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Time to bring in the bulbs -- next year they'll blossom anew

By Monica BrandiesSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / September 24, 1985



Just in case your porch, kitchen, cellar, and attic are not yet full to bursting, there is one more thing to bring in from the garden in the fall -- the tender bulbs. Now don't run to get them. These are underground and safer longer than the houseplants and green beans. But don't put it off too long, either. A lot of next year's flowers could freeze if you do.

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Achimenes are beginning to go dormant when the lower leaves begin to shrivel. From then on withhold water from the plant. When the stems are completely dry, cut them off and store the pots, baskets, or dug-up bulbs in a dry place. A temperature of 60 degrees F. is ideal for these.

Tuberous begonias can be stored until dry by turning the pots they're in on their sides. Most growers remove the soil completely once the plant's top growth has dried. Some even wash off all the soil before the skin dries, while it is less likely to be damaged. Leave on the larger roots.

Store in a well-ventilated, dry place, 45 to 50 degrees F., in shallow trays or boxes, either uncovered or very lightly covered with dry peat moss, vermiculite, or sand.

Caladiums like a warm dry place. Put them, along with the pumpkins and squash, in an out-of-the-way cupboard in the kitchen.

Cannas and dahlias are less fussy and can be treated alike. When a hard frost kills the top growth, cut off the stalk to within 6 inches of the ground. Leave this for a week or 10 days for the tubers to ripen thoroughly.

Then dig very carefully with a spading fork. Rub off most of the soil and turn the clump of tubers upside down to let the rest of the sap drain out of the stem. Leave them exposed to the sun and wind for several hours to dry completely.

Either label the individual tubers or store like varieties in marked boxes in a dry, frostproof place with a temperature of 45 to 55 degrees F. They will shrivel less if they are covered with peat moss or dry sand.

Gladioluses can be dug as soon as the foliage turns yellow, or about six weeks after blooming. If yours, like mine, are still green and even blooming when the frost hits, leave the stalk attached until ripening is complete and all the life has returned to the bulb.

Dig glads with special care not to scatter the tiny cormlets that surround each bulb. Gather these and store in a paper sack. They make blooming-size bulbs in two to three years, but I have seen some blooms on them even the next year.

Just plant them with the others and let the foliage manufacture food that will be stored inside the growing bulb.

With glads, remove and discard the old, used mother corm and the roots. There are usually two large new corms to each plant. Store them in a 45 to 55 degree F. cellar with high humidity.

Ismenes, Abyssinian gladioluses, and montbretias should be lifted and stored like glads, also.

You may not know that four-o'clocks form tubers that can be lifted and stored like dahlias. They usually come back from self-sown seed, but the tubers would give you a head start and also let you plan your color scheme.

Small-flowered dahlias grown from seed often form tubers that can be dug up at the end of the growing season, too.

Don't worry too much about the ideal storage temperature. Put your bulbs in the most likely corner of the basement where they will neither freeze nor cook. They will reward you next summer with all sorts of flowers.