Indoor storage in dormancy

thorndncrApril 7, 2009

Please excuse me for asking such a basic question, but the search function in this forum hasn't been working for me in the last few days.

This spring, I received several pots of tulips and daffodils that have just died back. Having no outdoor space in which to plant them, I am considering methods to store these bulbs, either for forcing later or for next spring. In a rather warm apartment, is there any simple method of doing so? What is your preferred method / meduim? (I have heard that vermiculite works well.) Should they be watered? Refrigerated?

The second option is to Freecycle the bulbs, if storage doesn't seem viable. Hate to see "seasonal" plants discarded after blooming.

Thanks for your advice!

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vetivert8(NI-NZ zone 9a)

Probably the first thing to look at is the size of the pots they came in. Sometimes bulbs are crammed together in miserable little pots with a smidgeon of 'soil' and sold as uncut flowers, basically.

If they came in larger pots with enough room for plentiful root growth - and if you have the space - then you could leave them in the pots. They'll be fine so long as you don't have Awesome summer temperatures in the coolest area you can provide - outside of the fridge (85F+ sustained is probably a bit dehydrating). Somewhere on the north side if you can.

If they're outdoors they'll be fine with summer rain - even the tulips. Just know that they'll have started into growth BEFORE you get to see bulbs for sale in the stores. Some will stay dormant until they are started by rainfall. Others operate on some sort of bulb trust that water will eventually come before they run out of their own resources :-D.

If you live in an area that suffers from Narcissus fly, or similar pests, make sure the place where the leaves were is covered over with potting mix. (There is nothing quite like checking the bulbs ready for planting and finding a plump grub instead of a flower-bud-to-be...)

As calistoga says in a recent post, the bulbs have been grown to the point where they'll flower 'this year' and may not flower next year. They often start forming daughter bulbs at the expense of flowers so you need to be prepared to grow the small bulbs on to flowering size again and that can take a year or so.

With this in mind - you might find it a better use of your limited space to go the Freecycle route and buy in the varieties you enjoy later in the year. Or do a deal with whoever you give them to, to have flower-size bulbs in return when you need them.

However, if there were bulbs that have sentimental or rarity value then pick out two or three bulbs and grow them on in a free-draining mix in a decent-size container - about a gallon - so there's plenty of room for good root production without massive circles of roots around the inner walls of the pot.

When grown in pots it's really important to go through annually and pick out the big bulbs for growing to flower. If you don't you end up with a pot full of skinny bulbs and leaves and no flowers for a long time to come.

Personally, I wouldn't try keeping 'jonquils' in a pot for long. For me they are deep delving bulbs and do much better if allowed to form a clump in the ground over five or more years. Do Not Disturb.

The blue-green leaved daffs seem to be more amenable and the miniature daffs are delightful in bigger pots with accompanying plants such as Viola, Saxifrage, or even some of the smaller primula species.

If you decide to take them out of the pots - gently take off the dirt but leave the skins on. Put them into the sort of mesh bags that onions are sometimes sold in, or fine mesh bulb bags that you can probably get from your local plant store. Take the time to label them clearly. You'll be glad you did! You can hang them in a cool closet and leave a reminder note to yourself in your diary.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 11:28PM
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