Perennial plants frequently rely on bulbs, tubers and adapted root systems for surviving the winter. Plants that store food during winter also allow the gardener some leeway when it comes to relocating them within the landscape. In some cases, the roots actually supply food to the hobbyist or to wildlife. Introducing such plants into the garden makes it possible to enjoy flowering plants that survive even cooler conditions and still come back year after year.
Hobbyists notice these flowers as being among the very first that herald the arrival of spring. Flowering bulbs include perennial crocuses, which are part of the Iridaceae family, tulips of the Liliaceae family and daffodils, which belong to the Amaryllis family. Landscapers place bulbs in flower beds and around trees to add some color in the aftermath of winter, when most other plants have not yet come out of their winter dormancy.
These plants rely on stored food within a bulb or corm. For this reason it is important that the gardener does not cut down the spent plants after their flowers wither. The green leaves continue to photosynthesize, which ensures sufficient energy storage in the bulb for the next growing season. It is acceptable to cut the leaves at ground level when they begin to die back naturally.
Geraniums (Pelargonium) are flowering plants. They do not winter well when exposed to frost and hobbyists find that capitalizing on their root structure’s food storage makes it possible to winter them in a cool but protected space. Gardeners can also continue growing the plants in flower pots, if they have a window exposure that offers bright light.
To allow the plants to live off the food they store during the winter, dig up the geraniums from the yard. Be careful not to harm the root structures. Gently brush off soil that clings to the roots and remove approximately 50 percent of the plants’ top growth. Place the plants in individual paper lunch or grocery sacks in a cool and slightly humid environment. Occasional root soaking prevents dry-out. Replant geraniums in spring.
It is interesting to note that in spite of its name, the Jerusalem artichoke is neither a true artichoke--even though both plants are members of the Asteraceae family--nor does it have any ties to Israel’s Jerusalem. Instead, it is a perennial sunflower that relies on a tuberous root system to store food during winter.
In appearance the tubers resemble ginger root. They grow on rhizomes that reach a length of up to 50 inches. The Jerusalem artichoke not only survives the winter with the stored energy in the tubers, but it also makes it possible for the plants to reproduce asexually.