Gadioli are beautiful flowers. They come in many colors; some make bold, bright statements in single shades while others are craftily dabbled with more than one hue. In the south, where winters do not freeze the ground solid, they can live in place for decades.
In the north, where snow and cold dominate, they must be brought inside to survive.
In order to do this, there are several steps. First, the plants need to be dug up and placed in a breezy, shaded spot to cure. It's important not to let them freeze. Spread them out on newspapers. This triggers a mechanism within the gladioli that it is time to send all of their energy into the bulbs. It takes about ten days to two weeks for this process to occur.
Once they have cured, it will be easy to remove the bulbs from the stems. The stems will just break off with a little tug. Then, the old bulb will need to be removed from the new one. This is a shrunken version of the new bulb that lies on the bottom (see photo). Pry it loose so that the new bulb is free.
Next, put some wood chips in the bottom of a small or large pail—depending on the number of bulbs that you want to save. Arrange a row of bulbs on top of this layer but have them not touching each other.
Cover these bulbs with another layer of wood chips and repeat arranging more bulbs on top. Repeat this process until the bucket is full and cover with a lid. These bulbs can then be saved in a cool room that doesn't freeze or a root cellar.
Come spring, they will be ready to replant. It's a good idea to plant them in a series rather than all together. Plant ten or twelve starting two weeks before the expected last frost. Wait ten days to two weeks and plant ten or twelve more. This way, you will have beautiful gladioli flowers all summer long.
Celeste Longacre and her husband, Bob, have lived sustainably for more than 35 years. They grow almost all of their vegetables for the year and preserve them by freezing, canning, drying and using a home -built root cellar. Celeste ferments much of the couple’s produce and makes her own sauerkraut, kimchee, and fruit and beet kvass. She is the author of Celeste’s Garden Delights and writes a gardening blog for The Old Farmer’s Almanac. For more information, visit Celeste’s website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.