Bulbs! Plant Your "Springs"...
We've been talking about SPRING bulbs a lot lately--and well we should. This is the perfect time to plant these antidotes to the month of March, and you're sure to get some super buys if you stalk the Spring bulb closeouts at your local garden centers. (Just don't buy any soft ones; they're not a good deal at any price.)
...and Dig Up Your "Summers"!
But it's also time to discuss SUMMER blooming bulbs; a term that's come to be used as a catch all for tropical beauties like dahlias, canna lilies and gladiolas. You're used to leaving hardy summer bloomers like peonies and hostas right there in the ground--as well you should; they love the cold. But if you want those tropical ones to bloom again next year, they'll need to be dug up and protected over winter.
To Dig? Or Not To Dig? Here's the Answer(s):
If you've got what we call 'summer-blooming bulbs' out there, the time has come to bring most of them in for the winter. But not every member of that clan: Liatris--which you may know as "Blazing star" or "gayfeather" is one of the few that does not require any attention; you don 't even have to mulch it!
Members of the in-between group include agapanthus (also known as the African lily); anemones; and the belladonna amaryllis (or belladonna lily); these might survive winter outdoors if you mulch them heavily after the ground freezes--especially if they're in a protected area close to the house. (If in doubt, lift 'em out!)
But really tender ones like tuberous begonias, canna and calla lilies, dahlias, and gladiolas are absolute musts for bringing indoors; leave any of them in the ground and they'll perish over the winter. (Check Bulb dot com for your specific conditions)
Here's How To Bring In Your Bulbs of Summer
If you want tender, tropical summer blooming bulbs like gladiolas, dahlias and canna lilies to bloom again next year, you'll need to dig them up this weekend. Grab ahold of the top growth of the plant, gently rock it back and forth, and slowly pull the roots--or corms, tubers, whatever your specific blooming beauty blooms from--out of the ground. Make sure you get everything; plants like dahlias will have produced new tubers, so search the ground well. Then bury those root-like thingees in peat moss, vermiculite or sand and store them in a cool place. Temperatures in the mid to high 40s would be ideal; don't let them freeze or get too warm. If your home is very dry, you can moisten that storage medium a little bit, but don't overdo it!
Your Multiple Choices for Plants in Pots
If you have perennials in pots outdoors, you must protect them. Even the hardiest plants will freeze to death in containers. And whether the plants inside are hardy like hostas or totally tropical, like dahlias, your choices are the same.
The first is to drag the pots into a cool dark place where the temperature won't drop below 40 and just let them sit till Spring.
The second is to take the roots out of the pots and store them in peat, vermiculite or sand till planting time arrives again next year.
The third is to keep growing some of the tropical ones over winter. That's what I'm trying with an especially pretty purple dahlia. It was blooming so beautifully, I brought it in and put it under my brightest light; I'm shooting for Christmas dahlias!
Weekend Marching Orders: Plant, Dig, Divide & Shred!
Lots to do in the garden this weekend!
You still have time to get Spring bulbs in the ground; just bury them twice as deep as they are high--and don't mulch them (or anything else) yet; we only do that after the ground has frozen solid. Trust me.
And trust me that you're running out of time to dig up and store tender bulbs like dahlias and glads for the winter.
If the weather's nice, you might also want to dig up, divide and replant perennials like hostas and peonies that have become crowded.
And you definitely want to keep shredding and saving every precious Fall leaf! They're the only really safe mulch for your landscape, and you'll need them when we start to make compost next week!