They are still able to dig tender flower bulbs in January due to El Niño

They are still able to dig tender flower bulbs in January due to El Niño

A long stretch of warm weather, thanks to El Niño, has kept our southeast Michigan garden soils warmer than we'd expect for this time of year. This means that plants that would normally have been killed by freezing until now are still alive.

A few weeks ago, I blogged about digging and storing canna and dahlia roots. Both dahlias and cannas are tender plants that are killed by cold winter temperatures. The tops are the most vulnerable parts of the plant and die at the first strong frost in the fall. But underground, the roots can remain alive for some time.

Even though I have all the stored roots I need for next year's garden, there is an area in the front flower garden that I haven't had a chance to dig out the rest of our bulbs.

This spot has southern exposure, so it gets more solar energy than other parts of our garden. The sun is very low in the sky this time of year and does not provide much heat, but it does provide some, and a south-facing slope helps absorb solar (heat) radiation significantly more than a north-facing slope.

With all the garden debris left behind, it can be difficult to find the roots.  Fallen canna stems show where the roots are.

We like to leave almost all garden debris in place in the garden over the winter to provide seed for birds and shelter for beneficial insects.

This spot is also covered in pine needles which provide an insulating blanket that helps prevent the warmth of the soil from circulating into the air. This keeps the garden soil warmer than if it were bare.

On the morning of January 2, 2024, the soil temperature was 45 degrees, warm enough to be safe for tender bulbs like dahlias and cannas.

One sunny day shortly after Christmas, a few days before the New Year, I was looking out into the garden and noticed dead canna and dahlia stems lying on the ground. It turns out it's not cold enough to freeze the soil yet.

I broke out the garden forks and dug up the tubers with the help of my daughter. They were in excellent condition. Soil temperatures were still in the 40s, providing the right conditions for the bulbs to stay well in the soil, right where they were growing.

The dahlia tubers were still plump and undamaged in late December of this year.

I had an extra plastic storage tub, so they went and are now in a sheltered spot indoors where they will overwinter until spring.

By far, this is the last of the tender bulbs I dug.

If you planted some cannas, dahlias or other tender bulbs last season and didn't have a chance to dig them up, you may still be able to salvage them, especially if they are in a sheltered spot where they receive some sun. However, don't wait too long, the weather forecast indicates that normal temperatures will finally return and the roots and tubers will soon freeze.

    (tags for translation) Access: Free 

You may also like...

Leave a Reply