Storing Spring Flowering Bulbs Fresh Until Planting Day

The best place for bulbs is in the ground, and the sooner you can get them there the better. The longer bulbs remain out of the ground, the less likely they are to live up to their full performance potential. Life is busy and there's nearly always at least a little lag time between buying and planting. Here are some tips for storing bulbs until you can get them into the ground.


Be Prepared

The fastest way to get bulbs into the ground is to be ready to plant them when they arrive. Bulbs are tough, and yours will probably be fine for several days before you have to worry about storing them properly. Just remember that depending on where your bulbs originated from (e.g. thousands of miles away in Holland), they have probably already endured a long period above ground before you buy them. Do your best to have beds ready when it's time to plant.

Keep Them Cool

Ideally, bulbs should be kept in a sleepy state until planting day. This is best achieved by regulating their temperature. A few types are a bit more finicky, but as a general rule most bulbs can be safely stored for up to several weeks in a cool, dry place where temperatures hover between 38 - 45 degrees F. Your refrigerator (see Avoid Ethylene below), is the ideal spot.


In the short term, bulbs will also stay inactive at slightly higher temperatures (between 55-65 degrees F), but they are at a greater risk for drying out. Until bulbs are rooted in the soil, freezing temperatures will harm the embryos. As long as temperatures don't fall below 32 degrees F, unheated basements, garages, closets, or utility rooms will work just fine, too.

Let Them Breathe

Even in a state of suspended animation, your bulbs will continue to produce a small amount of moisture. For this reason, it's important to store your bulbs in a way that allows them to breathe, while at the same time prevents them from drying out. Open trays or paper bags work best. Avoid plastic, which can collect moisture and produce mold.

Bulbs and Ethylene

If you decide to refrigerate your bulbs before planting them, make sure you keep them away from apples and other fruit. Many types of fruit release ethylene gas, which assists in the ripening process. In an enclosed space like a refrigerator, this gas can build up and cause damage to the flower buds.


When To Skip Storage

If it's going to be longer than a week from the time you buy your bulbs until you're ready to plant, you need to think about proper storage. If it's only going to be a few days, don't worry about it. Most bulbs will be fine just lying around the house in the bag or box they came in. Just make sure you keep them away from heat sources like radiators, air ducts, and direct sunlight, which can dry them out in only a matter of hours.

Tips for Pre-cooled Bulbs

In USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10, certain types of spring flowering bulbs need 6-20 weeks of pre-chilling before they are planted in order to initiate the flowering process. In these warmer zones, gardeners can either purchase bulbs that have already been "pre-cooled", or give the bulbs an extended cold-treatment in the refrigerator (at 35 to 50 F) before planting. These bulbs are usually planted in late November and December so it's important to plan ahead.



  • To help moderate temperatures, plant bulbs in an area that does not receive direct sunlight from late morning to early afternoon.

  • Choose cultivars that are proven performers in warmer climates.

  • Treat these bulbs as annuals and replant with new bulbs each fall.

About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.

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