Storing Corms, Tubers, Bulbs, Rhizomes for Winter

Leave a comment

This year I’m trying a new method for storing my Alocasia corms (sometimes referred to as bulbs or tubers, but they are not true bulbs). I have seen Alocasia corms referred to as “tubers” in many garden reference and technical books, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick with corms as the term used for these Alocasia plants I am putting away for the winter months in Connecticut.

Bins Years Prior Used

For years, I stored the bases of underground parts from my elephant’s ears and canna lily plants in plastic bins with covers (air holes drilled in the covers) with peat. When I say “parts”, I’m referring to corms for the elephant’s ear (Alocasia and Colocasia) and rhizomes for the Canna Lily plants).

The peat (only a small amount below; used almost like a bed below the corms/rhizomes, and some peat lightly sprinkled over the tops of the corms and rhizomes) helped maintain a bit of moisture but kept the tubers in a dry but not too dry or too moist state.

However last year, some of my Alocasia corms had rot areas on them when I went to take them out in the spring to start growing again. They were too damp. Plastic bins will hold onto some moisture (versus a dry cardboard type box) but this problem of rot really had never occurred before. Since I want to make sure I am able to save these dramatic large Alocasia plants’ corms, I’m trying this new method this year.

Dug Up about a Week or few days prior

In last week’s post, I showed how I dug up the Alocasia plants from a huge cement planter, cutting off the foliage about 4-6″ from the top of the corm area, and laid them out in the sun for one day. Then I moved them to my basement in laundry baskets.

I also dug up a very large Alocasia plant prior to these, from a big tall patio planter, and laid out a huge corm with top part of the plant (stump like stem area) in a bin about a week before these above.

The ones in the laundry basket were still too damp when looking them over yesterday, so I laid them out on a table in my basement, and spread each corm on the table so they are not touching, and decided I will wait a few days longer before packing those up into boxes. I will leave these on a table another few days to air dry in my unheated basement.

However, I decided to pack up the others that were dug up prior from my gray patio planters. One of them is super large and heavy. It isn’t draining out any more water or moisture now, feels like it has dried enough, and there are no rot or damp areas on the corm area. It was placed in a bin in my basement about one week prior to those dug up from my cement planter so it and its side shoots have been drying longer.

In doing a bit of research, I’ve read Alocasia corms may be stored in newspaper and put in a cardboard box with air vents. I happen to have some boxes available and used a large sharp knife to make slits in the boxes around the perimeter of the cardboard boxes for the air vents.

Making air vents

I placed crumbled up newspaper sheets in the base of the cardboard box and used the original plastic mesh bags, which were around each corm when they were originally shipped to me. I placed individual corms into these mesh bags for those that would fit. My largest “stump” shown top right of this photo below is too large for any of the mesh bags I kept on hand.

Mesh Bag with Corm inside

I loosely wrapped a couple sheets of newspaper around this mesh bag once the corm was inside and put it in the box. I am careful to not have them stacked or touching too much with other corms handled the same method because if anything is damp, that moisture will transfer to any touching corms. However, these were all fairly dry and not moist. The idea is to not overpack any boxes and keep air around each.

Now for the larger Alocasia stump. I keep calling it that because it is so much larger, it is more like a stump size! This one I had to find a larger long box and I have no mesh bag for it. It also has a large green area (the top part of where it grew) still attached which is not wet at all when I decided to lay it into the long cardboard box. Again, I crumpled up newspaper below in the box, and then I used a paper bag to cover it like a blanket and close up the box. I did not tape the box closed, as air circulation is important. I just overlapped the covers and I also put vents in the sides like with the other cardboard box prior to laying it in there.

Largest Alocasia “stump”

The root area is dry with dry soil a bit still on it, the corm area is dry, and there is still green life on the top part but there is no dripping water coming out of it – it seems like it is dry enough. I labeled all the cardboard boxes with date and placed it in the usual corner of my unheated basement (by the door where it is like tucked in a corner, stays cool, dark, dry and it does not go below freezing here.)

I have read the optimum temperature for storing Alocasia corms is 40-45 degrees F. Again, my basement is unheated. The only time it may get warm in there is when we use a woodstove at the opposite end of our basement, which is only occasionally. It does not go below freezing (32 degrees F) so they will not freeze. They are kept in a consistent cool 50 degree range or a bit below that for the whole winter. I will check on these in one month by making a note on my calendar to go look at the corms in these cardboard boxes and seeing if they look good (no rot, no moisture, no wet newspaper).

Again, this is the first time I’m trying the cardboard box method for these. I also wish to note, canna lily rhizomes tend to not survive if they completely dry and wither up, so I don’t think I’ll use this method for those plants, only for my precious upright huge Alocasia plants’ corms. I’ve read more about how these are okay more on the dry side. Makes sense because when I purchased the corms about 3-4 years ago, they showed up in a card boad box, with the white mesh bag, shown above, and only the brownish corm with no plant at all attached.

Label the boxes
Corner in Basement

You see the big plastic bin near these two cardboard boxes, that was the bin I last used for my big red banana plant (stump), the Ensete, I had for over 10 years. It failed this year, so there’s nothing in that box right now. I also put a plastic shelf section below the boxes so it is not directly on the concrete floor which may lead to dampness on the bottom of the boxes.

Pic of corm inside a mesh bag

I just hope this works well this year and will keep you posted. Next up will be to dig up my canna lily plants from containers outdoors. Sometimes I don’t bother anymore with those as they may be easily grown from new plants next season, but it is always a great feeling to reuse and regrow plants to save money on purchasing new ones, but sometimes I run out of energy to keep digging up these things. Each year, I seem to do less storing because of the effort. Sunny days help!

Thank you for visiting,

Cathy Testa
Connecticut Planting Zone 6b
Date of Post: 10/18/2022

P.S. I also want to note, many references will indicate to let the plants get hit by frost first before storing underground parts like the corms or rhizomes, etc. because the freeze will induce dormancy to the plants, however, I often do this process just before a hard frost. The weathermen indicated frost may be happening this week. Wednesday’s forecast indicates about 34 degrees F overnight – so that is chilly!

Wasabi Coleus with Vivid Lime Green Coloring is a Top Performer

4 Comments

When it comes to a wide array of foliage colors, coleus plants are one of the best to use. It is no wonder the National Garden Bureau has declared 2015 the Year of the Coleus. Just look at this image below, downloaded from the bureau’s website (www.ngb.org/downloads). The variegation is speckled, trimmed on the edges, and splashy! And this plant is so easy to grow. Coleus plants are known for being tough and are quite recognizable by plant lovers.

Mix of Coleus - Photo from National Garden Bureau

Mix of Coleus – Photo from National Garden Bureau

Last year, I used Wasabi coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides ‘Wasabi’) in several container gardens for a wedding client. The bride wanted lime green along with cobalt blue and white colors in her décor for the wedding. Lime green was an easy plant color to obtain. There are many plants with lime green or chartreuse colors, and I immediately had several pop into my head, such as:

  • Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantel) – ruffled foliage, lime green foliage and flowers (filler)
  • Canna ‘Pretoria’ – tropical fast grower, lime green foliage (thriller)
  • Heuchera ‘Citronella’ or ‘Lime Rickey’ (coral bells) – foliage lime green, many Heucheras offer it
  • Iris ensata ‘Variegata’ (variegated Japanese iris) – sword like foliage with half lime green stripes
  • Lamium maculatum ‘Anne Greenway’ (dead nettle) – spiller with lime green and white foliage
  • Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ (golden creeping Jenny) – great spiller with lime green foliage
  • Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (sedum) – great filler or spiller, tough for hot sun containers
  • Tradescantia andersoniana ‘Sweet Kate’ (spiderwort) – strap like vivid lime green with blue-purple flowers

These are just examples of perennials in that color, but many annuals, ornamental grasses, and a few shrubs also show off lime green or chartreuse colors. The plant list could go on and on, but it was important for me to have strong performers and those which would last towards the end of the summer.

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Containers with Wasabi Coleus by Cathy T

Two easy plant choices, which I knew from experience would last, were the annual plants, Wasabi coleus and Ipomoea batatas ‘Marguerite’ (sweet potato vine). Both plants have bright yellow to lime green foliage and really stand out in container gardens.

Close up of Wasabi Coleus

Close up of Wasabi Coleus – Heavily Serrated Leaf Edges

Wasabi Coleus

One of the aspects I adore about how Wasabi coleus worked in the container gardens is how its lime green coloring was highlighted or intensified as it sat near the dark toned elephant ear plants in the pots.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants - Photo by Patrick C.

Wasabi Coleus with Dark Toned Elephant Ear Plants – Photo by Patrick C.

For the elephant ears, two varieties were used, Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ and C. esculenta ‘Black Diamond’. The coleus was so vivid and intense next to the darker toned elephant ears making each plant all the more dramatic.

Colocasia esculenta 'Black Magic'

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’

Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’ has to be one of my all time favorite dark toned elephant ears. It has amazing downward facing heart or ear shaped leaves rising from tall plum to purple-black stems and grows to about three to six feet tall. The reason I find them great tropical performers is because the stems cluster and rise in a nice full batch from the center, and they stay tidy but are very lush and full, serving a the main thriller plant in the container gardens.

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT - Wedding Pots

Container Garden by Container Crazy CT – Wedding Pots

Coleus has strong stems which helps it to stand upright in the container as a filler plant next to the elephant ears. However, those strong stems may break in windy situations or if bumped up against. But, the good news is with a quick snip to any damaged stems, regrowth bounces back nicely.

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi Coleus on left in the pot

Wasabi coleus does not tend to send out blooms, so I did not have to deal with cleaning them up. From the time I planted them in the containers until the point it was time to tear them out, there was not a flower in sight which to me was a good thing because I prefer the foliage colors and textures of coleus plants – the flowers are not that intriguing to me.

Wasabi Coleus ContainerCrazyCT_0023-001

In fact, I experienced no problems with Wasabi coleus. No blemishes, no spots, thus no worries. It was an excellent specimen from beginning to end.

Containers in Sept 2015

Containers in Sept 2015

The lime green to chartreuse color of this annual plant served to meet the client’s desired colors, and provided a nice texture with its heavily serrated edges, plus it grew upright and tall, filling in nicely alongside of the other plants in the container. However, there were a couple other plants incorporated into the pots with similar lime-green coloring.

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Some of the wedding pots mid summer

Duranta – Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’

Another plant, which is not a perennial but annual in our CT planting zones with lime green appeal, is Duranta serratifolia (Sky Flower Tala Blanco ‘Gold Edge’).

Duranta Gold Edge  -- Photo by Cathy T

Duranta Gold Edge — Photo by Cathy T

This species is a shrub and its vivid lime green to bright yellow foliage with green centers is extremely electric. The coloring is very bright and the plant is tough. The only concern is handling it because stems have sharp spines, but otherwise, it definitely adds flare to the containers. As noted above, cobalt blue was another color requested, and this plant made the blue to purple flowers in the pots pop.

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Duranta at Different Stages of Growth

Marguerite Sweet Potato Vine

You don’t even need to say or mention why sweet potato vines are excellent for container gardens. They trail, grow relatively fast, and are showy in pots. Pretty much everyone into gardening knows of them – similar to how gardeners are aware of coleus plants. This is why the ‘Marguerite’ sweet potato vine was used as the spiller, a plant which trails off the sides in the container gardens. It has a nearly perfect lime green color and grows quickly.

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

Sweet Potato Vines next to cobalt blue gazing ball decor in the pot

The sweet potato vine plant eventually grew so long, I had to pick them up in my arms when moving the pots into my trailer for delivery. It felt like I was holding the train of a wedding gown. Ipomoeas are sun to part shade annuals. They are very versatile in any type of container gardens from hanging baskets to window boxes. Sweet potato vines could be considered the staple of spillers because they cascade so nicely and keep growing.

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

Sweet Potato Vine Marguerite (Spiller)

The container gardens at the wedding event served more purposes than just dressing up the space, they were great for protecting guests from tripping over the tent cords. And the bright lime to yellow green of the three plants (Wasabi coleus, Marguerite sweet potato vine, and Sky Flower) seemed to glow at dusk as the wedding day progressed which turned out to be beneficial.

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

Placed at key places during the Wedding Event

After the container gardens were returned to my nursery, because they were obtained as rentals by the bride and groom, they continued to show their beauty until the early days of fall. When the season was over, I piled the stalks and cuttings of the plants into a garden cart to compost. Even here, you can see how amazing the bright lime greens showed up in the pile of mixed plants removed from the containers.

Garden Cart at Take Down

Garden Cart at Take Down

By the way, many people view coleus as a shade plant, but it can take part sun or dappled sun. Coleus ‘Wasabi’ was a great filler in these container gardens, but many other varieties tend to cascade downwards, serving as what I’ve titled as a “sprawler”. Sprawlers are similar to spillers, except they reach out a bit like arms coming down or reaching out of a pot. Also, big plants, like the elephant ears used in this combination, provide some shade over the lower growing coleus plants.

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

Containers by Container Crazy CT of Broad Brook, CT

One sprawler which comes in mind is Coleus ‘Dipt in Wine’. It has a red wine color. One year when I used it in a container garden, it gently moved its way outward and downward from the pot. And…well, I could go on and on about coleus plants, so I should stop here.

At the Wedding Event - Pot staged in different places by hammock in a small garden bed - Photo by Patrick C.

At the Wedding Event – Pot staged in different places. Here by hammock in a small garden bed – Photo by Patrick C. (A family member of the groom and bride!)

Saying “The Year of 2015” is the “Year of Coleus” seems a little silly because it has always been a yearly choice for me.

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

Cathy T being silly on delivery day

For more details about how to grow and care for coleus, visit the National Garden Bureau page.

Cathy Testa

P.S. Only 15 days until spring!

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball

Sweet Potato Vine next to white Mandevilla vine and Blue Gazing Ball