Broersen Bulbs

Pty. Ltd.

Specialist Bulb and Flower Growers



Frequently Asked Questions

By Jenny Broersen

Throughout each season, we get many calls from customers with an assortment of questions regarding their bulbs and plants. For this reason, we have decided to put together this selection of the most frequently asked questions. All information is provided in good faith, however if you ever have any doubts, or are experiencing other problems, remember that we are here to help and are happy to assist you at any time. Most problems can be avoided just by following some of the simple guidelines set out below.

If you are seeking information on a particular bulb, try using the “find” function on the edit menu of your browser to simplify the task. For further information, see our growing guide.

Q. How do I store my bulbs and plants if I can’t plant them straight away?

A. This depends entirely on the bulbs or plants in question, however as a general rule all bulbs should be stored in a cool, dark, airy position, for example in an old stocking hanging in the garage or under the house, or in a cool cupboard. You can leave the bulbs in their paper packaging, just make sure the air holes are clear. Some examples of bulbs that should be stored in this way are Tulips, Dutch Iris, Daffodils, Jonquils, Crocus, Hyacinths, Freesias, Ixias, and other ‘dry’ bulbs.

If you notice that the bulbs have become mouldy when planting time arrives, this indicates that the bulbs have been exposed to moisture or poor ventilation. Don’t be alarmed! Mould is harmless and can simply be washed off immediately before planting. Flowering and growth will not be adversely affected.

Plants such as Alstroemeria, Bearded Iris, Liliums and Algerian Iris have specific storage requirements, which are covered in detail further on.

Q. Do I need to put my Tulips in the fridge?

A. This is one of our most commonly asked questions, and is the topic of much confusion. Tulips do not need refrigeration if you live in a climate that has cool-cold winters, even though the summers may be warm. (Don’t forget that Tulips are dormant during summer and if lifted and stored correctly, will survive the hot weather quite happily.) It is only if you live in a climate that is warm all year round that you would need to refrigerate the bulbs, as this simulates the cold winter the bulbs otherwise would not receive during the winter months.

There are some important factors to consider when storing your bulbs in the fridge, but to understand these fully it helps to know a little bit about the life cycle of a Tulip bulb.

Tulip bulbs are planted in late April or May, when the weather has cooled, and about 6-8 weeks after flowering when the foliage begins to turn yellow, the bulbs are dug. It is important to leave the foliage on the plant as the bulb feeds off this dying foliage in order to help produce next seasons flower. (Remember that if you pick the flowers, leave some foliage on the plant for this reason.)

After digging, the bulbs are dried, cleaned and then stored. It is during this dormancy period that next seasons’ flower will form inside the bulb. At this important time, it is crucial for the bulbs to be stored correctly.

To do this, clean and dry the bulbs, separating the smaller baby bulbs. After drying you can dust with an insecticide to prevent aphids, however this is optional. Store in a cool, dark, airy position. (See above for more storage tips.) Ensure that the temperature during storage is between 16-23 degrees celcius. As the bulbs need storage for many months (they should not be planted again until late April/early May) it is important to get things right! Remember to check on them occasionally, just in case some little nasties (aphids!) fly in for a feast.

If you decide to refrigerate your Tulip bulbs, store them in their paper packaging (or an old mesh bag, such as those oranges are packed in) in the crisper section. Store for 6-8 weeks, and most importantly, do not store fruit and vegetables in the fridge at the same time. This is because some (not all) fruit and vegetables produce ethylene gas which can be very detrimental to the bulbs. Remember that they are in the process of producing next years flower inside, and exposure to ethylene gas at this time can cause the flower buds to dry up and die, and also affect growth performance. If you are storing your Tulips in the fridge every year, but are frustrated that they do not flower and appear poorly, this could be the reason.

Refrigerated Tulip bulbs will flower earlier and this can be of benefit if you are timing flowering for a wedding or other special occasion. The longer time spent in the fridge, the earlier the bulbs will flower.

As a general rule, most other bulb types (aside from Hyacinths) do not require refrigeration. If in doubt, don’t refrigerate!

Q. Why have my Tulips flowered with very short stems?

A. Tulips are easily stressed by heat, especially early in the season. Planting the bulbs later when the weather has cooled down will avoid the problem. A good time for planting is after Anzac Day in April, as warm days are still common in early autumn.

Q. My bulbs have grown and flowered very well and I have now dug them. What do I do with the smaller, baby bulbs?

A. The small baby bulbs should be carefully separated from the mother bulbs and stored in the same way. Most baby bulbs take a couple of seasons to reach a flowering size, so plant and care for them as usual, and soon they will be flowering beautifully.

Q. How do I know when to dig my bulbs?

A. Once the foliage has died down completely, bulbs can be dug. (Most bulbs feed off the dying foliage in order to help produce next seasons flower.)

Q. Why do my potted Hyacinths have no leaves and very short, small flowers?

A. If you have used Osmocote in your potting mix, this can burn roots causing stunted growth. Use Dynamic Lifter or blood and bone instead.

Q. What do I do with my potted bulbs after they have finished flowering?

A. If you had the pots indoors during flowering, move them to a cool, shady spot in the garden. Break the spent flower heads off as this ensures that the bulb does not waste any energy producing a seed pod. Keep moist, but not wet, and allow the foliage to die down completely before lifting the bulbs, then drying and storing over the summer months.

The potted bulbs should be planted in the garden the following season to give them a rest. (Bulbs potted for more than one season do not perform well and may not flower successfully.) Use fresh bulbs for potting each season.

Q. If I do not plant my bulbs this season, can I store them and plant them the following year?

A. No! Bulbs need a growing period each year to survive. If left unplanted, they will eventually perish.

Q. Is there a special way of picking the flowers from my bulbs?

A. There is no special way of picking the flowers from bulbs, but there are some guidelines to follow. Always use a sharp scissors or secateurs to cut the stems and try to leave as much foliage on the bulbs as you can, especially in the case of Tulips, which may not flower next season if all their foliage is removed. (Remember that the bulbs will feed off this foliage when it dies down after flowering.)

Q. Can you suggest some natural ways of eliminating pests around the garden without the need for chemicals?

A. The most common pests that bother bulbs are aphids, thrips, snails and slugs. If you want to avoid using snail pellets, try filling some small containers with beer and placing them in the ground so that their tops are at ground level. Snails and slugs will be attracted to the beer, but won’t be able escape once they have sampled the beer!

Natural sprays you can use on garden pests such as thrips and aphids are pyrethrum based sprays (available from most nurseries and garden centres), or you can make your own garlic spray. Simply crush as many garlic cloves as your patience will allow, mix in a watering can with water, adding a tablespoon of dishwashing detergent (this helps the mixture to stick to the leaves). A potent brew!

Q. How deep do I plant Rhubarb, and how can you tell which side goes upwards when planting?

A. If you look closely at your Rhubarb crown you will see a red, knobby section which is the top. Note that sometimes this section is covered by black, dead, flaky growth (from the previous season). Plant so that the top of the crown is just above the soil surface.

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