The important thing to remember is that if these bulbs are soft, they should be placed in a proper storage place. This will ensure that you will be able to enjoy some of your favorite flowers and save some money next spring. Delicate bulbs include tuberous begonias, freesias, dahlias, tulips, caladiums, cannas, oxalis and calla lilies and should be stored indoors for the winter. If they are not dug and stored properly, they will not survive the cold Minnesota winters.
The general rule is to remove tender bulbs from your garden after the foliage begins to dry out or a frost kills them. Once the timing is right, carefully dig up the tender bulbs. Use a fork or trowel to gently loosen the roots several inches from the base of the plant. It is usually best to loosen the soil on all sides of the plant before attempting to lift the clump. It is important to avoid cutting, breaking, or “skinning” the fleshy material. If damage occurs, it makes the structure more susceptible to disease or rot.
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After digging the bulbs, clean the tender bulbs. Most plants need gentle washing; However, tulips store best if left unwashed and allowed to dry. Make sure to remove dust from any soil before storing it.
Next, the bulbs will need to be treated. Processing time varies depending on the species. Dahlias, cannas, callas and caladiums have a short curing period of only one to three days. Gladiolus, oxalis and freesia plants require a longer treatment period of approximately three weeks. Gladiolus should be cured at temperatures of approximately 60 to 70 degrees. All tender bulbs should be stored out of direct sunlight and in well-ventilated areas.
Next, be sure to check for pests before storing them away. Pests include insects, fungi or other diseases. You may consider dusting with an insecticide or fungicide according to the product label to avoid pests during the winter. Long winters can make it difficult to remember exactly which bulbs come in spring. I recommend labeling your lights when placing them in their final storage space.
Finally, choose a location that will be a consistent temperature and suitable for storing your bulbs. Freesia, tulips and oxalis should be stored at a temperature of 35 to 40 degrees. Cannas and dahlias should be stored at a temperature of 40 to 50 degrees. Tuberous begonias, caladiums and calla lilies should be stored at a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees.
Throughout the winter, you will need to check your bulbs for signs of rot. If you notice rot or other similar problems, remove any material that shows signs before the entire inventory and all of your work is lost.