Gardening

Checking on stored flower tubers

Several weeks ago I blogged about how I store dahlias. Did you keep some of yours too? If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to check on them to see how they’re doing.

I opened mine up right after the polar vortex blew through. They were in a spot that normally stays cool but never freezes. However, this fall I rearranged boxes and stuff in the garage. Without realizing it, doing that must have changed the airflow pattern and allowed cold air to settle in the spot where I stored my dahlia tubers. I didn’t have a thermometer in that area but I knew it got cold because the storage bags were partly frozen. That’s not a good sign.

They didn’t look too bad when I opened them up to take a peek, but some looked to be partly frozen. The outside layer of damp sawdust was lightly froze. Instead of warming the tubers up to thaw, I moved them to another more temperate part of the garage to slowly warm up. Today I finally brought them out to see how they were doing.

As suspected, most of them were damaged beyond salvaging, I’m looking at about an 80 percent loss. The ones that survived look healthy though. I’ll re-pack the good ones in fresh sawdust and compost the rest.

The dahlia tuber on the left was frozen and will have to be discarded. The one on the right is in good shape.

I also had some elephant ears tubers in storage, those I kept in the pots that they grew in last summer. They look pretty good. I gave them a small amount of water whenever the soil looked really dry — maybe once every other week or so. In the spring I’ll knock them out of the pot, divide them and replant.

Even though you can’t see much from the photo, the Colocasia esculenta (elephant ears) tubers look to be in good shape.

Other large pots have cannas that I stored the same way as the elephant ears, right in the pots they grew. They got some water through the winter. too, but not as much as the elephant ears. I wanted to keep them a little on the dry side so they wouldn’t get water logged and rot. Remember, they are dormant and not growing so they don’t really need much water. On the other hand you don’t want them to dry out and shrivel up. It’s something you have to learn through experience. I usually err on the side of less water.

The canna bulbs are in great shape and will be ready to grow this spring.

Unfortunately, we lost a large geranium to the cold. It was one that we’ve been saving and taking cuttings from for years and years.  During the most recent warm-up, we set the potted plant out on the front porch and — you guessed it — forgot it was there and it froze overnight. There may be some dormant buds that survived — I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Bob Dluzen
As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob's gardening has become an integral part of his life. "It's the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued," he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.