why did my bulbs rot - Mid-atlantic

randi_r(z7VA)April 3, 2009

I planted some Tulips and Hyacinth last fall. Average rainfall, but all the bulbs rotted. I used Miracle Grow potting mix for drainage and the hole was not plugged up. Did anyone else in this region have trouble? Bulbs in the ground came up OK.

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Bulbs in containers, left outside all winter, can be tricky. If the wet soil freezes and thaws they can rot. I just tried this for the first time this year, the crocus are easy. The hyacinth's surprised me, they're coming. Mine are in a big pot with a small shrub, on a deck facing south.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 9:16PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I'll second that bulbs left outside all year are tricky. In my balcony gardening days I had it a few times that a pot full would look great, start to sprout and then stop. The tips looked great but wouldn't grow. Eventually I'd pull up the green tips and find the rotten bulbs underneath.
I thought it was due to freeze-thaw, especially if on a warm day the snow would melt and then not be able to drain away since the pot was still frozen. A couple freeze-thaw cycles like that seemed to kill off the sprouting bulbs.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 9:54PM
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Chemocurl zn5b/6a Indiana(zone 5/6)

I too had very bad results with potted bulbs left outside all winter. I imagine like Kato said, it had to do with the bottom being frozen and not being able to brain right.

I've wondered if maybe potting them and then sinking the pot in the ground might work. The soil would then maybe more of a consistent temperature. I'd like to have different 'potted' blooming things that I could easily change out by just dropping into a couple of holes in the ground by the mailbox....like early daffs, mid season daffs, late daffs, etc.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2009 at 10:13PM
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sister_k(Zone 5 Lafayette, CO)

I only have containers, no ground to plant in as I live in a condo. I read about bulbs rotting, but figured I would try anyway. I too found that some of my bulbs came up about 2 to 3 inches, looked mostly okay, but stopped growing. When I tugged on them ever so gently, they came out and could tell the bulbs were rotten. This happened with some crocus, chionodoxa and tulips. I planted a LOT of bulbs, and a LOT of different pots. I found that this issue of rotten bulbs has really only happened with shallow pots (I used a few bowl-type planters) and bulbs near the edges of thinner containers. Bulbs in all the sturdier containers have done just fine.

The very best performing bulbs I have (so far) are the ones the I stored in the refrigerator for about 8-12 weeks (just in their bulb packs, not potted up or anything), then planted on Jan 31. They shot right up and have survived some recent freezes and the flowers have been beautiful. I think I am going to do more like that next year too. This is almost like forcing, I guess, but gives them more consistency of temperature than I can get here in Colorado. Our temps just swing so wildly at all times, some came up too early and had to come inside early, which was still nice in the middle of winter. With a couple recent snowstorms we've had here, if the tulips are bloomed, I can just tuck them into the garage overnight. I also think I may have overwatered this winter, and have since learned that bulbs store a lot of their own water, so they can probably do with less watering than I gave them.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 1:39AM
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When the bulbs were removed, did you notice whether they had proper roots or not.
When planted in the ground in the fall, the cool soil prompts the bulb to create roots. Its the roots that protects the bulb from whatever Old Man Winter throws at them. Even 40 below zero wont affect them---when they have roots.

Without roots, they stand no chance of surviving cold.
Too much wetness will cause early rot and will prevent them from promoting roots or if they do, they will perform badly.
As noted, freeze/thaw/freeze/thaw cycles through winter will cause them to stop forming roots or allow the wetness to penetrate into the bulb.
When planted in the container, they must be watered to their roots and such moisture must be able to be drawn on while roots are forming.

Containers can be tricky to stand up to winter but it can be done with careful attention.
People with balconies often have containers that bulbs survive well enough. The containers must be given an inner protection. The inside walls are given protection of plastic bubble wrap, or styrofoam is placed before any soil is put in. The outside walls can be wrapped in aluminum foil to reflect sunlight. A barrier to such sun might be erected.
The container itself might be either protected from snow-melt or rain, causing flooding on the surface which then, freezes, then thaws, and freezes.
The container can be tilted to allow run-off of such water.
The container should drain otherwise--bricks or pieces of wood can be placed underneath so water runs away and not freeze on the bottom.

Containers are often buried in the ground, then dug up in spring to allow their contents full freedom to grow as though they were in the ground.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2009 at 10:52PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

jeannie7 your explanation of the difference between bulbs with roots and those without is the best I have seen. I am tempted to print it out and pass it to those having bulb growing problems relating to rotting bulbs. Al

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 9:21AM
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newbie_in_nj(6b E/Central NJ)

Like last year I bought enough of certain "named" Tulips to plant in front garden and in containers on back deck. No problem in either place last year...grew and bloomed.

This year particular "name" isn't coming up in either ground or containers.

While looking up names of tulips I remembered that last year I bought ALL Darwin Hybrids. Late last summer when ordering I read on web sites that Triumphs did better in containers than others so I bought them from Scheepers.

I had 3 named Triumph Tulips: Spryng, Jan Ohms & King's Orange.

'King's Orange' foliage seems mostly to have come up in containers & in ground.
'Spryng" has pathetic foliage nubs sticking above soil in containers with a few larger sized nubs growing in ground.
'Jan Ohms' has nothing in containers with some nubs up in ground. Of course, this was delicate color to which I was really looking forward.

They were all planted in late September with enough time to grow roots. This year I even further improved drainage in both container mix and in bed where they went into ground for better drainage.

Although all Tulips grew/bloomed fine last year they were rotted in ground by Fall when I checked them so were replaced. Ones in containers were rotted by the time I took them out in June to replace with annuals. Daffodils that were mixed in same containers with Tulips were removed & stored in June and ground planted in Fall. They're fine and just started to bloom last week.

I'm wondering about bulbs shipped last Fall or something to do with Holland crop since even Hyacinths & Iris Reticulata from Scheepers aren't doing great. Hyacinth blooms are very sparse on 3 colors and Iris blooms lasted 2-3 days. This theory probably won't hold up as I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of people who planted Dutch and/or Scheepers bulbs that had no problem.

The container bulbs were up on deck under overhang all winter (like last year) until one sizable snow in early March when they got few inches of snow blown on top of them. I didn't clear it off figuring they hadn't had much, if any, moisture over winter. If that is what rotted bulbs in containers why didn't all 3 "names" rot or why did same "name" not produce in ground either right next to other "name" that did grow?

Next year I'm going back to all Darwin Hybrids although it's probably some specific set of events that I can't see or blame for this year's poor showing. Maybe nothing more than letting 6 inches of snow melt into containers early March but that wouldn't explain why same named Tulips didn't perform in ground.

Mysteries of gardening life.

I'm just treating Tulips as annuals from now on even when planted in ground.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 1:52PM
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kris2001(6a - s.e.PA)

This is a great thread.

My exp: I got hardy bulbs from HD(it said they are very hardy upto canada I think)last sept and planted in 4 pots in my deck. These are big 24" by 20"h pots. Covered by mulch. 3 pots were near walls/corners. One was near open area-this is the one that didnt have any growth at all now. Other 3 have sprouts now. So its the wind and cold, thats the culprit!!! --Right?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 8:00PM
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