Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I dig and store cannas, dahlias, gladioli and tuberous begonias?

Cannas, caladiums, dahlias, gladiolus and tuberous begonias will not survive St. Louis winters out of doors. But, because these plants have specialized under ground storage organs such as a tuber, corm or tuberous root, they can be dug up and stored indoors for the winter. In spring, they can be replanted outdoors.

In fall, dig nonhardy bulbs after the leaves have yellowed, died back or been killed by frost, but before the ground freezes. This provides the longest possible growing season so the plant can store food for next year's growth.

After digging gladiolus plants, cut the leaves close to the base, leaving no more than one inch of stem. Dry corms in a well ventilated place for three weeks at 80 degrees or four weeks at 70 degrees. Once dried, carefully remove the excess soil and divide the corms. Discard stems, husks, and the older shriveled corm at the base of the cluster. After dividing, cure corms one more week. Store glads uncovered in a 50 degree site. A basement works well.

Dig dahlias and cut the tops back to 3 inches above the root. Remove loose soil by hand or with a garden hose and discard all damaged or diseased root portions and place upside down in the sun for several hours to dry. Then, store the roots at 40 degreesĀ F. in a shallow container covered with sand, vermiculite or peat moss. If the roots begin to shrivel during winter, sprinkle them lightly with water.

Tuberous begonias, cannas and caladiums should be dug and air dried in a well ventilated area at 70 to 80 degrees. Cannas and caladiums need one week to dry while tuberous begonias need two to three weeks to dry. Once dried remove any foliage. Cover the tubers and tuberous roots with perlite, vermiculite, peat moss or sand. Store cannas and begonias at 40 to 50 degrees, caladiums at 55 to 60 degrees. All do best stored in a cool, dark and humid place with good ventilation. Fruit cellars and cool basements work well. Do not store bulbs in an attic or garage where they may freeze. Check throughout the winter and discard shriveled, diseased, or insect infested bulbs.