Getting Summer Bulbs Ready for Winter!

Getting Summer Bulbs Ready for Winter!

tulip bulbs

Gorgeous tropical foliage bulbs and summer-flowering bulbs have started winding down as the cooler weather begins! Unless you are in the warmest growing zones of USDA zones 9, 10, and 11; where these bulbs can remain in the ground as perennials or semi-to-fully evergreen - then it is time to 'lift' your bulbs and get them stored away for the winter!

Lifting Bulbs For The Winter

'Lifting' is just another term for digging up winter tender bulbs that won’t survive frozen ground or freezing temperatures. These are typically plants that need consistent year-round warmth or are tropical in nature, including -

  • Elephant Ears
  • Tuberous Begonias
  • Caladiums
  • Canna Lily
  • Gladiolas
  • Dahlia
  • Ranunculus (Butter Cups)
  • Freesia
  • Anemone
  • Tigridia
  • Tuberose
  • Peacock Orchids
  • Society Garlic
  • Harlequin Flower
  • Gloriosa Lily
  • Lily Of The Nile
  • Water Lily
  • Pineapple Lily

Storing Bulbs For The Winter

These frost-tender bulbs in growing zones 7-8 and lower will not survive reliably, so it is best to allow your plants to see some light frosts to stop the top growth and for the plants to turn yellow and brown. Digging these bulbs must be done before the ground freezes - so don't forget!

digging bulb

Timing for digging these plants will vary depending upon the plant, and of course where you are growing them (your growing zone). Light frost will not penetrate the soil surface, but it will help your plants start to go dormant. Watch for the foliage to yellow or turn brown first, then it's time to dig!

  • Use a sharp spade or garden fork to loosen the soil
  • Dig carefully so you do not harm the bulb or its remaining roots 
  • Gently lift the bulbs and their bulbils out of the ground
  • Gently shake off or hose off the excess soil
  • Trim away any and all foliage without cutting into the bulb
  • Lay out the bulbs in a shady, cool location to let the surface dry (curing)
  • Curing for a few days and brush off any loose soil from each
  • You can dust your bulbs with fungicide and/or insecticide
  • Place in a labeled cardboard box, crate with airflow, or a brown paper bag, between layers of dry sand, wrapped in newspaper, peat, sawdust, or shredded coconut husk
  • Make sure to store them in a well-ventilated area

Store in a cool, dark location that remains a consistent 35-45°F. Unheated garages, sheds, basements, or a root cellar are the perfect locations. They do best with 50% humidity. Check the bulbs often throughout the winter to make sure they remain in good health.

Do’s and Don’ts


  • Don’t remove the ‘skin’ off Dahlias or other papery bulbs
  • Gladiolus prefer to not have their soil washed off
  • Do discard any bulbs that have been damaged
  • Discard any shriveled bulbs or those that look like they’re rotting
  • Some plants like Gladiolus and Calla Lilies need ‘curing’ for 2-3 weeks
  • Don’t store the bulbs touching or in an airtight container
  • If the bulbs seem to be dry or beginning to shrivel, moisten slightly and repack
  • If you check on the bulbs and they are very moist, let them dry out and their packing material dries out - then repack


Other Options

Some bulbs like the Elephant Ears and Caladium can be brought in before they die back from frost and kept as houseplants in a bright, indirectly sunny window. Calla Lilies can also be used as houseplants.

Forced Bulbs and Amaryllis

Once your forced winter bulbs and Amaryllis have finished blooming, trim away the flowers and their stems, but keep their foliage in a bright indirect sun window and water them moderately but regularly. This way the leaves will make food for the bulb.

Once the foliage dies back, trim away the leaves and leave them in their moistly dried pot of soil. Or you can remove them from the soil, clean them off and wrap them in newspaper. Store in a well-ventilated cool, dark location like other bulbs and plant them in your garden in the spring, or start them in pots again for the fall/winter months.

Fall Digging Leads To Summer Blooms

Don’t forget your Summer-Flowering bulbs while you are rushing to finish up your fall cleanup checklist this year! With a bit of work and planning, you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful bulbs for years to come!

Check out all the newest Bulbs - both fall and spring-planted - hitting the website for 2024! We’ll hold your order and ship them to you at the proper planting time for your growing zone!

Happy Planting!

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