Most Bulbs Do Not Need to be Dug and Stored

Question: When I lived in Indiana I had to dig my summer flowering bulbs every fall to prevent them from freezing. The climate here in Washington is much milder. Are there any buIbs I need to dig and store here?

Answer: Almost all spring planted, summer flowering bulbs can be safely left in the ground. They do not need to be dug to prevent freezing .

Tuberous begonias grow so close to the surface that there is major danger of freezing. I would recommend digging and storing them.

Many dahlia enthusiasts dig and store their bulbs every year. About one winter in three will damage dahlias. So to be sure, you should also dig dahlias.

In many cases, bulbs are dug in order to give them more room to grow or to move to a new location.

Now is the right time to dig bulbs, after the cooler weather has put the tops to sleep, but before the colder temperatures have frozen the bulbs in the ground.

Dig carefully so you do not cut the bulbs with your shovel. I sometimes prefer using a spading fork. Brush all the soil off the bulbs. If you wash the bulbs, make sure they are dried in a warm location before storage. I usually do not wash my bulbs.

Store bulbs in a cool, dry location. Best storage temperature is 35 to 50 degrees. To avoid excessive drying and shriveling you may want to store bulbs in vermiculite or perlite. Make sure they are completely dry before covering bulbs with them. Both vermiculite and perlite are available from garden stores and on line garden sources. In the spring they can be mixed into potting soils or added to the ground to loosen hard clay soil.

I like to place bulbs in onion or burlap bags so there is some air movement. If placed in boxes, leave the top open.


Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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