs will need to stay in the refrigerator for at least six to eight weeks for proper flower development next year.

Plant the bulbs in late December to early January for a beautiful spring show.

Once the bulbs are removed from the garden, you may have a few blank spaces in your yard. To fill them, try vinca or periwinkle. There are new and improved varieties on the market that are more disease resistant and have larger and longer-lasting flowers. Most vinca grow upright, but there are a few spreading varieties, such as the Mediterranean variety, that will look great spilling over the edge of pot. They make an excellent replacement for bulbs that were grown in pots.

The Kauai Torenia, also called wishbone flower, is a fast and easy way to add a spectacular pop of color to your landscape. Torenia is a warm-season bedding plant that performs well in shade to part sun. Be sure to give this plant enough room to grow to its full size, typically 1 foot tall by 1 foot wide. Planting these about 10 inches apart will give you a colorful blanket of flowers by summer.

Vinca and Torenia, along with many other annuals, come in a variety of colors and sometime even mixes of colors. For a bold statement in the landscape, choose just one color, which will draw the eye and create cohesion in your landscape.

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