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Master Gardener

Gladolius bulbs need to be dug each fall in order to survive Wisconsin winters.

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own...” — Charles Dickens

I know that we haven’t had a killing frost yet but it will be here soon. Usually after this frost, we need to dig dahlias, gladioli, cannas, and other tender bulbs we planted last spring. When you bought your bulbs, corms or rhizomes in the spring, some of them were quite expensive, so “waste not, want not.” Dig them out carefully and leave them in a sheltered, frost-free area to dry for about a week. Then place them in a cardboard box with peat moss to keep them from drying out during the winter.

Gladioli and callas need special care and a longer drying period of at least three weeks at temperatures around 70 degrees. After curing the gladioli, remove the old shriveled corms at the base.

Some bulbs, corms, or rhizomes tend to decay during storage. If you have valuable bulbs, you can dust them with a fungicide. Layer bulbs individually in peat moss, sawdust, wood shavings, or vermiculite to prevent drying. Make sure the bulbs are not touching each other and use a ventilated box. The biggest challenge is to store them at temperatures from 35 degrees to 45 degrees and a humidity of 50 percent.

Check your bulbs during the winter for signs of decay or shriveling. You may want to add humidity occasionally if the bulbs are drying out. If they are too wet, air them out.

I have found this method also works for 4 o’clock roots (mirabilis jalapa), also called marvel-of-Peru, or beauty-of-the-night. When you replant them next spring, the will be bigger and better than the year before.

If you have elephant’s ears, you can pot them up and save as a house plant, or you can cut them back, dry them for a couple of days, and pack in peat. Caladiums need to dry at least a week before storing.

In your perennial garden, do a last weeding, cut back most of the perennials and lightly mulch. After the ground freezes, add more mulch to the tender perennials, especially if they are growing zone 5 plants.

The Sauk County Master Gardeners are raffling off a queen-size, hand-pieced quilt that was two years in the making and it is beautiful. The quilt has been valued at $2,000. The money from the raffle will go toward a $1,000 scholarship/grant to a town or village in Sauk County for a beautification project. After all the flooding this year, we have many towns in need of this kind of help. If you are interested in purchasing a raffle ticket, they are available at the Sauk County Extension office, West Square Building, 505 Broadway, Baraboo.

Contact Phyllis Both by email at or by telephone on Monday mornings at the Sauk County University of Wisconsin-Extension office, 608-355-3253.