Aroids forum: My stored caladiums are drying up

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Montgomery, Al (Zone 8b)
Raestr
Feb 24, 2016 11:23 AM CST
This is long, but I'm frustrated. I dig my caladiums up every year and store them in my house. I first tried storing them in my unheated garage years ago and they all died. They are currently in my laundry room, which stays cooler than the rest of the house, but is part of the house and is heated. My problem is, I always lose some of my tubers because they dry up and die. Most of them survive, although shriveled, but I always lose some. I didn't lift them until November this year and I rinsed them, dried them for a couple of days and stored them in dried peat moss. I first stored them directly in the peat moss and placed them in cardboard boxes, but there was so much moisture in the peat moss that the boxes were actually becoming damp and soft, so I had to take them out and let the peat moss try some. Anyway, I've been checking them and spraying them with a little water every few weeks since the first of January because I could tell they were starting to dry out. I finally just decided to take them all out and really look at all of them and some are shriveling on the bottom and a couple of them are so dry I know they are already dead. So, how are you suppose to keep them in good shape for 6 months? I can't plant them outside until the first weekend in May because our weather is not stable until then. Last year, I started them indoors in lasagna pans at the beginning of April, and that worked out ok although it took up a lot of room in my house. They didn't start to sprout until the end of April, but they started growing roots. I'm in central Alabama, zone 8 but bordering on zone 8B. I probably have 150 tubers, but I've had some of them for a few years now. I usually buy a few new ones every spring, but I really like to keep them from year to year so that I have lots of different varieties. Any thoughts? Would it hurt to put them in damp peat moss now or will that cause them to rot?
Name: Myriam
Ghent, Belgium (Zone 8a)
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bonitin
Feb 27, 2016 9:42 AM CST
Welcome! Raestr,
I didn't lift them until November this year


This could be the problem, Caladiums really hate the cold especially in combination with wetness! Not sure if that is the case in your area..
I have met them in their natural environment in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, the summers there are wet and the cooler winter is the drier season...
I lost about half of my Caladium bulbs when I waited too long to lift the bulbs in my country, I think it was about mid or end October, when it gets chilly and wet with excessive rains.
This year I brought them in much earlier, about mid September with pot and all, no more watering and letting them go dormant, I didn't lose any, I have potted them up about a month ago in small pots, to later transfer them to bigger ones, they are all up and unfolding their first leaves. Of course they are in a heated room.. But in your case that might not be doable with so many bulbs..

The two previous winters during January-February I was travelling in Brazil and used another method as my house would be left unheated. I lifted the bulbs from their pots, let them dry out well and then stored them in a tin can with dry peat, I had also dusted them them with Cinnamon powder which is acting as a natural fungicide.
I gave the tin can to my brother to store in his house until I got back from my trip.
That did work quite well though I lost a couple of the smaller bulbs..
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Mar 6, 2016 8:20 AM CST
Hi! I'm only 80 miles south of you and Caladiums are hardy here if the soil is rich and drainage is good (but not too dry.) I think you might have better luck wintering them outside, if you have a suitable spot. (Like if the outside walls of your house make an "inside" corner where you could build a makeshift coldframe against those 2 walls.) If your garage is attached to the house, maybe storing them on a high shelf would be warm enough. Do you have a basement?

Since the ground doesn't freeze in Montgomery, you could be able to improve your soil (fertility/tilth/drainage) and use a heavy cover of leaves or other organic material to help zone-cheat ever so slightly (if even needed, drainage could be the key.) Doing that is as easy as adding organic matter to the soil surface periodically, but does take time for the effects to manifest.

In general, it sounds like they are getting too dry. I would put them in the ground by next weekend. 10-day forecast for Montgomery shows 43 tonight, then nights in the 50's to the end of the forecast. That should be warm enough for them to start growing roots again & get ready to make leaves.

Happy to elaborate if interested in any of this.
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Name: Myriam
Ghent, Belgium (Zone 8a)
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bonitin
Mar 10, 2016 2:46 PM CST
Hi Tiffany, I am curious as your zone is not far off mine.
As Caladiums appear to be hardy in your zone, how cold can it be in your winter? I know zones can be tricky, as there are many other factors playing a role for making a species hardy or not.
Also winters from one year can differ a lot from others..
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
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purpleinopp
Mar 10, 2016 4:44 PM CST
Cals aren't reliable hardy where I am but surviving winter isn't purely about night low temps, but about soil temp. It can get down to single digits on occasion here, but even after such a night, the next day would probably at least 45 and more like 55. Avg low here for the coldest nights is 31, avg high during those days is 55-60.

Several things can help keep the ground warmer, like a wall, path, or patio, (especially brick or other dark color,) organic matter - anything from a light layer to a several-foot-high pile of leaves, adjacency to a big rock. Access to sunshine is important, trying to zone-push/cheat on the north side of a structure (for those of us in the N hemisphere) isn't something I'd recommend if other options exist.

The other aspect that seems to be equally important is drainage. For many species, cold + soggy = death but cold + more dry or moist in a not-soggy way can = survival.

My Mom has planted Cals under her oak trees a few times but they never come back. Too dry & at the time, very infertile soil. (We've been improving that over the yrs by using the leaves as mulch in a bed under the trees after decades of mowing under there & the leaves having been removed from the property by the original owners. I might suggest she try some again this spring.) I put mine in a bit more sun in spots where the soil is much more rich & fertile (and thus, well-drained) and haven't had any NOT return. She only lives 2 miles away. Since I'm not also augmenting the cheat with a pile of leaves, I can only attribute the difference to the improved drainage & fertility/tilth that comes over time when soil has been continuously covered with some kind of OM.

All of this starts to get into soil microbiology, which is fascinating from the aspect that ones' plants can only be as great as the soil in which they're growing. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend listening to this short (15 mins) lecture (which sounds nerdy but microbiologist Dr. Elaine Ingham speaks in normal person terms.) http://permaculturenews.org/2013/09/20/soil-not-dirt-dr-elai...

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Name: Myriam
Ghent, Belgium (Zone 8a)
Charter ATP Member Ferns Native Plants and Wildflowers Cat Lover Birds Bee Lover
Organic Gardener I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Frogs and Toads Plant Identifier
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bonitin
Mar 11, 2016 1:38 AM CST
Thanks Tiffany, Thumbs up
Great info too in that video of Dr. Elaine Ingham!
Name: Tiffany
Opp, AL (Zone 8b)
Houseplants Organic Gardener Composter Region: Gulf Coast Miniature Gardening Native Plants and Wildflowers
Bulbs Foliage Fan Tropicals Butterflies Garden Sages Cactus and Succulents
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purpleinopp
Mar 11, 2016 6:34 AM CST
Happy to share! I love soil microbiology as much as a not-formally-educated person can I think!
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JC/NYC (Zone 7b)
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skylark
May 31, 2016 9:13 AM CST
i garden strictly in pots in the apt/balcony and store them in pots too.
I have huge 'Red Flash' - grown strictly indoors. and med to smalls 'White queen', 'FL sweetheart' and 'Miss Muffet' for balcony.
usually i wait until all the leaves decline.
when i see leaves dying off one by one (usually in sep-oct-nov depending on variety) i water just a bit. when the last leaf is left - no more watering until spring. i stack the pots and put them in plastic bags, tied up top, so i won't overturn them and spill the lot and stash them under the low table where it's darker and cooler near the northern window/balcony door with some draft. so it gets about 58-60F there at night. and that's it until april.
then i lift them and inspect and clean them off with a brush and remove the dried skin on the bottom. at this point if there is rot - it' s usually a goner. although i tried a few times to scrape them clean, dust with cinnamon - but it isn't worth the bother, unless the tuber is large. but it's the smallest ones that rot easier, of course. I don't loose large tubers at all - that is if they are at least an inch in diameter. the very small dwarf varieties like Miss Muffet have very small corms - half an inch at most. those i loose a few at a time.
but i never wash them and never dry them. after they are brushed, if i am not ready to start them, i pack them in very barely damp LF sphag, covering tops too and put them in tomato clam shells that have perforations on the side - to breath. even if they are showing the signs of life, they can still hold like that for another month or even two (sometime i dig them up earlier..like beginning of march...so they have to stay put another 6 weeks).
IF i want to start them, i dampen the sphag more and still close the clam-shells, but put them in the sunny spot to warm them up and then check on them and re-moisten them weekly.
when the roots are 1 inch - i plant them in pots. i noticed that when i start too early they take 4-6 weeks to grow roots, while when it's mid april - it'll be 2-3 weeks only. so i don't bother starting them early anymore. so in may they shoot up indoors on a western window and that's where i keep them until june or end-of-may at least.
i used to dig them up for inspection in the fall - but they dry up more, when dug up . so storing in dried pots is much better and less work for me.
i took up this funny pic of one of my large tubers of 'Red Flash' ready to go in the pot (have it for about 8-9 years?).
i used to dig up 'Red Flash' and store them dry naked in perforated tomato clam-shells. that worked too. but not for small corm varieties - too many would dry up.




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