The Q&A Archives: Bulb care in zone 9

Question: It has been stated we have to dig bulbs up in zone 9 and store them. Do I wait till the tops turn yellow and cut them down? Do I air dry them before storing them in a paper bag? Will it hurt them to touch each other? Is there any way to leave them in the ground and have them come up again next year?

Answer: Growing and storing bulbs in warm winter areas such as yours can be a real challenge. Bulbs need cool temperatures and then a pre-chill before going back into the ground. So, you cannot leave them in the ground now that they have finished flowering. First, cut off the spent flower and stem. Then allow the leaves to die down on their own. When the foliage turns crispy brown, dig the bulbs, cut or pull away the last remnants of foilage, and brush excess soil off the bulbs. Keep them in a cool, dry place. A temperature of 60 to 65? F. is cool enough to prevent bulbs from drying out until time for planting. Temperatures higher than 70? F. will damage the flower inside spring-flowering bulbs. As long as the bulbs are dry, you can store them all together in either a mesh or a paper bag.

Around the first of September you can place the bag of bulbs in the refrigerator to chill them (make them think they went through a cold winter). After about 2 or 3 months of storage, you can plant them in pots or in the ground outdoors. They should bloom right on time. Enjoy!

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