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Care of Bulbs: Digging
Most Bulbs prefer not to be disturbed and can be left in the ground for many years. But beware of overcrowding. When too many bulbs try to occupy the same space, they will be less vigorous and flowers will be fewer and smaller, an indication that it's time to transplant them. Now let's learn about how to store flower bulbs.

Harvesting and Storing Flower Bulbs

If you lift your 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, this is when you should dig up the bulbs, spread the bulbs out and replant them immediately.

Digging Summer—Less hardy bulbs such as Dahlias or Begonias should be lifted each fall. It is best to lift after frost has blackened foliage, gently spade up the bulbs, being careful not to cut into the bulbs/tubers and damage them. If you prefer to lift the bulbs before frost has hit, you can dig your bulbs early and store them in a well-ventilated, frost-free area until they are dry. Just let the leaves remain on the bulbs until they become dry.

Most bulbs, including tulip bulbs and daffodil bulbs, should be dried for about a week before you prepare them for storage. Pull any loose any remaining foliage, shake the bulbs gently to remove any clinging soil, dust them with fungicide powder to prevent rot and place them in unsealed paper bags or old nylon stockings with some dry peat moss to keep the bulbs from touching one another. Store them away from sunlight in a cool, dry basement, cellar, garage or shed at 60-65°F. Avoid temperatures below 50°F or above 70°F unless different instructions are given for a particular bulbs. Follow specific storing instructions for tender bulbs, such as Dahlias, Gladiolus and Begonias.

Digging Up and Storing Tulip Bulbs

Digging and storing tulip bulbs is a relatively easy process, and saves your bulbs from squirrels and frost damage. However, tulip bulbs don't actually need to be lifted in most of the United States. Unless you find that your bulbs are stunted or damaged after the winter, you don't need to dig up and store tulip bulbs. If you find that your bulbs disappear over winter—dead due to poor conditions or carried off by hungry critters—you may want to lift and store your tulip bulbs.

Wait until the foliage has died back on your tulip bulbs before digging them: digging too early can harm the bulbs. Use a trowel to dig about eight inches into the ground around each bulb, then lift the bulbs and shake off the extra dirt. Trim off the extra foliage.

Next, cure the tulip bulbs by setting them in a box of peat, paper, or other packing materials. Allow the bulbs to dry for a few days, then store them on paper in a cardboard box. Use a garage or refrigerator to store the bulbs in cool, dark spot, and replant them in compost-amended soil in the spring.

Digging Up and Storing Daffodil Bulbs

Digging up and replanting daffodils isn't necessary—daffodils are cold hardy. However, if you want to transplant your daffodils, or simply save them from getting carried away by squirrels, you can dig them and store them for the winter.

Wait until autumn to dig up daffodils, and don't move them until the foliage has begun to die back. Use a trowel or spade to lift the bulbs, and brush off excess dirt. Then, trim the stems to an inch or two above the bulb. If you're dividing your daffodils, you can break them up at this stage—however, don't force any new tubers away from parent bulbs. If they seem stuck together, leave them alone!

Before storing daffodil bulbs, let them cure by setting them, spaced apart, on a bed of peat or loam. After a few days, place your bulbs in a box -- again, with a few inches between each bulb—and store the box in a safe, dark location. Aim for a temperature below 70℉ and above 55℉: garages and sheds are perfect for storing daffodil bulbs!

Digging Up and Storing Lily Bulbs

Most Asiatic and oriental lilies do not need to be lifted or stored in most locations. However, some lilies are not cold-hardy in locations lower than Zone 5 or 6. In those climates, lifting and storing your lilies will keep them safe from cold damage.

Make sure the foliage has died back before lifting your rhizomes using a spade or small shovel Cut the foliage and stem an inch or two above the crown of the rhizome. Gently brush off any soil from the lily, and trim long roots back. Next, set the lily rhizomes on paper or cardboard, with several inches of space between them, and allow them to cure in a cool, dark location for three to four days.

While your lilies cure, prepare a tray of peat moss for overwinter storage. Once your lilies have cured, place them on the tray, leaving plenty of room for airflow. Then, store your lilies in a cool, dry location with a temperature between 35-55℉. Leave the rhizomes uncovered to allow for good airflow, and check on them over winter to watch for spots of rot or mold.

Digging Up and Storing Gladiolus Bulbs

Most gladioli are only hardy in Zones 7 or above, so most gladiolus will need to be lifted and stored. Hardy glads are an exception, but even these can be lifted for replanting or safekeeping.

In late summer, but before the first frost, gently dig up your gladiolus plants. Gladiolus look a little different than tulips or daffodils because they grow from small bulbs called corms. Upon lifting, you may find that the corms have new tiny corms, called cormels, attached around the base. In addition, Gladiolus form a new corm on top of last year's old one. So, you'll spot a dried-out corm below the one from which your Gladiolus is growing.

Gently shake or brush excess soil from the corms. Then, cut the foliage and flower spike off, about an inch or two above the corm. Next up, you'll need to cure your gladiolus. Find a cardboard box, or line a tray with paper, to create a good curing surface.

Set your gladiolus corms to cure. Leave plenty of space between the bulbs to allow for airflow, and leave your corms uncovered in a shallow box or tray. Set the bulbs in a dry, well-ventilated area that isn't freezing, and isn't warmed to over 60℉.

Once your corms are thoroughly dry, remove and discard the last year's dried-up corms, located at the base of the new corms. Those separate fairly easily, but you can use a clean knife or pair of scissors as needed. Next, look for new, small corms around the base of the existing corms, and gently separate those. You should also check for rotten corms or mushy spots, and discard any bulbs that don't look healthy.

Place fresh newspaper or parchment in your box or tray, and place your bulbs back in their storage space. Or, separate your gladiolus using paper or mesh bags. The important thing about storage is that the corms don't touch and don't become moist. Storage temperatures should be 35-45℉.

Storing FAQs for Flower Bulbs

Although flower bulbs are typically among the easiest plants to get started in the garden, there are a few tips and tricks to establishing bulbs that come back with full force year after year. Let's go over some frequently asked questions about flower bulbs.

How Long Can Flower Bulbs Be Stored

Most bulbs can be stored for up to a year, but tend to perform best when planted within six months of lifting. For tender bulbs, be sure to plant in the spring following the fall in which they were lifted-they will likely not have enough energy to survive past the warm season and into the following year.

Hardy flower bulbs are happiest in the ground over winter, and many need a cold period to bloom in spring. So, don't keep your tulip or daffodil flower bulbs indoors without giving them a chance to cool in a refrigerator or cold storage. If you haven't planted your hardy bulbs by the time winter sets in, go ahead and try planting them in spring. They may not give a perfect performance, but they'll have a better chance of growing in spring than waiting to plant again in fall.

Do Flower Bulbs Go Bad?

Flower bulbs can go bad if stored for too long, or if they're affected by rot. Most flower bulbs will not last more than a season in storage, as they survive on the energy stored from the last season. In essence, your bulbs need to leaf out to collect more energy before the winter.

If you're not sure whether your bulbs have gone bad, use the touch test. Bulbs should be solid but not dried. If your bulb crackles when pressed, it likely is too far gone and should be tossed. Mushy bulbs should be discarded away from healthy bulbs, as they may be affected by fungus or mold that can spread to healthy plants.

Replanting Flower Bulbs

How do you replant flower bulbs that were dug up over winter? It's easy-plant them as you would brand new bulbs! Check your bulbs for signs of disease or damage. Then, follow the planting instructions that you originally used with those bulbs. For hardy bulbs, you'll plant at a depth of two to three times the height of the bulb, and give them at least six weeks of cold to encourage blooming. For tender bulbs, wait until the ground has warmed before planting. Space your bulbs far enough apart to allow the plants to grow to full size, and water your bulbs well throughout the growing season.

For more information on lifting and storing dahlias for the winter please see our blog article by clicking here: Lifting and Storing Dahlias in Winter.

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