storage of summer dormant bulbs

Jim McKenney
Wed, 09 Jul 2008 15:23:44 PDT
Juliet in Northland, New Zealand wrote: “ I have found it almost impossible
to keep Frit. 
imperiallis out of the ground for more than a  week or so, even stored at a
temp. controlled 15C.  However, the small frits (accompetalla,
camschatcensis, pontica etc) will keep well for a couple of months or so at
15C in a plastic bag with a tiny amount of just-dampened spagnum moss with

Juliet, I’m intrigued: what happened to the bulbs of Fritillaria imperialis
when you store them? Do the rapidly dry out? Do they rot? Is it some other

I’ve tried several different treatments for this species during the last few
years. For instance, last year I grew them in large pots and as the plants
matured I allowed the pots to dry very carefully. They were then stored
outside in such a way that no water could reach them. As they entered
dormancy, I peeked at them to check the general condition and bulb size. The
bulbs were huge and seemed to be in the peak of health. By mid-summer every
one had rotted and dried up (I’m not sure which came first, but I found only
dried husks of bulbs). 

Once, years ago, I dug the bulbs and stored them in the open air of a little
used room in our basement. Even these bulbs rotted: they eventually
developed necrotic spots which went on to envelop the entire bulb. 

This year I’ve given another trial to a method I once used long ago: as soon
as two bulbs were dug, they were slowly dried. Once I was sure all moisture
was gone, each bulb was individually wrapped in newspaper to form a sort of
cocoon. One of these bulbs is in fine condition now, about a month and a
half after being dug. The other bulb, which produced offsets, is partially
rotted. The offsets seem sound. 

Six bulbs of Fritillaria persica (including two ‘Ivory Bells’) given the
same treatment this year all seem sound. Earlier this year I visited a
gardening friend who has a clump of Fritillaria persica: I asked him if he
dug them annually. No, he had never dug them and they had been there for
years. Noticing that the site where these grew was sloped, I suggested that
maybe the slope was enough to provide sufficient drainage. He laughed; and
then he told me that the reason there was a slope there is because the mound
on which the frits grew contained the remains of an old concrete driveway
broken up and buried a few years ago!   

For the most part, the small frits have given no trouble. In past years I’ve
summered them in the pots in which they grew; other than a few which
evidently got too dry, this works well. This year I’m doing a census, so all
are coming out of their pots so I can have a close look and do a count. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA zone
7, where Zephyranthes grandiflora is blooming. 
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

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