wintering-over Spring bulbs in pots
Wed, 07 Dec 2011 12:24:44 PST
Thank you for this very helpful and rational way of keeping bulbs viable  
during winter without the need to pot them up and then plant the pots, dig up 
 the pots etc. I inevitably succumb to the purely emotional purchase of 
hundreds  of bulbs late in the season only to be tricked by the weather. I was 
so  organized this year, got nearly 1,000 bulbs planted at the "right time" 
only to  have this overly warm fall weather trick some of last year's bulbs 
and a few of  this year's into emerging as if it was early Spring. 
Thanks again for sharing your wisdom!
Zone 5b
In a message dated 12/7/2011 3:14:08 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes:

I should  be ashamed to admit this, but I end up doing my own version of 
this almost  every year with one sort of bulb or another. 

The term bulbs  covers a lot of territory - not all bulbs respond the same 
way to freezing.  But in my experience here in USDA zone 7, after putting 
each bulb into its own  zip lock baggie with a bit of moist medium, simply 
covering the bulbs with a  heap of leaves out in the garden works well (no need 
to bury them; it will not  hurt them to freeze solid). You can place a tarp 
over the leaf heap if the  site is windy. Don't forget labels. Then forget 
about them until late winter  when things begin to thaw out. The advantage 
of the baggies is that the plants  will produce roots all winter, and since 
you're putting only one  bulb in  each baggie, it will be easy to slide them 
out of the baggie into the ground  without having a big root tangle to deal 

Or do the same  thing except store them in the refrigerator (not the 

In  my experience, the real problem is not the storing of the bulbs, it's 
getting  them  into the soil in late winter/earliest spring. The soil is 
likely to  be wet and sticky. For early blooming bulbs such as crocus and 
reticulate  irises, you can't delay or they will try to bloom in the bags. There 
will be  so many other things to do at that time of year that it will be very 
tempting  to leave the bulbs in the fridge or under their leaf pile for yet 
another  week. It will be cold, wet and windy, and a cup of hot chocolate 
with a good  book beside the fire while you wait for a change in the weather 
is much more  appealing than getting your hands and feet wet and clothes 
muddy and  dirty. 

Let me emphasize that it is not necessary to bury the  bulbs deeply to keep 
out frost - it's OK for them to freeze as long as the  baggies are touching 
the ground and are covered with leaves. But beware pots  stored above 
ground, especially small pots. And there is really no reason to  go to the tro
uble of potting up the bulbs - the baggie system works fine, and  because  the 
baggies are not rigid they store much more efficiently than  rigid pots if 
you use the refrigerator method. 

I hope you have  already prepared the site: that's another thing you don't 
want to have to do  at the tail end of a wet winter. 

Believe me, this is the voice of  experience, long experience, speaking. 

Good luck, and let us know  how it turned out.

Jim  McKenney
Montgomery County,  Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA 
My  Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster  Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC  Bulletin <> 
Webmaster Potomac Lily  Society
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