Digging Up Flower Bulbs for Winter

There is much debate in the gardening world on which, if any, bulbs should be dug up for winter. Although traditional lore states that bulbs should be dug up and separated every year once they are dormant, this is actually not necessary in many cases.

Flower Bulbs in Pots

Hardy bulbs like tulips and daffodils, for instance, do not need to be dug up regularly; every several years, if that, is plenty. You will know if you need to dig up your bulbs if you notice that they aren’t doing as well as they used to, or if they look over-crowded, and you’d like to thin them out accordingly.

Bulbs that are planted in the spring generally can benefit from being dug up in the winter, as they tend to be less hardy varietals. Dahlia, canna and begonia fall into this category, and should be carefully handled.

When To Dig Bulbs Up

First, know when to dig the bulbs. Bulbs should not be dug up until you are sure they are dormant. Digging up non-dormant bulbs can damage and even kill them. A bulb is dormant when its flowers are long dead, and it leaves are yellow. When digging up the bulb, use care with your spade or shovel, as they can be absolutely deadly to bulbs if they hit them directly.

Once the bulbs are free from the ground, lightly shake excess loose dirt from the bulb, without damaging the delicate hair-like roots. The separate bulbs should be very gently pulled apart and separated. For hardy bulbs, you can choose to keep the amount that you want, and replant the newly separated bulbs.

Flower Bubls

The excess bulbs can be stored, or given as gifts, to perhaps, to a garden cooperative in your community or a neighbor. Trading bulbs is a common tradition that adds variety and beauty easily from what otherwise might go to waste. This also prevents overcrowding and keeps your beds tidy and neat.

Storing Bulbs

For bulbs that will be stored, there are a few guidelines. They should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight. Bulbs that get too warm while unearthed can rot. Likewise, bulbs that get damp can mold or rot, and it will be unlikely that they would then produce.

There are many methods of storing bulbs that have been dug up, and the best method for you will depend on your own space. Cool, dark cellars can be ideal. Wrapping the bulbs lightly in newspaper and storing them so that they are not touching each other is a good way. Bulbs can also be hung for storage, as long as they are not in direct sunlight, and not in a place where there is much humidity. People also store bulbs in tubs of sand or shredded newspaper. The key is to keep them separate, and to only store the large, firm bulbs. Bulbs that are soft, bruised or diseased looking should be discarded.

Pink Tulips

With proper care and storage, bulbs are a continued source of beauty and color in your garden. They replenish their own supply, rendering you with an affordable, easy source of yearly delight, and leave you enough to share with friends!


Category: Flower Gardening

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