Digging up and storing bulbs for winter is super easy, and a great way to keep your favorite tropical plants and flowers year after year.
In this post, I’ll show you when and how to lift your tender bulbs along with step-by-step instructions for curing, packing, and storing them indoors over winter.
Types Of Plant Bulbs To Overwinter Indoors
Did you know that some of your favorite summer flowers have rhizomes, corms, tubers, or bulbs (commonly referred to as bulbs) that you can store over the winter and regrow year after year?
With a little bit of dirty work, and a small amount of storage space, you can easily overwinter any these popular bulbs. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Canna lily
- Spider lillies
- Voodoo lily
- Elephant ear
- Crinum lily
- Tuberous begonias (not all types are tuberous)
- Calla lilies
- Sweet potato vine
When To Dig Up Bulbs For Winter
The best time to dig up your bulbs for winter is in the fall after the first few frosts have turned the leaves brown or killed back the foliage. This will trigger them to go dormant naturally.
Once this happens, you can lift them any time that’s convenient for you, but you must do it before the ground freezes.
Related Post: How To Overwinter Plants: The Complete Guide
How To Dig Up Bulbs
Lifting the bulbs and getting them ready for winter storage is the longest part of this whole process, but it’s not difficult. Follow these steps for the best success.
Step 1: Cut back the plant – You can cut the plant all the way down to the ground first, or you can wait until after you’ve dug up and cleaned the bulbs to remove the foliage.
I prefer to cut most of it off before I start digging, leaving enough of the stalk to use as a handle, if possible, to make it easier to lift the bulbs.
Step 2: Dig up the bulbs – To avoid damaging the bulbs, start digging several inches away from the stems of the plant.
If you have more than one type of plant or variety you’re pulling out, make sure that you keep track of what is what (unless you like surprises).
Step 3: Separate large clumps – If your bulbs came out of the ground in one large chunk, carefully loosen it up to remove as much dirt as possible and separate them. Cutting off tightly bundled roots will help with this process.
You don’t need to cut off all the roots though. The goal is to loosen them up, remove the bulk of the dirt, and separate the individual bulbs as much as possible.
Some people store their bulbs in one big clump, but I recommend splitting them apart. This helps them cure better and prevents rot and mold.
Step 4: Check each bulb for rot or damage – As you separate each one from the clump, inspect it to make sure it’s healthy and firm.
Discard any bulbs show signs of rot or were cut or damaged when you dug them up, as those will not store well. Otherwise, remove the plant stem and any foliage that’s still attached.
Step 5: Cure them – To reduce the chance of your bulbs rotting or molding over the winter, you should cure them (dry them out) for several days before storing them.
To do this, I lay newspaper on the garage floor and then spread my bulbs out so they aren’t touching each other. You can cure them outside if you prefer, as long as it stays above 40°F and remains dry.
The largest ones will need to cure the longest. I recommend curing small bulbs for 1-2 days, and large ones for 3-5 days.
How To Store Bulbs For Winter
Once your bulbs have cured, it’s time to pack them up for winter storage. I use a cardboard box so it’s easy to stack on a shelf in my basement, but you could use a fabric or paper bag instead.
I do not recommend using any type of plastic container for this, or it can hold too much moisture and cause your bulbs to rot or mold.
Place your bulbs into the box so that they aren’t touching each other. Then add packing material between each new layer of bulbs. Continue layering the packing material and bulbs until the box is full.
Don’t forget to label your box or each layer so you know what you have come spring. You can also write on each bulb with a permanent marker, it won’t hurt them.
Store the box indoors in a cool (above freezing) and dark location for the winter. You can check them periodically to make sure there aren’t any signs of mold or rot, and that they aren’t drying out.
More About Overwintering Plants
- How To Overwinter Coleus Plants Indoors
- How To Overwinter Brugmansia Plants Indoors
- How To Bring A Plant Out Of Dormancy
- Dormant Cyclamen Care: When, What To Do, & How To Revive It
Share your favorite method or tips for storing bulbs over winter in the comments below.