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The light is coming back. It’s time to get spring bulbs out of storage

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: February 27, 2020
  • Published February 27, 2020

The daylight is definitely returning, and at least some of us are starting to get that feeling that spring really, really, really is ahead. We might actually once again be able to grow things outdoors despite what was a cold winter.

This is the time of year to do several things of importance. The first is to get those spring bulbs you potted up last fall out of the crawl space and into the light so they will bloom before the ones you planted outdoors. Nothing hard here! Give them water and stand back and see what happens. Hopefully, you kept them in the dark long enough and at cold enough temperatures for them to put out roots and, now, green shoots. Grow them in a relatively cool spot until you get great green growth and flowers. Good light helps, as always.

Next, this is also the time of year to buy fuchsia starts. There are so many varieties, each producing tons of unique flowers. You buy them now while they are small so you can train them into basket size or as trees known as “standards.” Start pinching!

And it is time to get out the stored fuchsia and put them into a place where there is ample light. Adding some supplemental light will be the best, obviously, but you shouldn’t use up your precious space under lights if you don’t have room. If that is the case, give them your best sunlight. Your plants may have green growth on them already. Or, they may simply have leaf buds, which will burst open in the couple of weeks after they are exposed to light and given water. Again, relatively cool temperatures will help keep fuchsias from stretching out too much.

You should shape your plant now to make sure it develops properly. Professionals trim them into pyramid shapes and then judicially pinch back new growth where it needs it to fill out the plant. Each pinch causes branching.

Tuberous begonia corms were not traditionally re-planted until April. I think we can move that up a couple of weeks, so there is nothing wrong with getting yours out of storage now or buying some from your favorite nurseries. Put them on a tray. If they are in soil, leave them there. Don’t water them. Simply expose the concave side of the tubers to light so they will start sprouting. This can take a few weeks no matter what kind of light you give them. Then they should be inserted into damp, “composty” soil without getting any in the concave area that faces up.

Some gardeners like to get their dahlia tubers out into the light at the same time they take care of their begonias. The idea is to encourage sprouting. These are potato-like tubers and have “eyes” that will develop just like they do on potatoes. It is often easier to divide clumps of these tubers after they have sprouted up a bit so you ensure you have an eye or two on each. Keep them “labeled.”

If you stored rhodochiton, aka “The Alaska State Fair plant,” you should bring them out and water them. In addition, look for seed from or in last year’s dried flowers. These are relatively expensive, and you should have plenty to use and share. Veterans to growing rhodochiton know it as an easy and unusual hanging plant to grow.

You should be working pelargoniums kept growing during the winter by shaping them. They should now be flowering. Keep cuttings and root after air-drying for 48 hours. It is also time to see if stored pelargoniums made it through the winter. Pull them out and cut down from their tips until you hit green, living tissue. Pot yours up, water them and put them into good light. Then start shaping them for outdoor use this summer.

That leaves the gladioli corms you stored. If you don’t have any, you can buy them from local nurseries. You will want at least a dozen. Plant up several corms every few days to stagger their flowering. Seem like a lot of work? It is the traditional way. However, many folks now are simply planting corms all at once, outdoors, in late spring with good results. This is, in part, because the season is longer and gladioli have more time to grow outdoors without getting cut down on frosts.

That’s it. It is not just the light that is here. Seed racks are too. Nurseries are open. Time to get supplies.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar for this week:

Vegetable seeds to start: Celery

Flowers to start: Sweet peas