Connecticut Garden Journal: Subtropical Bulbs Need a Cool Basement | Connecticut Public Radio
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Connecticut Garden Journal: Subtropical Bulbs Need a Cool Basement

Oct 29, 2015

Don't be surprised if you end up with a lot more plants for next year.

With the emphasis on pumpkins, apples, and chrysanthemums at this time of year, it's easy to forget those subtropical bulbs that have faded with the cold weather. 

Canna lilies and dahlias grace our gardens with color from summer until fall, but won't come back next year without our help. They aren't hardy in our climate, so now is the time to dig them up and store them for winter.

Cut back the foliage to six inches tall, and carefully dig up the entire tuber. For cannas and dahlias, this might be quite a project, because their roots can grow large over the summer.

Clean off the soil with water, and cut off and discard any diseased or damaged tubers. Separate out healthy ones to save. Let them dry in a warm garage or basement for a few days.

Don't be surprised if you end up with a lot more plants for next year. These tubers are prolific.

Store dahlia and canna lily tubers in a box or perforated garbage bags in slightly moisten peat moss, sawdust, or sand in a 40- to 50-degree basement. Check them periodically throughout the winter.

If the tubers are shrinking, lightly mist them. If they are getting soft and rotting, dry them out.

Dahlia.
Credit Eric Hunt flickr.com/photos/ericinsf/72903636 / Creative Commons
Canna lilies.
Credit Carol Von Canon flickr.com/photos/biggreymare/14763692258 / Creative Commons

Another fun fact is that canna lilies are edible. The fleshy tubers were used as a food crop to make a starchy paste, called achira, which is used around the world.

For example, the Vietnamese make cellophane noodles from this paste. If you have too many canna lilies, you might consider munching on a few, too.

Next week, I’ll be talking about Brussels sprouts. Until then, I’ll be seeing you in the garden.