by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Before we know it, it is going to be time to dig up and store those tender plants such as Cannas, Dahlias, Tuberous Begonias, Gladiolus and Elephant’s Ears. These summer bulbs need to be lifted from the soil and stored in a cool area indoors for their winters rest.
Allow the Canna foliage to be killed by frost, then let it dry for several days. Cut back the dead foliage to within 3 to 4 inches of the stem and lift the clump of roots out of the ground with a garden fork or spade. Allow the clump to dry for several hours. Apply a fungicide or “bulb dust” that is approved for protecting bulbs in storage. Store the clump in a cool (50 degrees F) area on shelves or racks so that air can circulate freely. In the spring each clump can be planted as is or divided. Since the new growth buds are in the old stem, be sure that there is a portion of an old stem base in each division.
Gladiolus corms should be dug after a frost has occurred. Remove all the loose soil and remove any damaged or diseased corms. Cut the foliage off 1 to 2 inches from the corm and allow to dry in the sun for 1 to 2 days. After drying, loosen and remove any excess soil. It is recommended that corms be cured at a temperature of 80 to 85 degrees F for 2 to 3 weeks on wooden flats or trays. When they are finished curing, remove the old corm from the base of the new corm and treat them to 3 additional days at 80 degrees F to encourage the formation of a corky layer at the scar. Try to keep the temps from fluctuating which can lead to moisture condensation and disease. Before storing, dust with a protecting fungicide. Corms can be stored on screen bottomed trays or in reusable onion sacks at 35 to 40 degrees F with good air circulation.
Dahlias are ready to be dug when the foliage has been darkened by frost. Cut the top back to 4 or 5 inches and lift the root clump from the ground. Loosen and remove as much of the soil around the roots as possible without damaging them. The buds are easier to see in the fall, so this would be a good time to divide the roots making sure there is at least one bud per root. Apply a protective fungicide and allow the roots to dry for no more than several hours. To keep the roots from shriveling, wrap them in newspapers or pack them in boxes of dry sawdust or peat moss and store them in a cool (35 to 40 degrees), dry area.
Check on your stored bulbs during the winter and remove any that show signs of decay or disease.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at Purdue Consumer Horticulture. The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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