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Archive for Sunday, October 17, 2004

Ventilation, shade essential to bulbs’ care

October 17, 2004

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Flowering bulbs can add interesting form, texture and color to a landscape. However, different bulbs require different care. If gardeners planted spring or summer flowering bulbs for the first time this year, here is what they need to know about caring for them:

Bulbs of gladiolus, caladium, dahlia, tuberous begonia, calla lily, and canna lily need to be dug and stored so they can be planted next year. Actually, the storage organ of the above plants is not a true bulb. Canna and calla lilies are rhizomes; caladium and tuberous begonias are tubers; gladiolus is a corm, and dahlia is a tuberous-rooted plant.

All of these plants should be dug after frost has browned the foliage. Allow them to dry for about a week in a shady, well-ventilated site, such as a garage or small out building. When dry, remove the excess soil and pack them loosely in airy boxes or mesh bags full of peat moss, vermiculite or perlite. Make sure the bulbs do not touch, so that if one decays it does not infect all the others. Caladiums should be stored between 50 and 60 degrees. The rest of the bulbs mentioned should be stored near 40 degrees. Finding a good spot may be difficult. One suggestion is to place them against the basement wall farthest from the furnace and pack insulation around them so the wall keeps them cool.

Fall care of spring flowering bulbs is different. About the only care they need is fertilizing. If the established bulb beds have been fertilized in the past, there should be plenty of phosphorus and potassium in the soil. However, it is best to take a soil test to be sure. If the soil needs phosphorus and potassium, use a complete fertilizer (such as 10-10-10, 13-13-13, etc.) at the rate of 2.5 pounds per 100 square feet. This would equal 1 rounded teaspoon per square foot. If phosphorus and potassium are not needed, blood meal makes an excellent fertilizer. It should be applied at the rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet or 1 teaspoon per square foot. Turf fertilizers such as a 27-3-3 or 30-3-3 can also be used but the rate should be cut to 1 pound per 100 square feet or 1 teaspoon per 2 square feet.

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