storage of summer dormant bulbs

J.E. Shields
Wed, 09 Jul 2008 09:10:18 PDT
Hi all,

This is an interesting discussion.  I have far too many bulbs to repot them 
every year.  I grow in a gritty mix (Promix BX Biofungicide + sand + 
Granite chick starter grit,  2 : 1 : 1 ) mainly in plastic pots (1/2-gal. = 
5.5 in. sq. X 6 in. deep;  1-gal. round black plastic; 2-gal. round black 
plastic = 22 cm diameter X 22 cm deep).  Many of the summer dormant bulbs 
stay in their pots inside the greenhouse, where the summer temperatures on 
sunny afternoons can reach 125°F with shade and exhaust fans running.  Many 
of those that couldn't take this much heat have passed on to their eternal 
rewards.  Most of the Lachenalia and the winter-growing Haemanthus have 
done just fine.  Massonia and Androcymbium also tolerate this 
treatment.  Only 2 bulbs of Brunsvigia littoralis have survived the 
regimen, out of many Brunsvigia species I have started from seeds over the 

If I am going to repot some bulbs, I try to do it just a few weeks before 
they are expected to come out of dormancy. For the summer-dormant bulbs, 
that means mainly in August and September here in the Northern 
Hemisphere.  I have too many bulbs in pots to repot more often than every 3 
to 6 years.

I run somewhat of a "Darwinian" greenhouse for bulbs -- survival of the 
fittest only.  There are very, very few bulbs requiring individual 
treatment and special conditions that I have time to fuss with.

Best regards,
Jim Shields

At 06:08 PM 7/8/2008 -0700, you wrote:
>I know that some growers prefer to repot each year but for all my geophytes
>I allow them to remain in their containers. Typically a pot of bulbs or a
>single bulb will stay in the same (very lean and sandy) mix for several
>years. This scenario provides for excellent insulation against heat and
>desiccation and other damage; I keep all containers shaded over the summer.
>This approach has worked well for me in two key areas: saving time and
>effort, and keeping the plants happy.
>One year I decided to store my lachenalias in small paper bags over the
>summer and it was a disaster. A type of "bulb mealybug" (not root mealy) got
>into almost every bag due to the ease of access, and I did not discover the
>damage until fall.
>Dylan Hannon
>Dylan Hannon Rare Bulbs
>On Tue, Jul 8, 2008 at 2:08 PM, Jim McKenney <>
> > This year I'm making an effort to get all of my summer dormant bulb
> > collection out of the ground (or out of their pots) for a census followed
> > by
> > storage in the house until they are replanted in late summer or early fall.
> >
> > It's obvious that not all bulbs need the same summer treatment. For
> > instance
> > tunicated bulbs such as tulips generally store without problems while
> > un-tunicated bulbs such as frits can be very touchy about moisture levels.
> > In fact, in my experience Fritillaria are subject to injurious desiccation
> > when stored dry and exposed to air.
> >
> > One potentially useful aid is the use of plastic bags. But I've learned the
> > hard way that there is a right way to do it. Janis Ruksans in his Buried
> > Treasures advises caution in the use of plastic bags, and he's right: many
> > bulbs will quickly rot if taken moist from the ground as they are entering
> > dormancy and placed in plastic bags.
> >
> > But I'm convinced that frits need an artificial tunic if they are to
> > withstand dry storage. For the big frits such as Fritillaria imperialis and
> > F. persica, I wrap the individual bulbs in newspaper. This not only
> > prevents
> > too much drying, but the newspaper cushions the tender bulbs. For small
> > frits I put them in envelopes of newspaper for two or three weeks, checking
> > them occasionally to see how things are going. Once I'm convinced that they
> > are no longer losing water and are thoroughly dry, I move them into plastic
> > bags for the rest of the storage period.
> >
> > These plastic storage bags have several advantages, the most interesting
> > one
> > being that one can easily observe the bulbs as they undergo subtle changes
> > during dormancy.  They also make it easy to quickly spot problems such as
> > mold or rot. And if the bulbs begin to look too dry, it's easy to give them
> > a light spritz of water. I think that to do this early in the storage
> > period
> > would kill them; but later in the summer it seems to help them.
> >
> > After reading the above, I realized that I've been puffing away as if I
> > were
> > an expert about this. But I'm still feeling my way, and luckily enjoying
> > some successes. Don't take this as advice. I'm really just fishing for
> > responses here: what do the rest of you do?
> >
> > I mentioned Janis Ruksan's Buried Treasures above. I was lucky to meet and
> > spend hours alone with Janis during the Washington, D.C. leg of his tour. I
> > took a real liking to him. But now that I've spent some time with his book,
> > I sincerely and respectfully wish his publisher had taken up Jane McGary's
> > offer to edit the book. The occasionally clumsy English is not the problem.
> > A sympathetic, experienced, knowledgeable editor with a backbone would have
> > avoided other infelicities, such as the irritating and  seemingly
> > irrelevant
> > blocks of text touting plants easily available in the current trade. Whose
> > idea was that?
> >
> > Jim McKenney
> >
> > Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, 39.03871º North, 77.09829º West, USDA
> > zone
> > 7, where seed is about to ripen on Sprekelia formosissima.
> > My Virtual Maryland Garden
> > BLOG!
> >
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> >
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> >
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> >
> >
> >
> >
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> >
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Jim Shields             USDA Zone 5             Shields Gardens, Ltd.
P.O. Box 92              WWW:
Westfield, Indiana 46074, USA
Tel. ++1-317-867-3344     or      toll-free 1-866-449-3344 in USA

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