How to Store Summer Bulbs


Most varieties of summer bulbs cannot survive the freezing temperatures of North American winters. When their leaves turn yellow in the fall, the bulbs should be uprooted before the first frost and stored indoors until they can be replanted in spring. Storing summer bulbs is easy, but care must be taken to carefully control their environment during the winter.

Step 1

Cut off the foliage with pruning shears if it does not pull off easily. Trim the bulbs to 4 inches before you uproot them.

Step 2

Loosen the soil around the bulbs by working your spade fork in a circle a few inches away from the plants, then gently lift the bulbs out of the ground.

Step 3

Brush off the excess soil from achimenes, begonia, canna, caladium, ismene and dahlia bulbs. Rinse off the soil from all other varieties.

Step 4

Select the healthiest bulbs for storage. Compost any bulbs that are spotted, show other signs of disease or rot, or are much smaller than the rest.

Step 5

Dry the bulbs in a warm, well-ventilated area that is not exposed to direct sunlight. The bulbs may either be hung by their foliage or spread out on a table.

Step 6

Cut the foliage back to 1 inch once the bulbs have dried. Brush off any dried soil that still clings to them.

Step 7

Place the bulbs in an unsealed box lined with peat moss. When positioning the bulbs, make sure that they are not touching. If you must stack them, make sure that each layer is separated by a layer of peat moss. Do not stack them more than three bulbs high. Gladiolas, crocosmias and other bulbs that have a protective layer can be placed in a plastic mesh bag and hung with the tops up and the roots down.

Step 8

Store the boxed bulbs in a cool, dry basement, unheated garage or any other area that has minimal humidity, adequate air circulation and protection from rodents and freezing temperatures.

Step 9

Monitor the temperature in the area with a thermometer. Most bulbs require temperatures around 50 degrees F, but never over 70 or below 40. The exceptions are caladiums, which need temperatures around 60 degrees F, and gladiolas, which prefer temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees F.

Step 10

Check your bulbs periodically. Look for signs of moisture, rotting, insects or rodents, and disease. Remove and compost any compromised bulbs.

Step 11

Wash and separate your bulbs before replanting them.

Tips and Warnings

  • Dahlias must be stored in the dark and allowed to retain some moisture. Slightly moisten their peat moss if the bulbs get too dry. Never store your summer bulbs where they may be exposed to ethylene gas, which is produced by fruit.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Spade fork
  • Plastic mesh bag
  • Box
  • Peat moss
  • Thermometer


  • Utah State University Extension: How Do I Store Summer Bulbs?
  • University of Illinois Extension: Bulbs and More
  • National Gardening Organization: Saving Your Summer Bulbs
Keywords: storing summer bulbs, store summer bulbs, winter summer bulbs

About this Author

Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.