The Q&A Archives: Flower Bulbs

Question: To dig up or not to dig up? This question has confused me when it comes to flowering bulbs. Is this question answered by zone? I was under the assumption that folks in colder climates should dig up their bulbs but Southern Californians don't need to go through this exercise (I'm hoping this is the case). Or does this depend on the type of bulb? Currently I have freesia, iris, paperwhites, hyacinth and gladiolus. I look forward to finding out the correct way to work with these beautiful flowers!

Answer: Digging and storing bulbs is one way to protect them from harsh winter weather, but some bulbs require a rest period (typically during the winter months), so digging them is also a way to ensure they are able to rest before putting on their display a second time. Freesia's grow from corms and the plants will self-sow if flowers are not removed. They can be left in place in your region. Iris are plants that grow from rhizomes. Iris are typically left in the garden until they need to be dug and divided. Clumps will not flower as profusely when they're overcrowded, so take that as your signal that they need to be divided. Paperwhite Narcissus grow from bulbs and have a tendency to naturalize if left in the ground. When bulbs become overcrowded they'll produce fewer and smaller flowers. Hyacinth's are bulbs that, if left alone, will naturalize. The size of the bulb has a direct relation to the size of the flowers they produce. Hyacinth's will multiply by developing little bulblets, but the bulblets won't flower for a number of years, so leaving them in the ground is a good idea - especially in your climate. Glads grow from corms and the plants can be left in place for a number of years. So, of the plants you've listed, none need to be removed from your garden until they become overcrowded and need to be divided.

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