Holding bulbs over winter

Jim McKenney jamesamckenney@verizon.net
Tue, 06 Nov 2012 09:58:48 PST
We've had this discussion before, and I'll make the same suggestion I did last time. 

Here's the short version: put each bulb into a small zip lock bag with moist medium. Store the bags in the refrigerator (not the freezer) or heap them in a pile outside on UNFROZEN ground under a heap of leaves. In my experience, the unfrozen ground part is important at the beginning - but it matters not if the ground freezes later.  

The point in putting each bulb in its own bag is to avoid the tangled mass of roots which will result if multiple bulbs are bagged together. Do what you can to encourage some root growth before exposing the bulbs to below freezing conditions. 

As soon as conditions moderate in late winter or early spring, remove the bulbs from the bags and plant the bulbs into the ground. You will probably find this to be the hardest part of the whole process (I do). 

For the refrigerator plan to work well, the temperature in the refrigerator should ideally be lower than is usual for household refrigerators. Temperatures right down to (but not much lower than) freezing will usually work.  Also, keep the stored bulbs away from ethylene sources(typically fruits).

Years ago I stored a variety of garden tulips in a cold frame. Each bulb went into a zip lock bag dry (without a moist medium); The bulbs were planted into the soil in late March. As I recall, only about 25% bloomed normally, but nearly all survived and produced normal leafy growth. 

Jim McKenney

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