It happens every spring. The tender bulbs (gladiolus, tuberous begonia, canna, dahlia, etc.) you brought indoors the previous fall start to sprout, you get ready to plant them, but… which one was the short double red one? And which the tall single lavender?

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The truth is that it may be easy enough to tell a gladiolus corm from a canna rhizome, but all gladiolus corms look pretty much alike. And who can tell one dahlia root from any other? That’s why it is so important to label your bulbs as you dig them up this fall.

You can use the label that came with the tender bulbs or one you prepared yourself (remember to use a waterproof, UV-resistant marker and a label that will last a few years). If you don’t remember the cultivar name, at least note the color, the height and the type of of the plant. If labels aren’t your thing, at least write the name on the box or bag in which you will be storing them.

You can write directly on dahlia’s tuberous roots. Photo:

You can even write the name or description directly on the bulb with a marker (this works especially well with the tuberous roots of dahlias).

Whatever you do, don’t trust your memory alone! It may seem obvious today that you put the red ones on the right and the lavender ones on the left, but you’ll have forgotten that come spring.

Identifying your tender bulbs is simple enough to do, but oh so easily forgotten, since this is the right time of the year to them indoors, take this as a reminder!

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

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