Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Petunia is very active in several non-profit groups and belongs to 3 professional clubs.  As a result, she usually gets pots of blooming spring bulbs at or around Easter. There are usually several pots of Easter lilies, and several with mixes of miniature daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, squill, crocus and even small iris. Left to her, they would be dead stalks in 3 days. Luckily, she has Bunkey. He has learned from experience, that is killing a whole bunch of them, how to care for them and which ones he can save to put in his garden in the spring. Here are his tips.

First of all, remove the pretty plastic pot covers, or at least, poke a hole in the bottom of it. If you don’t take this important step, you may drown the bulbs as the fancy cover holds water. Now set your pot in the brightest place in the house. Bulb foliage is short lived and needs all the sunlight it can get to feed the leaves for next year’s bloom. These plants are garden flowers, after all, not usually house plants.  Most bulbs originated in dry areas and are a water storing machine. Keep them damp not wet or they will rot and stink. Deadhead them as the blooms die. The foliage will follow and really look terrible, like a kid with a bad haircut.  Resist the urge to cut off dead leaves. When they are totally dead and dry, you will be able to pull them off.

Now you are left with a pot of, apparently, dead flowers. Nope, not even close. Let the soil dry. In the spring, when the spring blooms die down, plant the bulbs in the garden. About half of them will come back next spring. Never plant a bulb in a wet area as they will rot.

Lilies are treated differently. If it is a regular Easter lily, throw it in the trash when it is done blooming. They carry a virus that can easily infect your garden lilies. If it is a true garden lily, keep it in the sun and watered as long as it has green leaves.  If the leaves die, carefully pull them out.   Plant lilies out in the garden as soon as the soil is warm.  They may rebloom depending on how the bulb was cared for and the variety of the lily. The colored lilies are more apt to come back than the white ones. Never plant any bulb in a wet area. They will rot. They need a shower but not a bathtub. All bulbs need good drainage, so they do well on a slope.

Blooming plants like azaleas, geraniums, mums or other flowers, usually have 3 to 5 plants crowded in the pot to make a good full show. The best thing you can do for these plants if you want to keep them is to dump them out of the pot and repot them individually. You may kill one as the roots are so crowded together it is hard to properly separate them.  Don’t fertilize until they are well established in their new pot.

It is hard to think of spring flowers while we are hip deep in snow but those spring flowering pots and lilies will soon be showing up in garden centers and big box stores. If you like to give them to non-gardeners, tell them you will happily take the pots back when the flowers die. If your gardener friend usually just chucks the whole thing out, tell him how to save them with just a little extra care.

The snow will melt, eventually, perhaps?